Michael Ralph Foster
22 December 1944
|Alma mater||University of Sussex|
|Spouse(s)||Kay Morgan (married 1985–present)|
|Parent(s)||Charles and Ethel Foster|
|Awards||BASCA Gold Badge|
|Labels||Commercial labels |
Mo Foster (born Michael Ralph Foster, 22 December 1944) is an English multi-instrumentalist, record producer, composer, solo artist, author, and public speaker. Through a career spanning over half a century, Foster has toured, recorded, and performed with dozens of artists, including Jeff Beck, Gil Evans, Phil Collins, Ringo Starr, Joan Armatrading, Gerry Rafferty, Brian May, Scott Walker, Frida of ABBA, Cliff Richard, George Martin, Van Morrison, Dr John, Hank Marvin, and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has released several albums under his own name, authored a humorous book on the history of British rock guitar, written numerous articles for music publications, continued to compose production music, and established himself as a public speaker. Foster is an assessor for JAMES, an industry organisation that gives accreditation to music colleges throughout the UK. In 2014, Foster was a recipient of a BASCA Gold Badge Award to honour his lifelong contribution to the British songwriting and composing community.
Mo Foster grew up in the post-war environment of Wolverhampton, a large town in the industrial English West Midlands. Although not having any music in the home, he picked up the recorder at school when he was about nine years old and taught himself.:1–2
When he graduated from his primary school in Wolverhampton to the grammar school in the village of Brewood, Staffordshire, there was no music department. He could study Latin, art, science, english, mathematics, and agriculture – but not music.:2
In 1959, Foster and a group of school friends formed a band called The Tradewinds. Their repertoire initially consisted of American guitar instrumentals, skiffle, and excerpts from The Goon Show.
The band needed a bass-player, so Foster set out to convert a cheap acoustic guitar into a bass guitar. The pickup consisted of two ex-military headphones squeezed into a transparent plastic soap-dish, which was then connected by TV aerial cable to a socket marked "gram" at the back of his Dad’s large Murphy radio.:67 It worked, but failed to impress his friends.
In June 1959, the ban on the import of American musical instruments into the UK, which had been introduced by the British Board of Trade in 1951, was lifted and such instruments (notably Fender and Gibson guitars) became available soon after that. Foster had become a fan of the bass playing of Jet Harris of The Shadows, but had not seen the actual instrument until 1961, when Jet was revealed casually caressing the iconic headstock of a Fender Precision Bass on the cover of The Shadows LP. Foster wanted one, but had to settle for a Dallas Tuxedo Bass, the solitary bass guitar hanging in the window of the local music shop, the Band Box.:112
In the early 1960s, there were no college music courses available for electric instruments, so Foster followed a scientific path, electing to study physics and mathematics at the University of Sussex.:125 But the university’s pop band, The Baskervilles, and later the University of Sussex Jazz Trio (known as the US Jazz Trio), needed a drummer.:126–127 So Foster set aside his bass, and for the next three years he played drums at university dances and balls, supporting major acts such as Cream, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Who, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Zombies, Jimi Hendrix, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and Steampacket with Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger.:126
Foster's first professional success came in 1968, when the US Jazz Trio morphed into the progressive jazz/rock band, Affinity, with singer Linda Hoyle, Hammond organist Lynton Naiff, guitarist Mike Jopp, drummer Grant Serpell, and Foster, now back on bass guitar. Affinity played numerous London gigs and radio sessions, attracting the attention of jazz club impresario, Ronnie Scott, who became their manager.:131 Scott secured a record deal with Vertigo Records who chose John Anthony, who had produced albums for Genesis, Queen and Roxy Music, to produce their one, eponymous album. Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones wrote brass and string arrangements for the collection of self-penned tracks and cover-versions. The album was released in 1970, to a strong reception from the press and broadcasters. However, despite television appearances, and concerts across Europe, the album didn’t sell well, and Linda Hoyle chose not to continue in music. Soon after, the band dissolved, leaving Foster to seek employment as a freelance bass guitarist.
After Affinity played their last gig in 1970 Foster decided that rather than being an over-educated but unemployed musician he needed to join another band. He placed a classified ad in Melody Maker magazine stating "Bass Guitarist: ex-name group, wishes to join established Family/Colosseum/Traffic type group". He expected no response, but a music producer called Christos Demetriou (i.e. Chris Demetriou) unexpectedly called and offered him a job with ex-Manfred Mann singer Mike d'Abo's band. After touring with the band both in the US and in the UK, Foster's name started to get around. In 1971 he was hired to do a studio session for a Russ Ballard song, "Can't Let You Go" at Lansdowne Studios. "I knew nothing and turned up with a flask and sandwiches because I didn't know how long I'd be there for. There was Clem Cattini on drums, Ray Cooper on percussion, Mike Moran on keyboards, Ray Fenwick on guitar, all fine players and nice guys who thought my naiveté was amusing! That was the beginning of a word of mouth situation which gradually mushroomed." The European disco scene was growing and session work was increasing and Foster was hired to play on a lot of the popular hits of the time including Jimmy Helms' "Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse" and Cerrone's hit "Supernature".
In his early days as a session player Foster, having been self-taught, could not read music and freely admits that he bluffed his way through a lot of sessions. Finally at a session at Abbey Road Studios, playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it got so difficult to follow the music by listening to the drummer and guitarist that he vowed to teach himself. This he then did.
As a session musician Foster claims he has played on over 350 recordings including artists as varied as:
- Phil Collins
- Jeff Beck
- Gerry Rafferty
- Ringo Starr
- Frida (of ABBA)
- Gary Moore
- Peter Green
- Scott Walker
- Elkie Brooks
- Joan Armatrading
- Michael Schenker Group
- Olivia Newton-John
- Neil Innes
- Judie Tzuke
- Sheena Easton
- Meat Loaf
- Trevor Rabin
- Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice
- Luka Bloom
- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- The London Symphony Orchestra
- Nigel Kennedy and Kroke
As a sideman Foster has toured the world or played concerts with:
- Jeff Beck
- Phil Collins
- Joan Armatrading
- Gil Evans
- Mike d'Abo,
- Van Morrison
- Eric Clapton
- Maggie Bell
- Dusty Springfield
- The Manfreds
- George Martin
- Hank Marvin
(who wrote the foreword of the UK version of Mo's book)
- Cliff Richard
- Véronique Sanson,
- The London Symphony Orchestra
During his time as a session player, Foster was asked to work on many film soundtrack sessions including:
In 1975 Foster pioneered the teaching of bass guitar in Britain by founding the first-ever course at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As of mid-2007, along with guitarist Ray Russell and drummer Ralph Salmins, Foster is embarking on several music seminars at different educational establishments around the UK, the most recent (September 2007) being held at Leeds Metropolitan University. The trio have also been invited to give a similar seminar at the famous Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts music school which was started by Sir Paul McCartney. He has also contributed several articles to bass playing specialist magazines.
One of Foster's most memorable bass lines was in the theme tune to the late-70s UK TV show "Minder" starring Dennis Waterman. The tune, "I Can Be So Good For You" started out life as a track on Waterman's solo album, it was then re-jigged as the show's theme tune. He achieved the atypical bass sound by using an unusual bass slap technique on an aluminium Kramer 650B bass guitar.
In the mid to late 80s Foster was the 'M' in the jazz/rock trio called RMS with fellow session musos, Ray Russell and Simon Phillips. They released (originally on Peter Van Hooke's then at the time fledgling MMC record label) an album called Centennial Park which was remastered and re-released in 2002 on the Angel Air record label. This in turn prompted the release of a live album from 1982 that had never been heard publicly before RMS: Live at the Venue, 1982.
As a result of the success of these two CD releases, a DVD (which featured guests appearances by Gil Evans and Mark Isham) was released a year later. RMS: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 1983. Both the CDs and DVD were produced by Foster and Ray Russell.
In the mid-1980s, Foster joined up with comedy writer/actor Mike Walling to form the core of the imaginary, but tragic RJ Wagsmith Band. Together they wrote a chart topping song for Roger Kitter (aka "The Brat"). They also penned what became one of the few one-hit wonders that never actually made it into the charts. "The Papadum Song" was about two losers who go into an Indian restaurant for a meal after a football match. The song got quite considerable airplay and Walling and Foster appeared together on the BBC children's programmes Blue Peter and Granada TV's Get It Together. Unfortunately there was an industrial dispute at Phonogram Records and no records actually got to the shops.
At the latter end of the 1980s Foster decided that he would like the freedom to perform, produce and record his own music rather than that of someone else. He was able to call on some of his many friends who happened to be some of the UK's foremost session musicians to help him. Since 1987 he has released five solo albums.
- Bel Assis (1988) (featuring Gary Moore and drummer Simon Phillips)
- Southern Reunion (1991) (featuring Gary Moore, Gary Husband and Snail's Pace Slim)
- Time To Think (2002)
- Live at Blues West 14 (2006)
- Belsize Lane: A Collection of Sketches (2007) (Limited Issue)
Apart from his five solo albums Foster has produced – or co-produced – albums for Deborah Bonham (The Old Hyde), Dr John (Such A Night), Maggie Bell (Live at the Rainbow), Affinity (Live Instrumentals 1969, 1971–72, Origins 1965–67, and Origins Baskervilles 1965), Survivors (Survivors), Maria Muldaur (Live in London), Adrian Legg (Fretmelt), RMS (Centennial Park, Live at the Venue 1982), RMS with Gil Evans (Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1983 DVD), The RJ Wagsmith Band (Make Tea Not War).
In addition Foster has composed and produced hundreds of titles for the major Production Music Libraries, co-wrote with Ray Russell the instrumental "So Far Away" for Gary Moore, co-wrote with Mike Walling the comedy hit single "Chalk Dust" for The Brat, co-wrote with Kim Goody the song "Sentimental Again" which reached the final in the Song for Europe Contest in 1990, and co-wrote with Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, and Kim Goody the main song "In My Car" from Ringo's album Old Wave.
The book's title is Seventeen Watts?, the title having arisen from the school band member's quandary of "do we really need that much power?" when a 17W Watkins Dominator Amplifier was acquired as a replacement for the 'aging' 5W amp they had previously been using. The US edition of the book was entitled Play Like Elvis and had a different foreword, this time written by Duane Eddy.
The first half of the book covers the emergence of a new breed of the rock guitarist. It features many anecdotes describing the efforts of now prominent guitarists to not only learn chords but to work out how to build their own guitar because they could not afford the ones in the music shop window. There are stories and quotes from guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Joe Brown, Clem Cattini, Eric Clapton, Lonnie Donegan, Vic Flick, Herbie Flowers, Roger Glover, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin, Brian May, Gary Moore, Joe Moretti, Pino Palladino, Rick Parfitt, John Paul Jones, Francis Rossi, Gerry Rafferty, Mike Rutherford, Big Jim Sullivan, Andy Summers, Richard Thompson, Bert Weedon, Bruce Welch, and Muff Winwood.
The second half of Seventeen Watts? is devoted to the rise and eventual demise of the London studio session scene. Foster seeks to present an insider's view of this creative world, and to convey a sense of the absurdist flavour of musicians' humour.
Most recently Foster has worked as an archivist/interviewer on the recent UK Channel 4 series Live From Abbey Road, which involved interviewing musicians and bands who were performing live sets at EMI's world-famous Abbey Road Studios.
Foster now concentrates on producing albums for others, composing music, session work (he recently[when?] played with Brian May and Brian Bennett on a 12-hour session at Abbey Road Studios for a re-make of Cliff Richard's 1958 hit "Move It"), writing, researching and remastering his back catalogue (not only for his solo projects but also for other artists).
In April 2012, he performed at the Jet Harris Heritage Foundation tribute lunch with The Shadowers and Daniel Martin on Nivram and Diamonds
The bass-players who have influenced Foster include:
- Dave Ambrose
- Ray Brown
- Jack Bruce
- Ron Carter
- Paul McCartney
- Stanley Clarke
- Andy Fraser
- Larry Graham
- Jet Harris
- Michael Henderson
- Anthony Jackson
- James Jamerson
- Jimmy Johnson
- Louis Johnson
- John Paul Jones
- Carol Kaye
- Ron Mathewson
- Marcus Miller
- Jaco Pastorius
- Leland Sklar
- Esperanza Spalding
- Steve Swallow
- Stevie Wonder
- Danny Thompson
- Miroslav Vitouš
Foster has played on hundreds of commercially released recordings and soundtracks. The lists below represent only a small fraction of his recorded performances.
|Mike d’Abo||Down at Rachel’s Place||A&M||1972|
|Olivia Newton-John||Music Makes My Day||Pye||1973|
|Roger Glover and Guests||The Butterfly Ball||EMI||1974|
|Jimmy Helms||Gonna Make You An Offer!||Cube||1975|
|Fancy||Something To Remember||Arista||1975|
|Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice||Evita||MCA||1976|
|Mike Smith & Mike d’Abo||Smith & d’Abo||CBS||1976|
|Ray Russell||Ready Or Not||Angel Air||1977|
|Andy Bown||Good Advice||EMI||1978|
|The Walker Brothers||Nite Flights||GTO||1978|
|Chris Rainbow||Looking Over My Shoulder||Polydor||1978|
|Gerry Rafferty||Night Owl||UA||1979|
|Judy Tzuke||Welcome to the Cruise||Rocket||1979|
|Cliff Richard & The Shadows (live)||Thank You Very Much||EMI||1979|
|Jeff Beck||There And Back||Epic||1980|
|Peter Green||Watcha Gonna Do||PVK||1980|
|Michael Schenker||The Michael Schenker Group||Chrysalis||1980|
|Dennis Waterman||So Good For You||EMI||1980|
|Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Sting,||The Secret Policeman 's Concert||Island||1981|
|Phil Collins, Bob Geldof etc (live)||The Secret Policeman's Other Ball||Island||1981|
|RMS||Centennial Park||Angel Air||1981|
|Phil Collins||Hello, I Must Be Going!||Virgin||1982|
|Frida (Annifrid Lyngstad of ABBA)||Something's Going On||Polar||1982|
|Sheena Easton||Madness Money And Music||EMI||1982|
|Neil Innes||Off The Record||MMC||1982|
|Phil Collins (live)||Live at Perkins Palace||EMI||1983|
|Gary Moore||Victims of the Future||10||1983|
|Ringo Starr/Joe Walsh||Old Wave||RCA||1983|
|Tony Banks (Genesis)||The Fugitive||Charisma||1983|
|Gil Evans (live)||The British Orchestra||Mole Jazz||1983|
|Leo Sayer||Have You Ever Been in Love||Chrysalis||1983|
|Scott Walker||Climate of Hunter||Virgin||1984|
|Russ Ballard||Russ Ballard||EMI||1984|
|Heaven 17||How Men Are||Virgin||1984|
|Dr John||Such A Night/Live in London||Spindrift||1984|
|Claudio Baglioni||La Vita E'Adesso||CBS||1985|
|Kenny Rogers/George Martin||The Heart of the Matter||RCA||1985|
|Elkie Brooks||No More The Fool||Legend||1986|
|Howard Jones||One To One||WEA||1986|
|Virginia Astley/Ryuichj Sakamoto||Hope in a Darkened Heart||WEA||1986|
|Tanita Tikaram||Ancient Heart||WEA||1988|
|Mo Foster||Bel Assis||Angel Air||1988|
|George Martin||Under Milk Wood||EMI||1988|
|The London Symphony Orchestra||Wind of Change||Columbia||1991|
|Nanci Griffith||Late Night Grande Hotel||MCA||1991|
|Toshi (of X)||Made in Heaven||Ariola||1992|
|Gerry Rafferty||On A Wind & A Prayer||Polydor||1992|
|Cher||It's A Man's World||WEA||1995|
|The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra||The Cult Files||Silva Screen||1996|
|Soraya||On Nights Like This||Island||1996|
|Luka Bloom||Salty Heaven||Sony||1998|
|Maggie Bell (live)||Live at the Rainbow 1974||Angel Air||2002|
|Deborah Bonham||The Old Hyde||Track||2004|
|Cliff Richard and Brian May||Two's Company - The Duets||EMI||2006|
|The Shadows||The Shadows Live at the BBC||BBC||2018|
|Mo Foster & Friends (live)||In Concert||Right Track||2020|
|Jimmy Helms||Gonna Make You An Offer||Cube||1973|
|Julie Covington||Don't Cry For Me Argentina||MCA||1976|
|Dollar||Who Were You With in the Moonlight||Trojan||1978|
|Sarah Brightman||I Lost My Heart To Starship Trooper||Ariola||1978|
|Gerry Rafferty||Night Owl||UA||1979|
|Judy Tzuke||Stay With Me Till Dawn||Rocket||1979|
|Dennis Waterman||I Could Be So Good For You||EMI||1979|
|Jeff Beck||Space Boogie||Epic||1980|
|Sheena Easton||Nine to Five (Morning Train)||EMI||1981|
|Frida (ABBA)||I Know There's Something Going On||Polar||1982|
|The Brat||Chalk Dust||Hansa||1982|
|Gary Moore||Empty Rooms||10||1983|
|Ringo Starr/Joe Walsh||In My Car||RCA||1983|
|Elkie Brooks||No More The Fool||Legend||1986|
|Howard Jones||No-One Is To Blame||WEA||1986|
|Toshi (of X)||Made in Heaven||Ariola||1992|
|Cliff Richard/ Brian May||Move It||EMI||2006|
Mo Foster lives in London, with his wife, Kay.
- "JAMES People". Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES). Retrieved 2 September 2020.
- "Gold Badge Awards 2014: Recipients". Ivors Academy. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "Gold Badge Awards". Mo Foster. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
- Foster, Mo (2010). British rock guitar : the first 50 years, the musicians and their stories. Newcastle upon Tyne: Northumbria University Press. ISBN 978-0-85716-000-3. OCLC 751747127.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 March 2008. Retrieved 21 September 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2005. Retrieved 21 September 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "The British Guitar Embargo: When Brits Were Banned from Buying American". Reverb. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
- "Dallas Tuxedo Bass". The Guitar Collection. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
- "Baskervilles". Mo Foster. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
- "Sussex University Jazz Trio". Mo Foster. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
- "Affinity 1". Mo Foster. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
- "Affinity 2". Mo Foster. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
- "Affinity - Affinity". Discogs. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
- "Affinity - Affinity". Angel Air. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Bassist & Bass Techniques magazine: "Doctor Foster's Casebook" by Mark Cunningham, October 1996: Transcription Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Guitarist magazine: "In The Can" by Penny Braybrooke, August 1988. Transcription Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Jeff Beck set list archive". 31.ocn.ne.jp. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "The Jeff Beck Bulletin Issue #11". Ainian.com. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- Sound International magazine: "Mo Foster: Wide-Ranging and Fretless by Ralph Denyer, June 1981 Transcript Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Gary Moore Albums". Softshoe-slim.com. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "East Meets East by Nigel Kennedy". Artists > Nigel Kennedy > Albums. Artistdirect. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "Phil Collins: Live at Perkins Palace". IMDb.com. 1 June 1983. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- Jazz, All About. "Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival 1983". All About Jazz. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Mike D'abo solo". Mikedabo.com. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- . 31 December 2002 https://web.archive.org/web/20021231035614/http://www.mickronson.com/MickRonson/mickwith%20others.htm. Archived from the original on 31 December 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2018. Missing or empty
- "Peter Van Hooke, Mo Foster, Van Morrison: Wonderland Tour 1977". Mofoster.com. Archived from the original (JPG) on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Mo Foster, playing at The Secret Policeman's Other Ball". Mofoster.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "CD Album - Maggie Bell - Live At The Rainbow 1974". Angelair.force9.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Cliff Richard Tour". Mofoster.com. Knokke, Sweden. 1977. Archived from the original (JPG) on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- Guitarist magazine interview with Mo Foster by Gibson Keddie, February 1992 Transcription Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Bassist Magazine: "One of the boys" by Paul Scott, 1998: Transcription Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "CD Album - RMS - Centennial Park - jazz rock featuring Ray Russell, Mo Foster and Simon Phillips". Angelair.force9.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "CD Album - RMS - Live At The Venue 1982 - jazz rock fusion featuring Ray Russell and Mo Foster". Angelair.force9.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "DVD Album - RMS - In Concert with Special Guest Gil Evans - Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1983". Angelair.force9.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Blue Peter (TV Series 1958– )". IMDb.com. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Old Wave". Jpgr.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- Foster, Mo (1997) . 17 Watts?: The Birth of British Rock Guitar. London: Sanctuary. ISBN 1-86074-267-X. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2007.
- "Mo Foster". IMDb. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Programmes - Most Popular - All 4". Channel 4. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
- "Brian May official website". Brianmay.com. Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2018.