How Lynyrd Skynyrd Hooked Up Bad Company's Paul Rodgers

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"Playing with Skynyrd was always in the cards. We go back a long way, and I toured with them as a solo artist," Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers says of the summer co-headlining tour with the Southernrock veterans (Black Stone Cherry is also on the bill for Thursday's show at the Cynthia Woods Pavilion).

"Plus, they introduced me to my wife! So I have to thank them for that!"

Yes, it turns out that a few years back, one of the Skynyrd boys made a love match between Rodgers and current wife Cynthia while at a tour stop in Vancouver.

"I was blown away when I met her...still am!" Rodgers laughs. And though he believes it was Skynyrd vocalist Johnny Van Zandt who made the actual introduction, "they all try to take credit for it!" he says.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, of course, is deservedly in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Bad Company is one of the institution's more egregious omissions -- and an argument could even be made for Rodgers' previous group, Free. It's something that the singer hopes to see rectified someday.

"I remember when [Atlantic Records founder] Ahmet Ertegun was alive," Rodgers recalls. "He used to come by my house and tell me about this rock and roll museum he was putting together. I told him that I wouldn't be interested because the music doesn't belong in a museum. But now, I think it would be OK if [Bad Company was inducted].

"I have no idea who gets to vote on that, though," he adds. "I can't believe the Doobie Brothers aren't in there!"


Bad Company's Paul Rodgers Is All Right Now

During his own visit to the Hall, Rodgers says the highlight was seeing the exhibits dedicated to his own heroes of soul music -- though one artifact left him a bit dumbfounded, one from the 1967 plane crash that killed Otis Redding, members of the Bar-Kays and the pilot.

"I went to the Otis Redding section and saw this piece of metal, and I didn't know what it was doing there at first, then it hit me... it was a piece of the plane." "It really weirded me out."

Bad Company's current lineup not a full reunion, of course, since the 2006 death of bassist Boz Burrell. That spot will be held down by Todd Ronning, with Howard Leese (ex-Heart) on second guitar along with original members Rodgers, Mick Ralphs (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums).

"Boz was a really great bass player," Rodgers remembers. "When Mick and I were forming the group and writing songs, Simon [who had also been in Free] came on board, and then we auditioned bass players. Boz was just a perfect fit. He used to be a singer and had a great voice, but his bass playing was also very melodic, very lyrical. And that added a lot to the band."

A fitness enthusiast, Rodgers has a regimen that keeps him an agile front man and able to hit notes as a 63-year-old he did decades earlier.

"I try to keep the old bod in shape -- but sometimes, it's a losing battle!" he laughs. "As for my voice, I drink a lot of teas, ginger, and use menthol, as well as deep breathing exercises. It used to be whiskey, but not anymore!"

Rodgers just came back from Germany, where he sang with a 45-piece orchestra and a rock band - though he had to be "extra disciplined" with the songs, so as not to throw off, say, the string section by adding an extra chorus or improvisation on the spot. He also performed on a "Rock Legends" cruise that also served as a benefit for the Sioux tribe of Wyoming.

"I'd never been on a cruise before, and it was really like a city on the ocean," he says. "There were three stages and music going all the time. It was a lot of fun."

After the current tour, Rodgers says he plans to take a break -- though, he admits, he's been "saying that for a decade." He will also finish working on a solo record, having done some initial recording at Memphis' fabled Royal Studios. Which, of course, will lead him... back on the road.

"Rock and roll is about playing it live, and the live energy that comes with it," he sums up. "I still love it."

Seems like the man who sang "Can't Get Enough" is taking his own advice.

Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Stone Cherry perform Thursday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr. Gates open at 6 p.m.

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