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Beatles, ballet and more part of a good year for Peter Frampton

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Beatles and ballet have made this one of the more eventful times in Peter Frampton's nearly 50-year career.

The singer and guitarist -- the Face of '68 with the Herd in Britain, a founding member of Humble Pie and a solo artist best-known for his multi-platinum 1976 album "Frampton Comes Alive" -- has a new mini-album out this year. "Hummingbird in a Box" contains the seven pieces Frampton was commissioned to write for a Cincinnati Ballet performance that premiered during April 2013. It's performed elsewhere since then, and Frampton says he's proud, and a little surprised, at how the production came out.

"I didn't think that I would feel this great, fulfilled, with doing this," says Frampton, 64, who resides in Cincinnati and keeps a studio in Nashville. "Well, no, I take that back; .I didn't know it would be great because it's a challenge to put a ballet and me together, especially with new material.

"It was a welcome surprise...I tweeted something; I said, 'If you really mean it, people will really feel it,' and they really did. those dancers, the choreographers, everyone was so, like 100 percent and rose to the occasion and wanted it so badly to work well and, boy, did it.

"It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done in my career."

A couple of other amazing things took place for Frampton at the beginning of the year. He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, receiving "a nice medallion and a trophy and a certificate from the governor" -- which came just after he played an integral part in honoring his heroes, the Beatles, and the 50th anniversary of their arrival in the U.S.

Frampton played guitar in the house band Detroit native Don Was assembled for "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America -- A Grammy Salute" on CBS. Recruited to perform for, and with, Ringo Starr during the David Lynch Foundation gala on Jan. 20 in Los Angeles, Frampton wound up backing Starr during the Grammy Awards ceremony, too.

Spending a week playing Beatles and Beatles-related songs, he says, was not a shabby proposition.

"It doesn't get better than that," Frampton notes. "You think you know them because they're ingrained in your soul -- until you start to listen to them and work out the parts. They're very, very clever. It was eye-opening as we all went, 'Ah-ha!' Don found this place where you can download just about every Beatles number, the multi-tracks -- which shouldn't be out there, but they are -- and we were able to isolate our parts so we were able to come up with exactly the right parts for the songs.

"I think it was, like, 19 or 20 songs we learned for all the shows, total, so we had our work cut out for us. But it was something special, and it's part of history."

Frampton -- who played alongside Toto's Steve Lukather, drummer Kenny Aronoff, Foo Fighters' Rami Jaffee and others -- says one of his highlights was playing Motown Funk Brother Eddie "Chank" Willis' part on Stevie Wonder's version of "We Can Work It Out." And he, like so many others, was overwhelmed to see Starr and Paul McCartney reunite both at the Grammys and "The Night That Changed America" taping.

"I think they both had reservations," Frampton says. "In fact Paul actually mentions on the show, he said 'How do I honor myself?' It's sort of weird, in a way, but I think the fact there were so many phenomenal people that came to the table that wanted to be part of it and to honor them, it was only fitting they should come on at the end and show us how it's really done -- and boy, did that.

It's a phenomenal end of the show. It was very, very moving; there were a lot of not-so-dry eyes in the house."

An irony for Frampton, however, is that while he understands its significance in America, the Beatles' appearance on Sullivan actually didn't resonate heavily back in 1964 when he was growing up as a Beatles fan in Britain. "Y'know, none of us had a clue what Ed Sullivan was, especially how big it was and that it was THE show that everybody sat down to watch in the entire country on Sunday night," he explains.

"They had no idea, either; they thought, 'Oh, we're just doing a TV show in New York.' So no one really knew until they did 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' and then we in England saw on the news how the Beatles had taken America by storm. It didn't mean anything to us at that point."

Frampton is out on the road now until early October, mixing his own shows with dates with the Doobie Brothers and Guitar Circus shows with Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph. He's hoping to put together a Humble Pie tribute soon, as well as a follow-up to 2010's "Thank You Mr. Churchill."

"I've got loads of new material," he says, "end whether people want it or not, I'm gonna be recording it, for myself if nobody else. It will be available, and those who want to pick it up can."

Peter Frampton and Gary Hoey

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30

Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights

Tickets are $25-$55 pavilion, $10 lawn

Call 586-268-9700 or visit www.freedomhill.net

Web Site: www.freedomhill.net

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