There’s a stalwart rock guitarist who replaced Peter Frampton in Humble Pie and played with Colosseum, Jack Bruce, Cozy Powell and many others, but whose name remains unfamiliar to many. It’s David Clempson, known to everyone (except his mother, as he once revealed) as ‘Clem.’
Born on 5 September 1949 in Tamworth, Staffordshire, Clempson was encouraged down the blues route when he heard the famed Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album of 1966. He played in local bands such as the Pinch, then came to national UK prominence as the founder of the blues-rock power trio Bakerloo.
Emerging in the wake of the success of three-piece powerhouses Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Bakerloo (also featuring bassist Terry Poole and drummer Keith Baker) were a short-lived project, but left their mark with one self-titled album for the up-and-coming Harvest Records.
Bakerloo, released late in 1969 and produced by Gus Dudgeon, was a combination of the trio’s own compositions and a cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘Bring It On Home.’ On the group’s demise, Clempson joined jazz-rock pacesetters Colosseum in time for their third album, 1970’s Daughter of Time, which had vocals on five tracks by rhythm ‘n’ blues frontman Chris Farlowe.
When they split in 1971, Clem was recruited by Steve Marriott and Humble Pie to replace Frampton, who was departing for a solo career. His arrival, announced on the Smokin’ album of the following year, marked the most successful chart period in the band’s history, as the LP climbed into the US top ten.
Three further albums followed before Humble Pie split in 1975 (Clempson is pictured right with Steve Marriott), whereupon ‘Clem,’ bandmate Jerry Shirley and celebrated drummer Cozy Powell formed Strange Brew. ‘Clem’ was close to joining Deep Purple during that era, jamming with the band and staying with Jon Lord at his house in Malibu, then formed Rough Diamond, with Uriah Heep singer David Byron.
Countless other projects and collaborations ensued, including work on Powell’s solo album Over The Top and the invitation from Bruce to play with him and fellow heavyweights Billy Cobham and David Sancious. The teaming produced the 1980 album I’ve Always Wanted To Do This.
Clempson’s extraordinarily productive resumé has since included studio work for Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Rod Argent, Roger Waters and many more, along with countless film scores, including contributions to such hits as Tomorrow Never Dies and Notting Hill. In recent years, he has toured in the later line-up of Colosseum and with his own Clem Clempson Band, who include Adrian Askew on keyboards, bassist Reggie Worthy and drummer Eddie Filipp.
Humble Pie’s The A&M Vinyl Box Set 1979-1975 can be bought here.