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As an investor, Peter Frampton returns to his roots

When you think of classic rock, the name Peter Frampton jumps to the top of the list. Born in Beckinham, England, he discovered and mastered his grandmother's banjolele (a banjo-shaped ukulele) at the age of seven. By age 10, Frampton was playing in a band called The Little Ravens, playing on the same bill at school as George and The Dragons, a group including David Bowie, then a student of Peter's dad, Owen Frampton -- an art teacher. Peter and David spent their lunch breaks together, playing Buddy Holly songs. In high school, Peter played with a band called The Preachers, produced and managed by the Rolling Stone's Bill Wyman. With other teeny-bopper bands under his belt, Frampton formed Humble Pie in 1969 with ex-Small Faces singer/guitarist Steve Marriott. Frampton was just 19 years old.

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After going solo in the '70s, he made guest appearances on albums by David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and George Harrison. In 1976, he recorded "Frampton Comes Alive," selling to date more than 16 million copies, making it the biggest selling live album in rock history.

The 1980s and early 1990s were a quiet time for Frampton professionally. In 1990, while attempting a new musical collaboration with Steve Marriott, Marriott died in a house fire. In 1998, Frampton went on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd and appeared on "The Simpsons" as himself. He became involved in numerous charitable events throughout the years, including a guitar tuition fundraiser with eMedia Guitar Method, the Volunteers for America concert to raise funds after Sept. 11 and the Cincinnati USA for Relief benefit concert.

In 2000, his rendering of "Off the Hook" earned a "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" Grammy nomination for his "Live in Detroit" CD, the companion to the first DVD recorded in both high-definition TV format and 5.1 surround sound.

Frampton's broken into the manufacturing side of the industry through Framptone, whose products are now used by Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Nine Inch Nails, Joe Walsh, Third Eye Blind and other headliners.

For all of his success, Frampton remains genuinely down-to-earth. Time has eroded his trademark blond curls and his personal style is more laid-back yuppie than flashy rocker.

Bankrate: Tell me about your latest projects.

Peter Frampton: I've released "Now." It's my first album in two years. It was recorded totally at home; I have enough room in the lower section for a tracking room, engineers. I've been able to write and record, taking as much time as I want. I use Nuendo and Pro Tools for recording. I used to do a lot of work at home, but had to have the band at the studio and then mix somewhere else. Mixing is a little like video editing. Studio time is very, very, very expensive! Usually, you try to do it as quickly as possible. I like, as an artist, standing back for 2 or three weeks, leave it -- like a coffee break. Then, I come back. Usually, you have a day of mixing, listen over, then off you go, next track. Here, with different takes, I can go to the edge, go over too far and come back. I can even scrap it. I'm pretty much an engineer now. Others might need help, might need a studio.

Bankrate: You worked on the Cincinnati's Treasures/King Records fundraising CD. How did you get involved with that charity?

Frampton: I'm friends with Larry Nager of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He's a musicologist. He wrote a book on Memphis blues music. I was putting together a benefit for 9-11. He educated me on the role of King Records; they recorded all of James Brown's music. I worked with Philip Paul, he was their original house drummer, like Motown's Funk Brothers. They bought him a house. He's the nicest person!

Bankrate: You are now based in Ohio. That's very different from the lifestyle of places you used to live. Why not live in a castle like other rock stars?

Frampton: Ha, ha! We've got our own small castle. My wife comes from Cincinnati. When all is said and done, I go off for two weeks and then I'm home for one week. I have a daughter at Kent State, I have a son who lives with his mother in Miami. I have a daughter at a local college. I have a 7-year-old with me. We made a family pact, that we would spend all 12 of her school years in one place. Also, I researched it: Cincinnati consistently has the top five school districts in the nation. I didn't go to boarding school. My wife didn't either -- we both went to public school. Now, when we lived in L.A., we had to put them in private school. You have to there, it's just too bad. I hope Arnold can fix that up!

Bankrate: Your original fans are older now and probably a little more laid back. Are you trying to target them or a different market?

Frampton: Obviously, I'm always hoping for original loyal fans. We've found at the concerts all ages. I've played at casinos, fairs, amphitheaters. At the casinos, it seems that some of them must have been using a fake ID, they do look awfully young! I see three generations, the baby boomer, the child, the granddaughter as well. With classic rock radio, the kids are listening to it all: Allman Brothers and Linkin Park. My kids listen to Pink Floyd without prompting.

Bankrate: Radio stations are so formulaic today, with the exception of small megahertz stations. Is it hard to try out interesting music?

Frampton: Yes, absolutely. It's nigh on impossible to get on mainstream radio. I don't. I'm restricted to classic rock. We can't get played. I am independent and I can't spend $100,000. All I know is, you have to give the money to someone to get played. It makes me sick. When you are on mainstream stations, it's not because you have a great, catchy song for radio.

Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?

Frampton: I have the final say. I have an incredible adviser I've worked with since the early '90s. He saved my bacon! I was in dire straits. Part of it was poor management, part of it was me being a bit of a spender. I really got a raw deal from my manager in the '70s. Let's just say that he alleviated the need for me to worry about that money! The mathematics of money management, that side of the brain, I don't use it.

Bankrate: What are your favorite investments?

Frampton: I invest in what I know: studio equipment, guitars, instruments, amplifiers. No Picassos. I do love great art, but with recording, I know a lot about the values. I have some outboard [audio signal processing] equipment that's 20 years old. I bought it for $20, now it's worth $6,000. Not that I will sell it, but it's good to know it's an investment. Guitars do age well, if they are played and maintained, yes. We'll see if the wood makes the test of time. Certain guitars have gone up in value. One of the rarest guitars is a Gibson/Les Paul Sunburst, 1959. Only a few hundred were made. It's cherry red. They're going for $250,000. I have a 1960 model, but it's nowhere near that value. I bought a guitar for $6,500 and sold it for $12,500. I've seen the same guitar now sell for $65,000! I have some guitars you don't want to take out of the house. I have two sets: one for touring, one for home. I have a beautiful Belgian guitar, played by Django Reinhardt. I do play it from time to time. I got it refurbished after 10 years. I hate to take it out, even just to look at it!

Tamar Alexia Fleishman is a lawyer and freelance writer based in Baltimore.

-- Posted: Nov. 21, 2003




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