Clem Clempson - guitar, vocals; Steve Marriott - guitar, vocals; Greg Ridley - bass; Jerry Shirley - drums
It must have been great to be a rock fan living in England in the late 1960s. London was swinging, and the British blues-rock scene was veritably exploding, thanks to the more sophisticated of the British invasion bands (most notably the Stones and the Yardbirds), who had first gotten the scene on its feet by incorporating a distinct blues element into their own respective pop music. Soon after, Cream, Free, Savoy Brown and the mighty Led Zeppelin took over and brought the fusion of traditional American blues and guitar-based hard rock to a whole new level.
And Humble Pie was at the forefront of the whole scene, one of the most compelling acts during one of rock's most exciting and creative periods. This live recording of Humble Pie was made at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom in May of 1973, during what many consider to be the band's creative peak. This Winterland show, In addition to being only the fifth show recorded for the then brand-newly syndicated King Biscuit Flower Hour radio concert series, features a blistering set of material. From "I Don't Need No Doctor" to the infectious Top 10 hit "Hot 'N Nasty," this recording features all the essential music from the Humble Pie catalogue. And since the band built their reputation on legendary live shows, this King Biscuit collection is arguably better than anything the band ever did in the recording studio.
Humble Pie first came together on New Year's Eve, 1968/69. Marriott had just played a disastrous gig with The Small Faces, whose opening act, oddly enough, was Ridley's Spooky Tooth. Frampton had already left The Herd and was forming a new band with Shirley, a child prodigy drummer, who was only 16 at the time. Marriott called Shirley after the show and asked if he and Ridley could join the new band he and Frampton were assembling. According to Shirley, he couldn't believe a singer as acclaimed as Steve Marriott was even interested, and was "thrilled" at the prospect of what the new band could achieve.
The band made its debut in April of 1969, but almost collapsed at the onset. Despite the media hoopla surrounding their supergroup status and a slew of critical raves, Humble Pie's early albums (As Safe as Yesterday Is and Town and Country - both on Oldham's Immediate label) were not commercial hits. Marriott and Frampton couldn't decide if the band should move in an acoustic or electric direction, a dilemma that made the initial records hard to market. The band also had to hit the road before they really had time to work out their live show, and early tours were mostly lackluster as a result. Then, in 1970, the tides began to turn.
The band hired Dee Anthony as its manager, who promptly signed them to A&M Records. The band recorded Humble Pie and Rock On in 1970 and '71, respectively. Both albums forged the band into a solid - and very electric - blues/rock machine. The critics got behind the band en masse, and records began selling in large numbers. By the time the band had recorded and released Rockin' The Fillmore in 1971, the word had spread: Humble Pie was the hottest live band since the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Just then, Frampton decided he didn't feel comfortable in the band's hard rockin' blues direction and left to pursue a solo career. While the most memorable material from Rockin' The Fillmore ("I Don't Need No Doctor," "4 Day Creep" and the soulful remake of Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So") also appear on this King Biscuit LP, but the versions differ dramatically, as Frampton had since been replaced by Dave "Clem" Clempson.
Though some in the rock press predicted the band's demise upon Frampton's departure, the opposite seemed to happen. Clempson revitalized the band, and helped take it in an even harder direction. When the band returned in 1972 with Smokin', they had become a well-oiled rock 'n' roll dynamo. Five of the album's tracks - "Hot 'N Nasty," "30 Days In The Hole," "Road Runner," "You're So Good For Me" and Eddie Cochran's classic "C'mon Everybody" - soon became radio staples. Smokin' became a multi-platinum Top 10 smash, and remains the best selling album of the band's career.
This concert was recorded while the band was promoting Eat It!, a double LP that featured three sides of studio songs and one side of live material. Though Eat It! went to the Top 15, and Humble Pie had firmly established themselves as a powerful live act, the band's powers (and their popularity) seemed to gradually decline following this tour. The band returned in 1974 with Thunderbox, but the constant focus by the media and the fans on Steve Marriott began taking its toll within the group. In 1975, Humble Pie reunited in the studio with ex-manager Andrew Oldham, and recorded Street Rats, a quirky collection of tracks, including three Beatles covers. The band embarked on a "Farewell" tour, and called it a day. Soon after the demise of Humble Pie, Marriott recruited Ridley for a solo album and tour, and in 1977 and 1978, participated in an unsuccessful Small Faces reunion. Clempson joined the Jack Bruce Band, and Shirley played with Natural Gas and Magnet, neither of which saw any real commercial success.
In 1980, he and Marriott resurrected Humble Pie with ex-Jeff Beck vocalist Bob Tench and New York bassist Anthony Jones. They recorded and toured behind two albums for Atlantic Records, but dissolved again in 1982. Today, Clempson still plays with a myriad of musicians, Jerry Shirley still performs occasionally with a band he calls Humble Pie, and Greg Ridley sadly passed away in November of 2003.
Peter Frampton became one of the biggest rock acts of all time, and has been trying to recapture the glory (and sales) of Frampton Comes Alive since it was issued in 1976. During the '80s, Steve Marriott fell into excessive drug and alcohol use. He toured small clubs in a blues trio called Packet of 3 (a reference to condoms). In 1991, he fell asleep while smoking in bed, and died tragically in a house fire. Though Humble Pie never quite reached the commercial status of Led Zeppelin or Eric Clapton, they did leave an indelible mark on the contemporary rock music. The passion of Marriott's blue-eyed soul, the powerful blast of the band's clever rhythm section, compounded by the skillful guitar work of Frampton (and later, Clem Clempson), will forever keep Humble Pie near the head of the blues/rock class of legends.