Humble Pie were a rock, rhythm and blues band from England and were one of the first supergroups of the 1970s.
The original band line-up featured Steve Marriott (former lead singer, songwriter and lead guitarist of Small Faces), Peter Frampton (former lead singer and guitarist of The Herd), Greg Ridley (former bass guitarist of Spooky Tooth) and seventeen-year-old drummer Jerry Shirley.
Although successful in America, as a band, they remained much loved in Britain. They are best remembered for their dynamic live concert performances in the early 1970s and songs such as "30 Days in the Hole" and "I Don't Need No Doctor".
In late 1968, Frampton was eager to escape The Herd, as well as his teeny-bopper image. The young guitar prodigy played on a Small Faces recording session in France that year and had become close friends with Marriott, who himself was becoming frustrated with creative restrictions. The Small Faces' frontman suggested a drummer for Frampton — Shirley, whom he'd known for several years, most notably through his work with the mod band Apostolic Intervention.
Nothing really came of the project, though, until New Year's Eve 1968. Marriott walked offstage during a disastrous Small Faces gig, rang Frampton at his home later that night and asked if he and Ridley could join his new band. Humble Pie was born.
"Natural Born Boogie"
Because the members had all previously played in high-profile groups, many viewed Humble Pie as a "supergroup
," although the band loathed the term and the expectations that came with it. They started secretly rehearsing at Marriott's home in Moreton
(Beehive Cottage), in early 1969. The objective was to hone the act away from media
and public scrutiny. After signing with Andrew Loog Oldham
's Immediate Records
, the band had planned to launch its first single and album in the spring, but were delayed after an injunction was filed by The Herd's management.
Eventually, Humble Pie released their debut single, "Natural Born Bugie", in July 1969. It was a No. 4 hit in the UK Singles Chart, and was quickly followed by the album As Safe As Yesterday Is, which peaked at No. 16 on the UK album charts. In the 2006 documentary Heavy: The Story of Metal, As Safe As Yesterday Is was recalled as the first album to have been described by the term "heavy metal".Heavy metal music was first heard on steppenwolf's "born to be wild".. The mention occurred in a Rolling Stone magazine review written by journalist Mike Saunders.
Their second album, Town and Country, was hastily released in the UK in November 1969 while the band was away on its first US tour. A collective effort that featured a more acoustic sound and songs written by all four members, it did not sell as well as As Safe As Yesterday Is, and financially-strapped Immediate sank deeper into debt.
Recent tape archives show the band recorded around 30 songs in its first nine months of existence, many of which remained unreleased for decades — including a cover of Ray Charles' classic "Drown In My Own Tears." Humble Pie concerts at this time featured an acoustic set — with a radical re-working of Graham Gouldman's "For Your Love" as its centerpiece — followed by an electric set.
The winter of 1970 saw the collapse of Immediate, a switch to A&M Records
, and a change in band management
. Humble Pie now focused on the United States
market. American Dee Anthony
, the band's new manager, had the band scrap its 'unplugged' set and crank the volume up. He also pushed Marriott to take more of the on-stage spotlight, something Marriott had, up until then, been sharing with Frampton and Ridley.
While these moves would improve the band's commercial standing in the States, they were blows to Frampton, who had been building up confidence and material as a songwriter.
The group's first album for A&M, Humble Pie, released later that year, was heavier than the previous two, alternating between progressive rock and hard rock excess. An attendant single, the funky, Stax-flavored "Big Black Dog," failed to chart, but Anthony's strategy was starting to work. The band became known for putting on one of the most popular live rock shows in the U.S.
Performance Rockin' the Fillmore
Humble Pie released its most successful record to date, Rock On
, in early 1971. A concert supporting that record at the Fillmore East
was captured on Performance Rockin' the Fillmore
in 1971. The live album reached number 21 on the U.S. Billboard 200
, and both Rock On
were certified gold by the RIAA
. The loud-quiet-loud epic "I Don't Need No Doctor
" was an FM radio
hit in the United States
(peaking at No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100
), propelling the album up the charts.
Frampton left the band by the time the album was released and went on to enjoy massive popularity as a solo artist.
With Dave "Clem" Clempson
replacing Frampton, Humble Pie moved towards an even harder sound emphasizing Marriott's blues and soul roots. Their first record with Clempson was Smokin'
(1972), which featured minor hits in the songs "Hot 'n' Nasty
" (No. 52 Hot 100) and "30 Days in the Hole
." It was the band's most commercially successful record and reached No. 6 on the US charts, helped by a busy touring schedule. After the success of Smokin'
, the band's record label, A&M
, released Humble Pie's first two Immediate albums in one album, as Lost and Found
. The marketing ploy was a success, and the album charted at No. 37 on the Billboard 200
Looking for a more authentic R&B
sound, Marriott hired three female backing singers, The Blackberries.
The trio consisted of Venetta Fields
, Clydie King
and Sherlie Matthews
(who was later replaced by Billie Barnum
). They had performed with Tina Turner as the The Ikettes
and with Ray Charles
as The Raelettes. While the direction confused some of the Pie's hard-rock audience, it was a gambit that, like their 1969 acoustic sets, would prove popular with other rock bands many years down the road.
This newly augmented lineup(which also would include, briefly, Sidney George on sax) would record Eat It, a double album released in 1973. Side 1 was made up of Marriott originals; Side 2 consisted of classic R&B covers; Side 3 was a collection of acoustic Marriott songs; and Side 4 featured Humble Pie live in concert at Glasgow. While it just missed charting in the U.S. top 10 (it peaked at No. 13), the record did little to expand the group's audience. Instead of showcasing the band's range, it signaled the beginning of the end.
Final albums and goodbye tour
After the leaner, more focused Thunderbox
(1974), and Street Rats
(1975) — a patchwork of studio recordings that were, by and large, intended for a Marriott solo album — the group found themselves running out of steam creatively and bickering internally. Humble Pie, joined by keyboardist Tim Hinkley
, staged the Goodbye Pie Tour
in 1975 and broke up.
Other Humble Pie lineups
In 1979, Steve Marriott
revived Humble Pie with Jerry Shirley
, adding Bob Tench (from Jeff Beck Group
) on guitar and Anthony "Sooty" Jones
on bass. The band released two albums, On to Victory
in 1980 and Go for the Throat
in 1981, but the effort soon fell apart during a 1981 tour when Marriott developed a duodenal ulcer
forcing the rest of the tour's cancellation.
In 1991, Marriott and Peter Frampton began collaborating again, with another Humble Pie rebirth possibly in the offing, but on Saturday, April 20 1991, a house fire took Marriott's life before anything could materialise. Two recorded songs from this collaboration, "The Bigger They Come" and "I Won't Let You Down", with Steve Marriott on vocals, appear on Peter Frampton's album Shine On: A Collection.
Humble Pie Featuring Jerry Shirley
Before the collaboration between Frampton and Marriott, drummer Shirley reformed the group with a different assortment of musicians. This project was called Humble Pie Featuring Jerry Shirley, as he was now the group's leader and the only original performing member. He had contacted his former bandmates about reuniting, but Marriott had been disappointed with earlier reunions and refused to be a part of any such effort. The band began performing live in 1989 and were featured at the Woodstock Festival 20th Anniversary Celebration
, which was broadcast live on television in the United States
and several other countries.
The group was based in Cleveland, Ohio, for most of its approximately ten year career, where Shirley worked part-time as a DJ at a classic rock radio station. The band included vocalist Charlie Huhn, who also played lead and rhythm guitar. Huhn had previously worked with Ted Nugent and Victory, and his singing style closely matched original Humble Pie vocalist Steve Marriott in many ways. While Huhn and Shirley were the only permanent members of the group, several other musicians rotated in and out of the band from 1989 to 1999, including Wally Stocker, formerly of the Babys and Rod Stewart's band, and noted Cleveland guitarist Alan Greene.
Humble Pie Featuring Jerry Shirley developed a solid reputation as a live act, but never released any official studio recordings. They were featured on several live radio broadcasts.
Shirley agreed to disband his version of the group in 1991 when it appeared that a reunion featuring Frampton and Marriott would happen, but after Marriott's death, he carried on with his performances. The group came to an end in 1999 when Shirley returned home to England.
Reunions and The Marriott Tribute Concert
Jerry Shirley has participated in a few reunions with original Humble Pie members in the last few years, including an appearance at the Steve Marriott Tribute Concert
in 2001 — commemorating the 10th anniversary of Marriott's death — which featured a lineup of Peter Frampton
, Clem Clempson
, Greg Ridley
and Shirley. This performance was later released on DVD.
In October 2004, the song "Get Down to It," the opening track from Eat It
, appeared on the popular videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
, playing on fictional classic rock
. The song "Cocaine" is featured in the video game GTA IV
- As Safe As Yesterday Is (1969) Immediate, #16 UK
- Town and Country (1969) Immediate
- Humble Pie (1970) A&M
- Rock On (1971) A&M, #118 US
- Performance Rockin' the Fillmore (1971) A&M, #21 US, #32 UK
- Smokin' (1972) A&M, #6 US, #21 UK
- Lost and Found (1973) A&M, #37 US
- Eat It (1973) A&M, #13 US, #34 UK
- Thunderbox (1974) A&M, #52 US
- Street Rats (1975) A&M, #100 US
- Back Home Again (1976) Immediate, UK
- On to Victory (1980) ATCO, #60 US
- Go for the Throat (1981) ATCO, #154 US
- Best of Humble Pie (1982) A&M
- Classics Volume 14 (1987) A&M
- Early Years (1994) Griffin
- Hot n' Nasty: The Anthology (1994) A&M
- King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: In Concert Humble Pie live 1973 (1995)
- The Scrubbers Sessions (1997) Archive / Paradigm
- The Immediate Years: Natural Born Boogie (1999) Recall/(UK)
- Running with the Pack (1999) Pilot
- Natural Born Boogie: The BBC Sessions (2000) Fuel
- Extended Versions (2000) BMG
- Twentieth Century Masters: The Millennium Collection (2000) A&M
- Live at the Whiskey A-Go-Go '69 (2002) Sanctuary
- Back on Track (2002) Sanctuary
- The Atlanta Years (2005) — never before released studio album from 1980 and live performance from 1983
- Definitive Collection (Best Of) (2006)