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Peter Frampton on his final tour and lifelong friendship with David Bowie

B.B. King and Peter Frampton perform during the Frampton's Guitar Circus at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

I have had the pleasure of working with Peter Frampton several times over the years he lived in Cincinnati. I have been able to photograph the magic onstage and some truly remarkable moments with Peter and other guitar legends.

His careers spans decades and he embarked on his worldwide farewell tour in 2019 after being diagnosed with (IBM) Inclusion-Body Myositis, an inflammatory muscle disease that could ultimately affect his ability to play guitar. So far Peter is feeling great and will continue the world tour once the current pandemic “stay at home” orders are lifted around the world. Peter’s memoir “Do You Feel Like I Do?” is also in the works and is set to be released in the Fall 2020. 

I was able to catch up with Peter by phone and discuss farewell tour highlights, the autobiography, new music, his friendship with David Bowie, his foundation that continues to seek a cure for IBM at Johns Hopkins and much more.

You are always on the go. How do you stay sane during the quarantine situation?

I am doing ok actually because it just so happens that I am working on a book. We did all the taped sessions of talking and Alan Light who did Greg Allman’s book is working with me.  He is a phenomenal writer and a lovely man. He put together ten sessions, maybe more, two hours at a time we spoke together. He came down to Nashville where I am, I went to New York as well. They put it into what they call the manuscript and I am going through it right now sentence by sentence. I am going through it and adding stuff that I forgot. It is very interesting. I am taking this time to read about myself which is sometimes very painful.

I know your book is set to come out in October. Is it an emotional experience to re-live some of those moments?

Yes, it is amazing how much it affects you mentally. I would always sleep well when Alan would come down to my place and we would do 12-2 or 2-4. Saturday night was fine right after the first session but I either couldn’t sleep on Sunday night after two of those sessions or I had really strong dreams bordering on nightmares. 

It is almost like a therapy session.

It is like, in one weekend, doing four therapy sessions, well more since they only see you for 14 minutes now. It is affecting me more than I thought, re-living it all, because I have regrets. I used to say I didn’t have any regrets but oh yes I do and we bury those. We try to at least. We don’t want to think about those skeletons in the closet where we might have not been the person we always hoped we would be. It is very interesting how the mind works.

Tell us a little bit about your friendship with David Bowie and tell us a special moment between the two of you.

I actually met Dave before we physically went to the school together, I was too young. My father was his art teacher at Brumley Technical High School. We went one weekend to the school fair where they were selling stuff to raise money for pencils and supplies. That was the first time I saw Dave play in a band. He was on the school steps outside playing with a band called The Konrads, playing the sax and singing the songs of the moment whether it be Elvis or Eddie Cochran or whatever it was at the time. I looked up at Dad and said, “Who’s that?” And he would say “Oh, that’s Jones.” I said, “I just want to let you know I want to be like him.” My father gave me one of those rolled eyes looks and said Jones was very musical. 

I went up and talked to him that day. We became friends from that moment onwards. I was 12 and he was 15 maybe. We jammed on my Dad’s art block stairs with guitars in those days. We have basically been friends for a lifetime until we lost Dave. Dave always kind of saw me as a little brother, it was a family thing because he was so close with my Dad. After school, Dave stayed in touch with not only me but my Dad. 

One memory I have is that we were on a plane once. We were taxiing and smoke started coming out of the air conditioning units and we were told to get off. Dave just picked me up and threw me down the slide before him. That was a moment I will never forget. I have never mentioned that before. They pulled the tail off. It was the old 727 and the slide came off where the tail came off and I ended up in the grass by the runway after he tossed me down the slide. 

There was another moment that shows my Dad’s relationship with Dave. We were doing an announcement gig, a press conference where we played in London. My Mom and Dad came to the show. Dave did a little bit of talking, introduced the band and introduced me. We played a bit, maybe three or four numbers. Afterwards we were backstage and Mom and Dad are backstage where everyone was hanging out. I looked around for Dad and asked Mom where he went. She said she didn’t know, she said that he and Dave had gone off somewhere. That was the relationship they had. It was very special. Dave was someone that was a bit like my older brother who looked after me.

A year ago, you embarked on your Farewell Tour after your IBM (Inclusion-Body Myositis)diagnosis. How are you feeling now?

I am feeling good thank you. We are a bit disconcerted because of the pandemic; we have had to hold up on any travel. I can’t do my second visit for the drug trial to get my pill. After the first three months after they have seen you and have done a muscle needle biopsy and blood work. They keep that for three months and do the same tests again and compare the data to see what has happened in that three months, then they give you the pill which I was supposed to get on March 17th. Obviously, nobody is going anywhere right now so we will have to wait and start back up when the all clear is heard.

Are you still working with Johns Hopkins?

Absolutely. That is where I go for the trial and there is an incredible group of doctors there led by Dr. Lisa Christopher-Stine who is the head of my clinic there. She has this incredible group of passionate doctors who want to find a cure for this and that and the other in the Myositis area. I always look forward to going there even though some of the stuff they may do to me isn’t great because I feel this incredible passion to find the cure. I know they will do it. I just know it.

Are your ticket sales still raising money for the foundation there?

Yes. Whatever we do from now on. Whenever we go to Europe or South America or the last couple of places I want to go to, they will be selling the CD which all the money will go to charity. Half will go to Johns Hopkins and the other half will go to another charity. There is talks of doing the same thing we did in America with the ticket sales, the promoters will take a dollar from each ticket which is very generous and donate to the foundation. We need a lot of money elsewhere right now though. I have been donating to that as well. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t get as bad as they said it was going to get yesterday.

I am from Clarksville, Tennessee. I believe you live in Nashville now. 

Yes

I saw you were also trying to raise money for Hands on Nashville online. Were you affected by the tornado in Nashville?

No, being where I am in downtown, I was incredibly lucky, as we all were here, it was north of us. Not much north but I felt it go past. It woke me up because I live in a high rise. The wind and the rain on the window, the pressure in my ears changed. It woke me up straight away. When I got up to go the safe room in the middle of my apartment, it had already passed because it was going so fast. Within the tornado it was 200 miles per hour as it is turning but it was moving over 50 miles an hour. It seemed like it was here and gone. It had already done damage in the West and then went across East Nashville. By the time it got to Cookeville it destroyed everything. My heart is in my hands for those people that not only went through that, but two weeks later they have no home and can’t leave their home. It is devastating.

It breaks my heart because I went to college at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville and I saw the pictures and I cried. It was devastating.

As with tornadoes, it picks and chooses the side of the street they go to and what house and what building and it looks so strange with it zig-zagging across and one house will be completely untouched and one house across the street you can see into the basement. They are horrible things.

Last year you said in some interviews you wanted to record as much as possible. You said you were doing your book right now but have you been able to record in Nashville at this time or are you unable to because of the stay at home orders?

No, not at this time because of the quarantine. I wouldn’t want to be close to any of my band members. It is the stay at home time. We have all been separated because of this. Even before this last tour, we had recorded three and a half albums, one of which has come out. We have another Blues one in the can. I don’t know when that will come out. We did an instrumental covers album. This is because we didn’t have any new material straight away after our tour with Steve Miller a couple years ago now. I wanted to do covers of everything so we could get into the studio and play as much as possible in the shortest amount of time not knowing how long my hands would last on me. Then I started writing because I was inspired by the band and how great the recordings were coming out. We did half a Peter Frampton solo record as well. When we get the all clear, we will finish the solo record. The next one to come out, which will most likely be next year, will be the Instrumental Covers record.

Why did you choose to do the all Blues record?

It was because we had done two summer tours with Steve Miller. Steve would get me up every night to play between two to six, depending on how he felt and how it was going, Blues numbers with him every night after my show. I started getting back into the Blues big time. He was suggesting numbers and I was suggesting Blues. It made me realize how much I love playing it. I said to the band when we get home, we will take nine days off, let’s all choose our favorite Blues numbers and make huge list and see how many we can record and make a Blues record of covers since I hadn’t had time to write anything. We went right in and did nearly 50 tracks of Blues stuff. Some of them we would run through once and decide it wasn’t working. Most of them we would listen to the original and play as close to the original as possible but still sound like us because we are playing it. We wanted to pay homage to the original recordings and even though with today’s recording equipment it is going to sound somewhat different. Some would say better, others would say worse. Comparing it to the oldies. We tried to stay as close to the originals as possible.

One of my highlights of my music photography career was seeing you play with B.B. King and the record reminded me of those times.

That was so great. B.B. would ask me everyday if I was going to come out. I would say yes of course. It is the King. Nobody says no to the King, not that I would have wanted to anyway. Sitting next to him on stage every night while he was with us, that was a total unexpected pleasure and honor.

I know you work out a lot. What is your home workout routine looking like these days?

I am using Zoom or Facetime with my trainer. I go to a gym six days a week. That’s all I have. I don’t have a drug. The only thing that will keep my muscles as long as I can is to workout as much as possible. We are doing all the same sort of stuff that I do in the gym because at home I have all the equipment we take on the road usually. I have weights, bands, things to stand on. I just get direction from my trainer and we work out for an hour everyday usually around 8:30 in the morning.

I also know you like TV a little bit. You did a few cameos on Madame Secretary. Are there any shows you are binge watching while you are home?

Yes. The Stranger was one I was watching that I enjoyed. I am a film buff. I love old movies and new movies. I love technology and camera work and cinematography. I am a big fan of that. You should watch Casablanca first. Michael Curtiz directed that. If you look at what he directed, it is a who’s who of amazing movies. He only got one Oscar. He wasn’t the nicest guy. He got his only one Oscar for Casablanca as director. They have now made a movie called Curtiz which pays such great homage to him. It is like watching the making of Casablanca. It is fictitious obviously because nobody really knows what they were talking about behind the scenes. It is so cool. It is a great, great movie. I would recommend that.

I just remember going to the bar in Casablanca in Morocco and realizing they didn’t film anything there when we went inside bar. It was a funny moment.

Did they have a Sam playing the piano?

They did and they had the movie playing in the background the whole time and I had the best screwdrivers I’ve had in my life with fresh orange juice. 

Your son is in a band, the Julian Frampton Band. He has been opening for you on the tour. Has it made the tour more special for you?

Oh yes. Having my son first of all, when we were on the acoustic tour, he and his partner Ben opened up for us on the acoustic tour and he would sing a couple numbers, me and Gordon and him. That was great. Having his band open up for us was even better. Having the ability to offer my son those eight or nine shows on the West Coast was wonderful, a big, new experience for him and the guys in the band. If he wasn’t good, he wouldn’t have been there. I am a big fan of Julian. He is writing some stuff right now that is phenomenal. As always, he is very prolific. I look forward to hearing more form him.

Do you have any other highlights from the U.S. leg of the tour?

Every night of the tour had a highlight at some point. It was usually at the end when I realized there was so much love coming at me from the audience and they didn’t want me to leave the stage. I kept it together most nights until that moment and then when I would turn around and walk off I would lose it a little. It is a very heady moment. They just wouldn’t stop. It was an amazing feeling and I really truly treasure my fans out there. It is such an honor to feel that much love from that many people at the same time each night. It was amazing.

I can’t imagine you slowing down or retiring, but once these tours are over, are there any dream travel destinations where you would want to go and visit that you haven’t been able to or go back to?

I have played Italy many times. I have to go to Italy and stay there a while. It is one of my favorite places. Italy is definitely on the list. I have never been to India. I have never been to Thailand or any of these far off southeast Asia places. I have been to Japan and Australia but I had to do more touring elsewhere so there are a lot of places I missed along the way I would like to go.

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