Humble Pie - Biography
Humble Pie were one of rock’s first supergroups and also the first band to be described as Heavy Metal. Though initially quite popular in their English homeland, over the course of their existence, they gradually became more popular in the US.
In late 1968 Steve Marriott (ex-Small Faces) formed Humble Pie in Essex with Greg Ridley (ex-Spooky Tooth), Peter Frampton (ex-The Herd) and Jerry Shirley (ex-Apostolic Intervention). Not surprisingly, they were signed to Immediate — home of both Small Faces and Apostolic Intervention. They released their debut single, “Natural Born Bugie” b/w “Wrist Job,” in July 1969 and it reached number four in the UK. The attendant full-length, As Safe as Yesterday Is (1969 Immediate), peaked at number sixteen. The pounding mix of blues-rock and heavy post-mod pop was the first album to be described as “Heavy Metal,” when journalist Mike Saunders did so in a 1970 review in Rolling Stone.
Whilst the Pie embarked on their first tour of the US, they included an acoustic set in their performances and Town and Country (1969 Immediate), released during their time abroad, featured more acoustic instrumentation than the debut. Howev,er when Humble Pie switched labels to A&M Records, and Dee Anthony became their manager, he focused his sights on the US market and encouraged a more jam-based boogie groove. Their A&M debut, Humble Pie (1970 A&M), offered just that, alternating between progressive rock and hard rock.
Rock On (1971 A&M) as well as a live album recorded at the Fillmore East in New York, Performance Rockin' the Fillmore (1970 A&M) helped make the band bigger in the US than at home. The live album reached #21 in the US and the single “I Don't Need No Doctor” peaked at #73. By the time of their release, Frampton had left the band to go solo and he also became far more successful in the States. Frampton was replaced by Dave “Clem” Clempson in 1972. The loss of Frampton seeming did little to dim the band’s prospect and their first album without him, Smokin' (1972 A&M), reached number six in the US and 28 in the UK.
The following year, Marriott hired three female backing singers, The Blackberries (Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews who was later replaced by Billie Barnum) who’d previously performed as as the The Ikettes and The Raelettes with Ike Turner and Ray Charles, respectively. The band were also joined by saxophonist Sidney George for the recording of the double album, Eat It, (1973 A&M), which reached thirteen in the US. With the release of Thunderbox (1974 A&M), an increasingly by-the-numbers blues-n-boogie formula started to wear thin and it failed to make the Top 40. The similar Street Rats (1975 A&M) just reached the 100 spot. The writing on the wall, they embarked on their Goodbye Pie Tour joined by keyboardist Tim Hinkley, after which they disbanded.
With the break-up the same year of The Faces, Marriot rejoined his old Small Faces bandmates to film videos for the reissued singles, “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday.” The group tried recording together again but Ronnie Lane left after only two rehearsals. Ian McLagan, Kenny Jones and Marriott continued as Small Faces with ex- Roxy Music bassist Rick Wills in Lane’s place for the recording of two albums,Playmates and 78 In The Shade. The reunion albums were critical and commercial failures and Small Faces once again broke-up in 1978.
Not surprisingly, Marriot re-formed Humble Pie afterward, in 1979, with Shirley, Bobby Tench (ex- The Jeff Beck Group) and bassist Anthony "Sooty" Jones. The new line-up released On to Victory (1980 Jet) which reached number sixty in the US. The single, “Fool for a Pretty Face,” reached #52. Humble Pie then toured the US on the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon bill and recorded an album, Go for the Throat (1981 Jet). At the beginning of the tour, Marriot crushed his hand and subsequently developed a duodenal ulcer which forced them off the tour. The album was rushed for release and reached #154. Afterward, the re-formed Humble Pie once again disbanded.
Shirley obtained the rights to the name Humble Pie in 1989 and reformed the group as “Humble Pie featuring Jerry Shirley” with vocalist/guitarist Charlie Huhn and several rotating members including Wally Stocker and Alan Greene for a version of the band that was based in Cleveland. In the meantime, Frampton and Marriott started collaborating again in 1990, providing “The Bigger They Come”and “I Won't Let You Down” for Frampton's album Shine On - A Collection. Although it seemed like another Humble Pie reunion was possible, on Saturday, April 20, 1991, Steve Marriott died in a house fire, just 44-years-old.
Marriot’s passing didn’t stop Shirley from dragging out the Humble Pie name, which he did in 2001 with Ridley, Tench and new rhythm guitarist Dave Colwell. This line-up actually released an album as Humble Pie, Back on Track (2002 Sanctuary), and went on tour. At the Steve Marriott Tribute Concert in London Astoria, 2001, there was a more proper one-off reunion of Frampton, Clempson, Ridley and Shirley performed. The performance was released on DVD in 2005. After Ridley fell ill in 2002, Shirley’s new line-up again split up. Ridley died on November 19th, 2003 in Alicante, Spain of pneumonia at 56.