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Peter Frampton live: The rock guitarist isn't done playing yet

In an interview for our I'm So Obsessed podcast, the singer and guitarist talks about his life, his new memoir and collaborating remotely with other musicians during COVID-19.

Peter Frampton shows fans the way last year in Las Vegas, during his farewell tour.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This story is part of I'm So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

When I told people I was interviewing rock icon Peter Frampton, they immediately started singing one of his hits -- including the songs made famous on his best-selling 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive! It's considered one of the best live albums ever and sold 8 million copies the year it was released. It includes three top 20 singles, which is why I got earfuls of "Do You Feel Like We Do?" "Show Me the Way" and my favorite, "Baby, I Love Your Way." 

An easygoing Frampton, who's just published a memoir called Do You Feel Like I Do?, spoke with me from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and described what he's been doing living "under COVID," as he puts it. That includes collaborating virtually with other musicians. He's working on a project with the Doobie Brothers that includes their take on Eric Clapton's "Let It Rain."

He's also contributed a guitar solo to a cover of Stand by Me coming out Oct. 27 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the day Ben E. King released the song in England. The single, which also features Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Roseanne Cash, was recorded to raise money for Help Musicians, a crowdfunding campaign offering financial help to music makers.

Frampton, 70, is playing guitar every day and recording musical ideas on his iPhone and storing them in iTunes. The reason is simple: The clock is ticking -- Frampton told fans last year that he has a degenerative muscle disease called inclusion body myositis (IBM) that's affecting his hands. It prompted him to kick off his farewell tour in 2019, and now he worries that by the time coronavirus restrictions ease and tour dates can resume, including a final concert planned for London's Royal Albert Hall, he won't be able to actually use his guitar.

"It's starting to affect my playing," Frampton said of coping with the inflammatory disease, in an interview for CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast series. "The longer we wait, the less chance there is of me being able to get to Europe to do the final tour there, which is destroying me."

Even so, Frampton is upbeat and funny, talking about how he became a grandfather in 2020 and hopes his granddaughter will call him "frampa." We also talked about his love of old country music, including tunes by Hank Williams and The Carter Family, and about all the tech he's tried for collecting his musical ideas. He loves his iPhone and Mac laptop. "I pretty much record everything -- I put my iPhone on record as soon as I pick up a guitar, because you never know. The worst thing is to play a bit, go, 'ooh, I like that,' then you put your phone on and by the time you've done that, you go, 'oh, what was that?'"

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But his favorite pieces of tech are a '50s era microphone called the Telefunken U47, which "slays any other recording microphone," and a Universal Audio Limiter 1176 sound compressor. Together, he says, they capture the best sounds ever.

Frampton also told me, with a lot of laughter, about meeting George Harrison for the first time and learning Harrison's secret name. "I was with a friend who was George's personal assistant. One night he said, 'Do you want to meet Geoffrey?' And I said, 'Geoffrey?' All the Beatles had a code name -- I didn't know that. So he said, 'George.' I said, 'Harrison?' This would be my first Beatle meeting."

That meeting ended with Frampton playing lead guitar on a song for the first album Harrison produced for Apple Records: Doris Troy's "Ain't that Cute." And what gets Frampton laughing even more is the memory of Harrison handing him a "funny, red-looking Les Paul" guitar, which he later learned was Lucy. It's considered one of the most famous electric guitars in the world.  

To hear how the rest of that recording session went, and other stories from his career, listen in to my entire conversation with Frampton on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Patrick Holland and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.