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Legendary, Peter Frampton, living with Inclusion Body Myositis, day by day, with Music in his veins.
December 17, 2019 by Kreig Marks
I was in my car, driving to a client, when I saw a phone number that read, "Private Number," flash onto my cell phone screen. I instantly pressed "Reject." One minute later, the phone rang again, same message, "Private Number." Once again, index finger to the reject call button. "This is annoying," I"m thinking. A few minutes later the phone rang again. This time, intrigued by the person not giving up, I reluctantly answered the call, frustration in my voice. "Yeah, this is Kreig."
The caller begins to laugh:
Caller: "Yeah, this is Kreig? Is that any way a professional should answer the phone?"
Me: "Who is this?"
Caller: Once again the caller laughs. Speaking with a distinguishable British accent he says, "I heard you left the states and joined the foreign legion to escape Trump."
Me: "OK, who is this? Is this Euan?" (He's my Scottish buddy who pulls pranks on me a lot)
Caller: "No, this isn't Euan. Who's Euan? You don't recognize your old friend's voice?"
Me: (laughing) "Who is this?"
Caller: "Well, it's been a few years since we spoke. I really like your new hair style. We have that in common now. And, I like what you've done with this magazine of yours, Tru Rock Revival. Great interviews, you and Abbe Davis have done. Well done. One of my favorites is Abbe's interview with Mark Farner. He and I go way back."
Me: "Ok, I give up. Who is this?"
Caller: "I'll give you a hint. You were the best physical therapist and trainer for me and the band. You really saved that show when John hurt his back playing golf earlier in the day, and you were able to help him through it."
Me: (laughing) "Bullshit! Are you fucking kidding me?!" (I begin to pull my car over, cause that is what you do when you
lose touch for fifteen years or so with Peter - and finally, you reconnect).
Caller: (laughing) "So now you know who this is."
Peter Frampton: Tis I.
Me: How did you get my number?"
Peter Frampton: (laughing) "I have people. Actually, my publicist left your message for me. I saw you have been trying to reach me for a while. I didn't know that until yesterday. Some messages don't always get to me. Seriously, you disappeared several years back. I tried reaching you for a while. I think the last time I tried your number, a woman answered. She had never heard of you."
Me: "My cell phone broke many years ago and I had to replace it, and my contacts were lost. I also had to get a new number because that old number was hacked."
Peter: "Ah, so you didn't join the foreign legion?"
Me: "Not yet."
Peter has recently been diagnosed with Inclusive Body Myositis, (IBM), about 5 years ago. This is a progressive neurological illness that effects the distal muscles of the hands and legs. IBM is a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness, and atrophy (wasting). IBM develops in adulthood, usually after age 50. The symptoms and rate of progression vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are: progressive weakness of the legs, arms, fingers, and wrists. Some people also have weakness of the facial muscles (especially muscles controlling eye closure), or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Most people with IBM progress to disability over a period of years. In general, the older a person is when IBM begins, the more rapid the progression of the condition. Most people need assistance with basic daily activities within 15 years, and some people will need to use a wheelchair. Fortunately, Peter is still independent and able to do everything by himself, including still playing the guitar. Hopefully his progression is very slow, or goes into a remission phase.
Several years ago in my previous life in health care, as a physical therapist, I met Peter at his concert in West Palm Beach, Florida at the Carefree Theater. I attended the show with a friend who was friends with Peter's long-time bass player, John Regan. When we arrived at the show early, we saw John lying on his back on the floor surrounded by a few people. When we approached him, my friend asked what had happened. Apparently, John had injured his back playing golf earlier in the day and was in a lot of pain. He didn't think he would be able to perform that night. My friend told John I was a physical therapist and I could take a look at his back. John asked if I would do that. I said, "Of course." I actually had some equipment in my car, including a remote TENS unit, portable ultrasound machine, and a portable treatment table. We brought the equipment into the band's tour bus, and I set up a mini rehab center of sorts. I helped John on the table and worked on his back for about 45 minutes. About 30 min in, Peter walked into the tour bus and stopped in his tracks.
Peter: What's going on here? John, you called a doctor?
John: This is Kreig and Brad. Brad is a friend of mine, and Kreig is Brad's friend, well, my new friend, too. Kreig is a physical therapist.
Peter: No kidding? What are the odds? Kreig, do you think you can help John?
Me: I'm giving it my best. I think once I get him loosened up and put the remote TENS on his back, he'll be ok to play.
Peter: What's a remote TENS?
Me: It's a small electro-stimulation device. I'll set the electrodes on his back and set it to mask his pain while he performs. If he needs an adjustment during the show, I have a remote and I can increase or decrease the intensity as he needs it.
Peter: You can electrocute him from a distance? (laughing)
Me: (laughing) It doesn't do that. It gives him a mild electric stimulation to the area where he is having the most pain. The stimulation will mask the pain. Think of it as an electric massage. I'll hook it up now and we'll see how he does with it."
Peter and his drummer, Chad Cromwell, stood next to John as I hooked up the device. I turned it on and in a few minutes had a good setting. John was feeling a lot better.
Peter: That's pretty cool. I should get one of those for myself. All these years on stage takes a toll on the back.
For the next half hour, I was stretching Peter's back and hamstrings and then worked on Chad's neck and shoulder. By the time it was ready for them to take the stage, they were all feeling good. Peter had me and my friend sit to the side of the stage for the whole show. It was incredible. Every once in a while, John would signal over to me with a thumbs up or down. If he had thumbs up, I would remotely increase the TENS level a notch or 2. If he said thumbs down, we'd set the intensity a bit lower. After the show, we all hung out back stage for about an hour and exchanged numbers.
Peter: Kreig, I don't think any of us can thank you enough. You saved the show, you really did. How would you like to be our traveling physical therapist whenever we come to Florida? You work with us before the show, and we all hang out afterward.
Me: Sounds pretty cool to me.
Over the next 2 years, whenever Peter came to South Florida for a concert, I was called and I met him and the band a few hours before showtime to work with them. In 2002, my cell phone broke and I had to have it replaced. Apparently, my number had been compromised, and I had to have the number changed. Unfortunately, I also lost all of my contact numbers, including Peter's.
Earlier this year around February, I learned of Peter's diagnosis with IBM. Over the years as a physical therapist, I had worked with about 5 or 6 patients who also had this same disease. I put together a program for them similar to a program I did with my patients who had Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's or Myasthenia Gravis. It was a pretty aggressive exercise program, but it really helped those patients a lot, and built my reputation as a Neurological Exercise Specialist. So, I reached out to Peter's publicist in March to see if we could reconnect, so I could share some of this information with him. Several months later, Peter called and it was very cool to reconnect with this old friend. As a kid, Peter was my Rock 'N Roll hero. Then, later on as a physical therapist and fitness trainer, I had the pleasure to work with him and get to know him. He's not only an amazing guitarist, singer/songwriter, but a pretty amazing person, as well. So, back to the phone call....
Peter: How's your daughter doing?
Me: I assume your thinking of Lindsay.
Peter: Is there another?
Me: Actually yes. I have 7 year old twins, a boy and girl, Emily and Matthew.
Peter: Wow. I don't know if I should say congratulations or ask what you were thinking. (laughing) I'll say congratulations. So I'm going to assume that the twins are from a different relationship?
Me: Yep. My wife is Abbe. We've been together now about 11 years.
Peter: That's great. How's the older daughter, Lindsay? I saw the picture of her and I on your Facebook page. She's got to be about Jade's age now.
Me: She's 26, just recently got married. She's doing great.
Peter: Congratulations on her marriage. Nice husband she has?
Me: Great guy. We like him a lot.
Peter: That's great. So, you've obviously heard about my diagnosis. What are your thoughts?
Me: Yes. I think I heard about it in February or March. How are you doing so far?
Peter: So far, all is well. I've had some balance issues but nothing too bad. Going up and down stairs when I'm tired can sometimes be a little challenging, but thankfully, I'm still doing well. How familiar are you with IBM?
Me: When I was practicing physical therapy for many years, I had the opportunity to work with about 4 or 5 people who had IBM. I combined physical therapy with my fitness training to devise a program consisting of fine motor skills and interval training. It was similar to what I did with my Parkinson's and MS clients and patients. It seemed to work well.
Peter: Do you remember how old those people were?
Me: I'm not 100% certain because it's been many years, but I'd say in their early to mid 50's or 60's. What type of exercise are you doing now to help maintain your strength?
Peter: Weights, body weight exercises, a lot of stretching.
Me: Full body type exercises, or do you generally focus on the legs and arms and hands?
Peter: A mix of all that stuff. We'll have to talk about that more. So, what have you been up to the past several years? I know all about Tru Rock Revival Magazine. I really like it. I think you've done a really good job with it, and really mixing up the interviews you and Abbe have been doing. It's cool that you introduce new bands but also introduce older ones to your younger readers. The name really suits what you've been doing.
Me: That honor goes to Abbe. Originally, we were called Fretboard Magazine, but that seemed to lock us into publicists - contacting us to interview only guitarists, and we were missing out on the singers, drummers and the rest of the band members. So, after about 4 months in, we changed the name and it's been incredible. We're now attracting over a million readers a month.
Peter: Very cool. So, what about an interview with a guitarist with a progressive illness? (laughing)
Me: I think they'd be interested in the guitarist and hearing how he copes physically and emotionally with his illness.
When did you first notice something was wrong or that you didn't feel "right?"
Peter: I guess it's been about 5 years now, or close to that. I was having some minor balance issues and some small difficulties going up and down stairs. I attributed it to just getting on in age. But, when it persisted I went to a specialist and that's when I got the diagnosis, Inclusive Body Myositis. I hadn't a clue what that was. Thankfully, it's not terminal, but it can progress to the point where I have a lot of difficulty playing the guitar or walking. It won't affect my singing. So far, I'm doing fine for the most part. It's a day to day or month to month thing. I try to stay positive and I'm fortunate that I can still play the guitar well, and get out on stage and do my thing.
Me: Have you had any issues on stage? Have you had to modify anything with your playing style or moving around on stage?
Peter: Not really. I am more careful and conscious about where I am on the stage, and make sure my space is open and free of wires or equipment. But, that's probably what we all do. I'm just more careful now, I think. There's been some minor balance issues but for the most part, I'm still doing well. I'll keep this going at least through the middle of next year. I've got some dates now in the Summer of 2020 in Europe. I'm looking forward to those.
Me: I'm going to ask an obvious question that may seem a little ridiculous, but, I'm going to ask you anyway. Do you constantly think about or worry about your future, not only as a performer but as an individual? Do you worry about losing your physical independence?
Peter: Do I think about it everyday? Sure, I mean who wouldn't? But, does it overtake all my thoughts? No. I don't dwell on it. Right now, my mind is in the "now." I can't worry about what may or may not happen tomorrow. I like to live in the today. Thankfully and fortunately, I'm still healthy and able to enjoy life, and play the guitar and perform at a high level. I'm still playing very well. Some feel I'm playing better than I ever have.
Me: It's great to see you so positive with this. That's very important. Once you finish the Farewell Tour, do you think you'll do any small tours, or some one-offs?
Peter: I'm not going to close the door on that, but as far as 30, 40, 50 city tours, that's not going to happen. I do have a lot of music recorded for several albums that I'll release over the next few years, and I'm working on a couple other projects. I want to record as much as I can in the shortest space of time. So, the band and I have been busy at my Nashville studio. When I was diagnosed, it really pushed me to get the songs finished. Next thing I knew, I had a ton of songs. So, we'll see if I'm up to doing a few shows now and then to promote some of those.
Me: Only you will know. Do you remember when we first met?
Peter: (laughing) I believe it was that show when John [John Regan was Peter's bass player for many years] had injured his back earlier in the day playing golf. (laughing) Who injures themselves playing golf?
Me: That's not the first time we met, but the first time we actually had a conversation. I'm glad I had some of my physical therapy equipment in the car.
Peter: Yeah. Me, too.
Me: You'd be surprised how many back injuries are from golf. And, neck, shoulder and wrist injuries too. I don't play golf, but I've treated many golfers over the years who had those injuries.
Peter: I remember you hooking up some type of little machine to John's back and standing off stage with a remote control. We were all watching, out of the corners of our eyes, to make sure that John wasn't electrocuted! (laughing)
Me: Yeah. A TENS unit. It's a portable electrostimulation device that helps mask the pain that he was having. The one I put on John's back had a remote control, so I could increase or decrease the intensity from a distance away. It would't electrocute him, but if I turned it all the way, it might have changed your song tempos.
Peter: So, where did we first meet?
Me: Actually, the first time we met was in 2001 at your concert at the Coral Sky Ampitheater. I had Meet and Greet tickets, and I met you and Bob Mayo on your tour bus. I was with my daughter, Lindsay. We brought a photo of you and her that was taken at a show you did at the Gulfstream Racetrack in 1999. Your daughter Jade brought Lindsay back stage after the show to meet you. She brought my camera with her, and there's about a dozen pictures of the two of you. When we met you on your tour bus, you saw the photo and remembered her. You also signed my Frampton Les Paul Signature guitar, "To Craig, Good Choice! Peter Frampton." You couldn't believe it was serial # 0009.
Peter: I remember that! I was amazed that it was number 9.
Me: Yep. Then you started to play the intro to "Do You Feel Like We Do" on it.
Peter: Do you still have it?
Me: Sadly, no. After my divorce, I opened a fitness studio and had to sell it to help pay for some equipment, and also for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. So, in a strange way, you helped finance my fitness company and my daughter's Bat Mitzvah.
Peter: Well, I'm sorry you no longer have it, but you did that out of love. You did the right thing. That's a good father.
Me: It was a difficult decision but an easy one too.
Peter: It's only a thing. Things are acquired and come and go. Family is permanent. You did that for family. Good job.
Me: So, when can we hear some new music?
Peter: I'd say some time next year, I believe. It's all there. It's just a matter of putting it together and getting it out.
Me: Well, I'm definitely looking forward to hearing it and I know your fans are, too. How are your kids doing? I know Julian is following in your footsteps as a musician and singer.
Peter: Yes, Julian is making his own footsteps. He's doing well. He has his own band now. I'm proud of him. He played and sang on my album, Thank You Mr Churchill. Mia has done some acting and was on a TV show called Make It or Break It. It was on for, I believe, 3 seasons. Jade is now married and works for Shop Bazaar, which is owned by Harper's Bazaar. She's the Editorial Director.
Me: That's great! You've done a great job with all of them.
Peter: Yes, all of them are doing well, and doing what they want, and I'm a proud dad. Let's touch base again after the New Year. I'd like to pick your brain a bit about the exercises I'm doing.
Me: I'll be happy to help. I hope you enjoy your Christmas and New Years.
Peter: And the same to you. Be well and we'll chat soon. Don't throw my number away again!
Me: It was a cell phone issue.
Peter: Yeah. Sure thing. (laughing)
Kreig Marks is the founder/publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine. Kreig's goal is to support new Rock music and to preserve the legacies of Rock music.