By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
Bassist Stanley Sheldon, who toured with English rocker Peter Frampton and appeared on the 1976 double live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, said he is looking forward to showing his New Bedford fans the way, as the two have reunited to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the best-selling live albums of all time.
They will be gigging at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Feb. 14th and playing the album in its entirety as part of a two-set, three-hour performance.
During a phone interview last week, Sheldon said they fondly reminisced about the experience on a bus ride from Nashville to Philadelphia.
“We were getting a little antsy on the bus and Peter pulled out this film that his father took 35 years ago that none of us had seen and we watched footage of ourselves playing,” he said. “It really brought back some great memories at that tour and to be out here doing it again is surreal. It never gets old.”
Originally, Sheldon said he opposed the idea of recording a live album. At the time, he felt that a live album would not have been a good move because Frampton was getting a lot of recognition for his studio work.
“That record took everybody involved by surprise,” he said. “We played it not knowing it was going to become so huge. How could you know? But, he recorded a live album with [his former band] Humble Pie so he knew what he was doing.”
While Sheldon and Frampton hadn’t performed together for more than 20 years, they re-connected in 2006 for Frampton’s Grammy Award-winning album, Fingerprints, as Sheldon collaborated with him for a song.
After drummer John Siomos and keyboardist and guitarist Bob Mayo, their Frampton Comes Alive! counterparts, passed away in 2004, Sheldon said there was talk about reuniting at that time but they decided to hold off since Frampton already had a steady bassist.
“It makes sense now because it’s the 35th anniversary,” Sheldon said. “When he asked me, I didn’t hesitate.”
Recorded in San Francisco, Frampton Comes Alive! reached number one on the Billboard 200 a few months after it was released and stayed in the top slot for 10 weeks. It remained on the chart for 97 weeks and was the best-selling album of 1976, selling more than six million copies in the United States. Further, it was named “Album of the Year” in Rolling Stone’s 1976 reader’s poll.
“Peter and I have gone through so much in that amount of time,” Sheldon said. “But, it’s wonderful and feels really great. There’s a lot of affection between Peter and I and we express it more. You can see it when we’re on stage.”
In addition to performing with Frampton, Sheldon also played bass for Delbert McClinton, an American blues artist, in 2008. He toured with McClinton, who he described as “awesome,” for more than a year.
“Playing with them was a feather in my cap,” Sheldon said. “I had been retired from music when he asked me to play, but he’s got one of the greatest bands out there.”
Also, Sheldon is credited as being one of the earlier adopters of the fretless bass in rock music. In fact, his expertise of the instrument led to his audition with Frampton and influenced the sound of Frampton Comes Alive!
“It’s like a violin or cello,” Sheldon said. “I played it very understated and straight and got the essence of the voice-like sound, which is unique. Bass players knew I was playing a fretless bass but hardly anybody else did.”
When he’s not playing music, Sheldon enjoys studying it. In fact, he spent the 1990s committed to Latin American Studies at the University of Kansas and traveled throughout Latin America. His focus included slave society of the nineteenth century in Latin countries and how its influence on the music continues to impact world music today.
“I was very interested in the Caribbean culture, especially Cape Verde, Puerto Rico and Brazil,” he said. “Those are my favorite regions so I wanted to go to those places and study the music of the societies that first introduced those rhythms. Traveling has been great. It’s nice to be able to take advantage of that.”