When Peter Frampton recalls his many years spent living in Westchester, the first thing that comes to mind is the weather. “Westchester was the first place I lived [in America], and it had seasons, like England — where I came from — just a little more severe, of course,” he says with a laugh. “But the countryside is so beautiful.”
One of the most celebrated guitarists of all time, the British-born musician is widely known for his multiplatinum record Frampton Comes Alive, which remains the fourth-bestselling live album in history. First making his name as head of the ’60s supergroup Humble Pie, Frampton gained worldwide fame as a solo artist on the tails of such hits as “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” Today, the celebrated rocker remains an outsize presence in contemporary music with the 2016 release of his 19th full-length album, Acoustic Classics.
It is this recent foray into acoustic rock that local audiences will have the rare chance to experience at Peekskill’s Paramount Hudson Valley Theater on April 6. According to Frampton, the acoustic tour will still offer fans exactly what they will likely be coming to see. “It’s everything,” says Frampton of the show. “I pick from my whole career, since the acoustic classics CD is basically all my main songs. Things like ‘Baby I Love Your Way,’ which I didn’t think I would be able to do acoustically because it is not that kind of song — well we turned it into one! I think people would kill me if I didn’t attempt it.”
However, the rocker was not immediately excited about playing sans band, and without the talkbox that helped bring him fame. Indeed, the very name Frampton is synonymous with this small electronic device that applies speech-like sounds onto a musical instrument, as heard in his hits “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me the Way.”
“I was very reticent from nerves, being up there alone with an acoustic guitar and no Marshall amp or Les Paul guitar,” reveals Frampton. “But when I went out last October, the first show was just phenomenal, and it made me realize that although it’s a 180-degree different approach, it is just as enjoyable for me because I get to take my time and tell stories about the songs.” Frampton adds that during acoustic shows, his son Julian and writing partner Gordon Kennedy often join him onstage. “It is completely different from what I do with the band, and that’s what I love about it.”
This doesn’t mean Frampton has completely eschewed his sonic roots. “I think early in my career I was known as the guy who makes those funny noises and looks good,” he shares. “I think it has changed now because people value the total guitar playing, but the common denominator of everything is definitely the talkbox. More people know me for that than anything else. Hey, it’s still guitar playing, but I do play without it,” he adds with a laugh.
Few are aware of the several years the Grammy-winning rocker was a citizen of two Westchester towns, nor of his abiding fondness for the county. “I moved to America on the first day of 1975 and moved to Westchester because my girlfriend Penny [McCall] lived there,” says Frampton. “Men always seem to end up where their partner wants to live, and I stayed in Westchester for 13 or 14 years. I lived in Croton first, and then I moved close to Bedford.” It was his second wife, Barbara Gold, with whom Frampton lived near Bedford — later moving to Ohio and then Nashville after the marriage ended.
For Frampton, getting out on the road and hitting the stage remains one of his most cherished and inspiring musical activities. Indeed, the rocker has been touring the world for nearly 50 years, seemingly nonstop, releasing two albums in just the last three years.
When asked why he tours with such frequency, Frampton is quick to respond. “The main reason is that it is rejuvenating to me, and it is also inspiring musically to play in front of an audience and to see how they react to certain things,” he says. “When I am playing on the road, my chops get really good, and when I come off the road, I am really excited about doing new stuff.”
Beyond hitting the stage and cranking out new albums, Frampton views his life’s work as a way to connect with people and let them know that there is a like-minded person out there. “I have always felt I have written about things that apply to everybody, because I am just one person going through life,” says Frampton. “We all experience life in different ways, but we all have the same bridges to cross and hurdles to overcome. I write from personal experience, and people really seem to identify with that.”