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Peter Frampton's doing his best to go out in style

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Peter Frampton's on a mission these days.

"I want to go out playing really well," the veteran rocker says by phone from his home in Nashville.

Of course, Frampton would rather not have to go out at all -- but that's not an option.

He was diagnosed two years ago with Inclusion Body Myositis, a slow-moving degenerative condition that's atrophying his muscles. Frampton, 69, noticed it when he began falling on stage and has been in treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital ever since. He'll be taking part in a new experimental medicine trial later this year, too.

But Frampton is not letting the crushing prognosis stymie him. Instead he's on the road for a farewell tour and is recording non-stop -- including this year's "All Blues" covers album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart in June.

"I've never recorded this much in my life, but I'm at the top of my game still and enjoying the playing immensely," Frampton explains. "I want to get as much recorded and play as much as I can until I can't. I'm not going to stop playing until I absolutely have to, and I've got so many ideas."

There will be another blues album, since he recorded 23 songs in 10 days for "All Blues" and only put 10 on the set. Meanwhile he reckons he has three other albums in the can -- including instrumental cover songs and original material -- and is working on a fourth, with a Christmas album slated after that. Frampton predicts more original material will come, too, as his recently started work on a memoir "is actually doing wonders for lyrics as well. I've really been heavily getting into some lyrical content recently, which is good for me."

And Frampton has been "blown away" by the outpouring of reaction since he announced his condition, from fans and from fellow musicians.

"In this world right now, when you're a little despondent about the situation and the way we treat each other, this kind of brings everything into perspective for me about how caring people are," he says. "I've always been a caring person for others and done my bit where I can to help, but this is something very special, and it's what's keeping me going. I can't thank everybody enough."

Steve Miller, who played 89 concerts with Frampton during 2017 and 2018, and plans to release an album of their on stage collaborations, notes that Frampton is "playing so beautifully and working so hard. We all have this time limitation, but his has been shortened. It's a real serious thing but he's handling it with grace and strength and doing a lot of great work. And I think he's playing better than he's ever played, really and truly."

That, of course, is saying something. Frampton has after all, been a professional musician for 57 years -- as "The Face of 1968" with his band The Herd and Humble Pie, before going solo. He also played guitar on George Harrison's landmark 1970 album "All Things Must Pass" and with childhood schoolmate David Bowie during his Glass Spider Tour.

He will, of course, always be remembered for the titanic success of his 1977 concert album "Frampton Comes Alive" -- and the commercial downfall that followed, including an ill-advised starring role in the misbegotten 1978 film adaptation of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album. But Frampton gradually regained equilibrium, focusing on son writing and guitar playing and winning a Grammy Award with his 2006 instrumental album "Fingerprints."

"It has been quite a ride," the father of three -- including actress Mia Frampton and musician and occasional collaborator Julian Frampton -- says with a laugh. "My career has sort of completed this second circle almost. For whatever reason -- I think just determination and hard work and not giving up -- those who left me have come back and I think see me for what I am, which is the guitar player/performer/singer/writer. It's been phenomenal. The last 10 years, it's been unbelievable. I'm very lucky."

The "All Blues" album, of course, took Frampton back to his adolescent roots, "when every guitarist wanted to be and look like and sound like Eric Clapton." Frampton, however, favored "the more jazzy, lyrical side of Kenny Burrell, West Montgomery and people like that," which when fused with the harder style of Steve Marriott gave Humble Pie its own distinctive brand of blues-rock.

"He basically dragged me back into the blues, which was great," Frampton says. "I loved it."

Now he's looking forward to getting the other blues covers he recorded out, along with the rest of material he's working on. Frampton is deeply appreciative of his live band for "rising to the occasion multiple times" since recording began in October, and helping him knock out the assorted projects that are coming. No release dates have been established for those yet, but with his farewell tour running into October, Frampton is planning to let his body tell him when he's finished for good -- and plans to keep working, hard, right up until that point.

"It's not easy, but it's what I wanted to right now," he acknowledges. "There are bucket list things still, which would be to play with certain people I haven't played with before who I admire. So I'm just trying to do as much as I can. I don't have as much time as I'd like, obviously, but I'm going to make the time I have count."

Peter Frampton and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. $29.50 and up. 313-471-7000 or 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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