When Humble Pie was formed in 1969, the act immediately garnered attention as one of the first “supergroups,” as its leading members, Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton, had already attained stardom in other rock bands. Marriott had played guitar and sang with the Small Faces, a successful rock act that had achieved a string of hits around the world, and Frampton had played guitar with the Herd, a pop-rock group that was popular in England. Dissatisfied with the direction their respective bands were taking, Marriott and Frampton decided to form Humble Pie as a rock band with a blues-oriented sound. The band was an immediate hit with critics and started to build solid sales when Frampton left the band in 1970. Humble Pie subsequently released its most successful album, Smokin’, in 1972; following this commercial peak, the group disbanded in 1974. Marriott re-formed the band for a couple of years in the early 1980s, but it again broke up after releasing two more albums. In 1991 Marriott and Frampton decided to work together again. Although their collaboration was not officially called a reunion, Humble Pie fans eagerly awaited the outcome of the duo’s recording sessions. Tragically, after recording a handful of tracks, Marriott died in a house fire in April of 1991 at the age of 44.
Humble Pie started out with one of the most distinguished pedigrees among rock bands of the late 1960s. London native Steve Marriott started his entertainment career as a child actor and singer and appeared in the musical Oliver! in the early 1960s. After a short-lived stint as a pop singer, Marriott worked in a music instrument shop, where he met bassist Ronnie Lane. Bonded by a love of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, the two formed the Small Faces with Marriott as its lead singer. The band was immediately popular in England and, with the release of the top-20 single “Itchycoo Park,” in the United States as well. Despite the band’s success, Marriott was increasingly unhappy with its musical direction and in 1969 decided that he wanted to leave the group. Intent on forming his own band, one of the first people he contacted was guitarist Peter Frampton.
Frampton had just left the lineup of the Herd, another London-based band. Although the group was not quite as successful as the Small Faces, it had made Frampton into something of a teen idol in England, a status that made the guitarist and singer uncomfortable. Frampton was also unhappy with the Herd’s increasingly pop-oriented direction. After leaving the Herd in early 1969, he was determined to pursue a harder-edged sound with another band. Marriott and Frampton thus had a common goal in mind when they announced that they were looking for some bandmates to round out the lineup of the group that Marriott christened Humble Pie. They recruited teenage drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley and moved to Essex, England, to start rehearsing.
After making some preview concert appearances, the group was acclaimed by critics even before it entered the recording studio. The single “Natural Bom Boogie” hit the British top five in September of 1969, and the band’s first album, As Safe As Yesterday Is, was released later that year on the Immediate label, owned by Andrew Oldham. While Humble Pie toured the United States to promote its second album, Town and Country, Immediate went bankrupt. The band subsequently signed to the A&M label and brought in a new manager, Dee Anthony. Under Anthony, the group pursued a harder-edge sound that took it further into heavy metal territory. Frampton, who wanted to include more melodic and acoustic elements in the group’s sound, was increasingly unhappy with Humble Pie’s output. In October of 1970, after the release of the album Humble Pie, Frampton announced that he was leaving the group. His work appeared on two more albums, 1971 ‘s Shine On and the live album Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, also released in 1971. Frampton subsequently became one of the biggest solo stars of the 1970s with the international hit albums I’m in You and Frampton Comes Alive. Dave Clempson was brought in as Frampton’s replacement, and Humble Pie continued on under Marriott’s leadership.
Frampton’s departure marked a crossroads for the band. Despite a reputation for putting on an energetic live set, the band’s album sales had been disappointing. Fortunately, its 1972 release Smokin— the first without Frampton—turned out to be Humble Pie’s first gold record in the United States. Finally fulfilling the band’s commercial promise, Smokin’ also contained the track that would prove to be the band’s most enduringly popular song, “30 Days in the Hole.” After
For the Record…
Members include Dave Clempson (born on September 5, 1949, in Tamworth, England; joined group, 1970), guitar; Peter Frampton (born on April 22, 1950, in Beckenham, England; left group, 1970), guitar, vocals; Anthony Jones (joined group, 1980), bass; Steve Marriott (born on January 30, 1947, in London, England; died on April 20, 1991, in Essex, England), guitar, vocals; Greg Ridley (born on October 23, 1947, in Cumberland, England), bass; Jerry Shirley (born on February 4, 1952, in England), drums;Bobby Tench (joined group, 1980), vocals.
Group formed in England, 1969; released first album, As Safe As Yesterday Is, 1969; released most successful album, Smokin’, 1972; disbanded, 1974; re-formed with new members, released two albums, 1980-81; disbanded again, early 1980s.
the success of Smokin’, Performance: Rockin’ the Fill-more also earned a gold album in the United States. The two gold records, both certified in 1972, turned out to be the band’s commercial peak.
Humble Pie released a double album of live and studio performances in 1973, called Eat It, and another original album, Thunderbox, in 1974. Both proved modestly successful. After the commercial disappointment of its 1975 album Street Rats, however, Marriott decided to disband the group. After performing for a brief period as the leader of Steve Marriott’s All-Stars and releasing one album, Marriott joined a revamped lineup of Small Faces in 1977. The group released two albums and broke up again in 1978.
In 1980 Marriott decided to re-form Humble Pie with singer Bobby Tench taking over lead vocals. The two were joined by Humble Pie alumnus Jerry Shirley and new recruit Anthony Jones on bass. The revitalized group released On to Victory in 1980 and Go for the Throat in 1981. During a tour of the United States to promote the albums, Marriott was plagued with problems. First the guitarist hurt his hand in an accident with a hotel door, then he was diagnosed with ulcers. With Marriott hospitalized for treatment, the tour was abandoned and the group itself once again disbanded.
In 1991 Marriott joined Frampton in Los Angeles to work on some tracks together. The two wrote and recorded five songs before taking a break to decide whether or not to complete the project. Marriott returned to his home in Arkesden, a village in the Essex region of England. At some point in the early morning of April 20, 1991, a fire engulfed Marriott’s home, which was built in the sixteenth century. The fire may have resulted from a carelessly discarded cigarette. Marriott was later found dead in the first-floor bedroom of the home. At the time of his death, Marriott had scheduled a concert tour of England with his own band. “I can’t kid myself; I’m an old rock & roller,” a Rolling Stone obituary in May of 1991 quoted Marriott from an interview from the 1970s. “I never want to be anything else.” He was 44 years old at the time of his death and was survived by his wife, Toni.
Since Marriott’s death, a number of Humble Pie collections have been released, including several live albums that have maintained the band’s reputation as an impressive concert act. “Like the blues players he idolized, Steve Marriott may finally be getting his due after he’s no longer here to reap the rewards,” Bill Holmes of the PopMatters website wrote on the release of Natural Born Boogie in 2000. “Bands like the Black Crowes openly admit his influence, while a waft of inferior vocalists trying to emulate him prove that his talents are sorely missed.” Critics also noted the group’s influence on other major acts of the 1970s, including Foghat, REO Speedwagon, and Ted Nugent.
As Safe As Yesterday Is, Immediate, 1969.
Town and Country, Columbia, 1969.
Humble Pie, A&M, 1970.
Rock On, A&M, 1971.
Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, A&M, 1971.
Smokin’, A&M, 1972.
Eat It, A&M, 1973.
Thunderbox, A&M, 1974.
Street Rats, A&M, 1975.
Back Home Again, Immediate, 1976.
Greatest Hits, Immediate, 1978.
On to Victory, Atco, 1980.
Go for the Throat, Atco, 1981.
The Best of Humble Pie, A&M, 1982.
Hot N’ Nasty, A&M, 1981.
Winterland 1973, King Biscuit, 1996.
King Biscuit Flower Hour, King Biscuit, 1996.
Natural Born Boogie, Fuel, 2000.
Back on Track, Sanctuary, 2002.
Slice of Humble Pie, Compleat, 2002.
Daly, Marsha, Peter Frampton, Grosset and Dunlap, 1979.
Graff, Gary, et al., editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Helander, Brock, The Rock Who’s Who, second edition, Schirmer Books, 1996.
Billboard, September 13, 1997, p. 77.
Rolling Stone, May 30, 1991, p. 24.
“Humble Pie,” PopMatters, http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/h/humblepie-natural.html (October 3, 2002).
“Humble Pie,” VH1, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/humble_views/h/humblepie-natural.html (October 3, 2002).