It’s been fifty years since Roger Earl, Lonesome Dave Peverett, Tony Stevens, and Rod Price howled across the Atlantic under the bluesy guise of Foghat. Since then the band has racked up legend status and platinum records, contributing instantly recognizable signatures like “Slow Ride”, “Fool For The City”, and a blazing cut of “I Just Want to Make Love to You” to the rock n’ roll zeitgeist while ever reaching forward in search of new songs and sounds. The group’s legacy is ironclad, but that’s no reason to hit cruise control. In fact, Foghat has remained relentless, touring, writing, recording, and maintaining a roster of stalwarts to ensure the ride never stops.
Guitarist/vocalist Scott Holt met Foghat drummer and founding father Roger Earl in 2014, and the two were instant old friends. In 2016, Holt was invited to join the band– at the time comprised of Earl, bassist Rodney O’Quinn, guitarist Bryan Bassett, and singer Charlie Huhn– in the studio to write and record songs for the album Under The Influence. Holt’s relationship with Foghat has been a constant ever since and when Huhn opted to retire after two decades with the outfit, Scott Holt was tapped as the natural successor.
Holt’s first glimpse at his future came at nine years old when the family went to see Elvis Presley perform at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
“Elvis had played there the year before and they went and saw him, and then the next year he comes back and they were debatin’ whether or not to bring me and my little brother because the tickets were so expensive,” remembers Holt during a recent morning phone conversation, also recalling that Telecaster master James Burton was on stage that night as well. “Tickets were ten dollars apiece! We didn’t have a lot o’ money, so it was like, ‘I don’t know…’ But I’m glad they took me. It was incredible!”
Just as he was for generations of artists, Elvis was a spark– but the fire wouldn’t erupt in Scott Holt until a decade later.
“When I was nineteen I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time,” says Holt. “I came home and I said, “I wanna learn how to play guitar. I need to take lessons or whatever, but I’ve got to do this,” Holt shares. “It was the only time in my life where I just knew it. I just had this peace in myself about, ‘This is what I wanna do’.”
Hendrix’s brand of psychedelic guitar wizardry was rooted in blues and early rock n’ roll, and Scott’s trip down the rabbit hole of the mythical left-hander’s influences was an education in its own right.
“I’ve always been one of those people that if I like somebody’s playin’, I wanna know what they were listenin’ to. I wanna know how they got to where they are,” Holt says. “With Jimi Hendrix, he was into BB King, he was into Muddy Waters and Elmore James. All of the sudden, these names start comin’ up and you start findin’ these people.”
One name, in particular, was destined to play a significant role in the teenager’s life.
“Buddy Guy was one of those names from that list, and then it so happened that Buddy was playin’ a show with Junior Wells down in Florida. My dad said, ‘You wanna go see Buddy?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’d be great!'”
Scott offhandedly mentioned that Guy owned a club in Chicago, and determined to get his son in front of the bluesman, the senior Holt phoned the Checkerboard Lounge only to learn that Buddy was no longer involved with the business.
“My dad calls the Checkerboard lookin’ for Buddy and the guy there was just givin’ out Buddy’s home phone number,” laughs Holt. “So he gave my dad Buddy’s number, Dad calls Buddy at home, says, ‘Hey, I got this son who’s tryin’ to learn how to play guitar. He’d love to meet you.'”
The Holts made their way to Tampa and the moment was everything young Scott had hoped it would be.
“We got down there, we watched the show, and I was completely blown away! And then [Dad] goes, ‘Well, let’s go backstage and say hi,’ and I’m like, ‘You can’t just walk backstage and say hi to people! That’s not how this works!’ He says, “Yeah you can– come on!'” remembers Holt. “So we go backstage and the next thing I know, we’re sittin’ there talkin’ to Buddy Guy!
The next day, at Guy’s invitation, Scott met him at his hotel for a guitar lesson that stretched into hours and ultimately into years when in 1988, Holt joined Buddy on the road for a decade.
“It’s one of my most cherished friendships because Buddy is the one that gave me a career. Before him, none of this was real.”
While on the road learning from a master, Holt began crafting his own songs and during breaks between tours with Guy, he recorded his first album, 1998’s Messing With The Kid, followed quickly the next year with Dark Of The Night. Holt’s sophomore effort featured guest shots from not only his mentor but also famed Hendrix collaborators Billy Cox & Mitch Mitchell and Double Trouble’s Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton. Scott continued to work as a solo artist and a sideman on stage and in the studio for a mighty who’s who that includes Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson, David Bowie, Albert King, and Steve Miller.
This year marks Scott’s official inauguration as Foghat’s frontman, an honor he appreciates and thoroughly embraces.
“No day on stage is another day at the office. Every day’s its own animal,” says Holt. “Playin’ with Foghat, for me, I feel a certain responsibility. Lonesome Dave and Rod Price and Roger and Tony Stevens to begin with and then Craig MacGregor shortly after that, they built this band, they wrote those songs, the iconic songs that everybody knows and the songs that the people come to the shows to hear. So there is a responsibility to uphold. I feel that very definitively. If I’m doin’ my show, I can play fast and loose with the material because it’s mine, I’m doin’ what I want with it. With Foghat, I have to figure out a balance between bein’ true to myself– which if I wasn’t, people wouldn’t respond to it anyway– but also to respect the history of what I’m presenting. That’s always the razor’s edge that you’re dancin’ on.
One way Holt and the rest of his Foghat brothers maintain the equilibrium is in creativity outside of their charted pursuits. During the course of completing Under The Influence, the band wrote enough songs that a second full-length was inevitable if not necessarily destined to be another Foghat project. The band decided that an alter ego was required and Earl & The Agitators was born with each member taking on the collective mantle of “Earl” (Holt is Earl #1). In 2018, E&TA released a collection of originals and classic tunes dubbed Shaken & Stirred.
“We were sittin’ there one night like, ‘We got all these other songs– what are we gonna do with ’em?’ And we said, “Let’s put ’em together, let’s put ’em out, and we’ll make a record out of it!” says Holt. “I think Bryan was the one that came up with Earl & The Agitators, and I’m sure we were enjoyin’ some Foghat wine at the time, which always creates some good decisions! And it was an opportunity to do somethin’ outside of Foghat.”
But whether fronting Foghat, Earl & the Agitators, or his own combo, Scott Holt maintains his energy and his passion with one simple philosophy: Loud Is Good.
“I used to get in trouble for bein’ too loud in clubs and so at first, it was a smartass attitude (laughs)! But then the more I thought about it, it became more of a spiritual attitude for me,” reveals Holt. “If you believe in somethin’, you shouldn’t be afraid to proclaim it. You shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. You shouldn’t be afraid to express it. And if you feel strong enough about something to express it, you should express it loudly. You should make sure everybody hears what side of the street you’re standin’ on. You know, it can get you in trouble– you’re not always gonna express somethin’ that everybody’s gonna like. You’ll probably never express somethin’ that everybody’s gonna like, so you have to be prepared to back up what you’re doin’. It became more of a badge of confidence and a badge of determination to express my beliefs– not to try to make anybody else think like I do, but just to be strong in what I believe.”
Foghat kicks off the Georgia National Fair Concert Series on Thursday, October 6th, and Holt looks forward to sharing the band’s half-century legacy with longtime fans as well as those continuing to discover the band’s music through radio, film, and the ever-expanding digital realm.
“It’s a beautiful experience. I don’t know that I’ll ever get tired of singin’ ‘Slow Ride’! It’s the coolest thing in the world when Roger starts kickin’ off the drumbeat!” says Holt. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m a very blessed and fortunate little guitar player!”