Paul Rodgers says that Bad Company's 40th anniversary crept up on him.
"We're doing so many things all the time, and Bad Company is kind of always in the background for me," explains the singer, who co-founded the all-star group during 1973 in England fronting it for six albums and enduring hits such as "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Shooting Star" and, of course, the song "Bad Company."
"My manager called me up and said, 'Well, if you were putting Bad Company together in '73, this year is your 40th anniversary of that.' I said, 'Wow!' He asked, 'Do you want to do something to celebrate it?' I said, 'Sure, let's go out and do something,' and he came back with these shows -- some of them by ourselves, and some with our good friends Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"So it's quite a party we'll have out there."
The Skynyrd connection, in fact, runs even deeper than just being road buddies during the 70s. The Southern rockers actually introduced Rodgers to his wife, former Miss Canada Cynthia Kereluk, during the mid-2000s.
"I was touring with them as a solo artist and they knew Cynthia and kept saying, 'Wait 'til we get to Vancouver,' and I kept saying, 'Yeah, yeah...' " recalls Rodgers, who married Kereluk in 2007 and became a Canadian citizen himself in 2011. "They had a feeling we would get along great, and we did. We got on like a house on fire, and the rest is history."
Bad Company's place in rock history, meanwhile, is well entrenched thanks to the aforementioned hits and multi-platinum sales for four of the group's first five albums (1973's self-titled debut has sold more than five million copies in the U.S.). The group wasn't something Rodgers planned; his previous group, Free, broke up in 1972 and he was touring with a short-lived trio called Peace that was opening for Mott The Hoople -- whose guitarist, Mick Ralphs, was becoming disenchanted with his situation.
"I knew Mick, anyway, and Mick and I gravitated together and started to exchange ideas for songs," Rodgers, 63, remembers. "The idea of forming band was borne out of that."
One of those first tunes was "Bad Company," which was inspired by the 1972 Jeff Bridges western film of the same name. Rodgers recruited former Free drummer Simon Kirke to help him finish the lyrics, and at the same time "Mick and I were trying to think of band names; we'd phone each other up and just say names and see how the effect was. And I phone him one day and said, 'Bad Company!' That was it really. That was the name of the band."
Many good things fell into place for the burgeoning outfit. Former King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell joined to complete the quartet, and Bad Company signed on with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and the group's label, Swan Song, which gave the newcomers instant cache and credibility. But its out-of-the-box success came as a surprise to all concerned.
"Y'know, it was just a band of guys that believed in the music they had and loved what they were playing, and we were doing it for that reason," Rodgers says. "I don't even know if we have an image, as such. We certainly didn't when we first came together."
A combination of egos, exhaustion, drugs and management issues (Grant lost interest after Led Zep drummer John Bonham's death in 1980) drove Bad Company came apart during the early 80s, and especially after the release of "Rough Diamonds" in 1982. "I don't think we were serious at that point, honestly," Rodgers notes. "I didn't think the band was as focused as we needed to be, and I think it showed in the music. I wanted to get away from it. I was getting a little spaced and far away from reality, and I wanted to get back to basics, in a way."
Ralphs and Kirke kept Bad Company going, recording six more albums with a variety of singers and bass players through 1996. Rodgers, meanwhile, formed bands with Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page (The Firm) and drummer Kenney [cq] Jones (The Law) before starting a solo career in earnest in 1993, though he also joined forces with former members of Queen during the mid-00s for an album, DVD and several tours. The inaugural Bad Company regrouped in 1999 to tour and record four new songs for a compilation called "The Original Bad Company Anthology" and began touring again in 2008, after Burrell's death two years prior from a heart attack.
Despite the periodic reunions, Rodgers says more recording is unlikely. "People probably do mention it from time to time," he acknowledges. "Anything's possible. I do keep an open mind, I must say. But there are no plans right now, no." The DiscLive Network, however, is recording all of the shows on the 40th anniversary tour and making them available for sale.
Rodgers, meanwhile, is busy with two solo projects -- an album of soul covers recorded at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis, as well as a set of original songs, both with producer-engineer Perry Margouleff. No release date has been announced for either, and in the meantime Rodgers is happy to be spending a bit of time with the most glorious part of his past.
"I think it has stood the test of time, as they say, which is a great feeling," he notes. "I look at my influences, all those soul and blues artists, and I still am moved by those records that first made the hair crawl on the back of my arms. Once you're moved by some kind of music, it sort of stays with you, and to have that be the case with what (Bad Company) did, too, is a real blessing -- and something we never could have anticipated all those years ago."
Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Stone Cherry perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $29-$99.50 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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