By the mid-1960s, there was no questioning the effect American blues music had on pop music culture in the United Kingdom, but what shocked Paul Rodgers when he first arrived Stateside with Free was how oblivious most Americans were to one of their greatest cultural exports.
Like many great British rock groups, Free formed with the intention of playing rhythm and blues music just like that of their heroes Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. But when Free first arrived in the United States circa 1970, Rodgers says he couldn't even find a blues record in a store.
"I went to a record store somewhere when I came to America, I thought, 'Oh, I'll get some real blues here,'" Rodgers tells Q104.3 New York's Jim Kerr Rock and Roll Morning Show. "And they'd never heard of John Lee Hooker and these [other artists]. It was like, 'Oh, really? Wow.'"
He continued, explaining how deeply so many British musicians connected to so many Black American blues artists.
"[The blues] was an education for us, not only in the music, but in the intensity of their feeling," Rodgers said. "We learned how to play from those guys and how to sing, etc."
Looking back at the success of Free's first U.S. hit "All Right Now," Rodgers steers the conversation back to the blues.
"It did blow up — it was incredible how it did," he notes. "'Cause we were just a bunch of kids from various parts of England that had come together in London because there was this whole music scene in London at the time. And we boxy played the blues and soul music and we developed 'All Right Now' out of that, you see, because it was a very creative format — the 12-bar blues is amazing. It's amazing how there's a million songs written on it and still it's there and another million can be written on it."
Rodgers' returns this month with a new solo album, Midnight Rose, due September 22.