If you read the early history of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Elton John[/lastfm], you bump into a band with an odd name, made up of guys Elton knew when they were all unknowns looking for a break. Several of the band’s members reappear later in Elton’s career, after he’s ascended the greasy pole of superstardom. In between, the band made four albums under that odd name, none of which are much remembered today, but all of which represent a fascinating footnote in rock’s history. The band was called [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Hookfoot[/lastfm].
Music publisher Dick James hired Elton and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bernie Taupin[/lastfm] when they were just starting out, in 1967. When James formed his own record label a couple of years later, he hired a number of young session musicians, who eventually congealed into Hookfoot. The name was inspired by their drummer Roger Pope, whose high-hat cymbal would get away from him while he was playing, so he would use his foot to hook it back into place. Guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Caleb Quaye[/lastfm] had played with Elton in [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bluesology[/lastfm]. Both Pope and Quaye would play on Elton’s first four albums; Hookfoot bassist Dave Glover would play on two of them. After Elton broke in America, Hookfoot backed him on a 1971 tour; they would also tour the States with the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jefferson Airplane[/lastfm].
Hookfoot made four albums under their own name between 1971 and 1974, none of which did particularly well anywhere. None charted in the States. And by 1974, the bandmembers’ reputations as session players led to the breakup of the band. According to bassist Fred Gandy, who had replaced Glover, “We were all getting offers to work elsewhere . . . the temptations were just too great.” Pope and Quaye would eventually join Elton John’s new band in 1975.
Hookfoot backed Elton John on a couple of sessions in 1971, including a BBC radio performance. Here they are all together on “Lady Samantha.” Some of the most interesting tunes Hookfoot recorded on their own were covers. On their 1971 debut, they covered the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Buffalo Springfield[/lastfm]‘s “Bluebird.” Here it is, with a selection of vintage pix to go with it.
Hookfoot also covered the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rolling Stones[/lastfm] song “Gimme Shelter,” which appeared on the 1975 compilation Headlines. In 1972, Hookfoot recorded some songs for a radio broadcast at Ardent Studios in Memphis. In 2005, the session was released as Live in Memphis. It contains a smokin’ version of an original song, “If I Had the Words,” from their album Good Times a’ Comin’. Crank it up here.