Interview: Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers is Rock N’ Roll’s Hidden Legend
Paul Rodgers is one of the dominant voices of the classic rock format, despite not having the personality often required for rock legend status. But what he lacked in media coverage, he more than made up for with radio airtime: Bad Company was one of the bands that the AOR (album-oriented rock) format was built on; their catalog includes an embarrassment of hits including “Can’t Get Enough,” “Rock Steady,” “Bad Company,” “Shooting Star,” “Ready for Love,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and many others.
Bad Co. weren’t Rodgers’ first big band, or his last. In the late ’60s, he got his start in Free, who were a bit more bluesy and jammy, but their discography still boasts the iconic “All Right Now.” And in the ’80s, he teamed up with Led Zeppelin‘s Jimmy Page for the arena-headlining Firm (who enjoyed radio hits with “Radioactive” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”).
In recent decades, he’s been a solo artist, the temporary frontman of Queen, and participated in various Bad Company reunions (they’ll be touring this summer). His latest release, The Royal Sessions, sees him returning to his roots in soul and R&B. To make the album, he went to Memphis to record at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios, where the late Willie Mitchell recorded classic albums by Al Green, Ann Peebles, Bobby “Blue” Bland and more. Rodgers worked with a number of legendary Memphis musicians on the album, including Hammond organ player Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. and bassist Leroy Hodges Jr. (both of whom played on Al Green’s albums), keyboardist Archie “Hubby” Turner (who played with Memphis blues legend Albert King) and guitarist Michael Toles (whose resume includes working with B.B. King).
Rodgers is performing a one-off show with those musicians this week at New York’s Town Hall (June 19), and was more than enthused to talk about the project during a recent interview with Radio.com. A humble guy (not the norm for lead singers), he’s not even quick to point out that 100% of the proceeds from the album will be donated to the Stax Music Academy, an after school program that teaches music to middle and high school students in Memphis.
So, how long had it been since you recorded an album in analog?
It’s been a long time now! It must be twenty odd years or more. But the sound was so very good. There’s no ProTools on the entire album. It was very much live on the floor.
The guys you worked with on the album probably don’t have much use for ProTools anyway.
I don’t think so. With those guys, it’s all about the feel. And they’ve never ever forgotten that. It was wonderful to play like that with them. Thank God they’re still doing it that way. It was so great to go live to tape like that. Even tape is getting hard to find these days! It was very much worth doing.