Mention the name “Peter Frampton” and most people picture a dreamy guitar god with shoulder-length golden curls.
That’s the image on the cover of the English rocker’s record-breaking concert album “Frampton Comes Alive!”
The best-selling album of 1976, “Frampton Comes Alive!” — featuring the hit singles “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me the Way” — spent 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 chart and turned Frampton into a ’70s sex symbol.
“Nothing prepares you for that … level of success,” the musician said of his “meteoric” rise, which earned him shirtless cover shoots for People and Rolling Stone magazines and a starring role in the 1978 movie “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” “It’s very hard to explain what it’s like unless you’ve experienced it.”
More than three decades later, Frampton has traded his flowing locks for tightly cropped gray hair and his open-to-the-navel shirts for more modest attire.
He’ll perform Saturday alongside legendary bluesmen B.B. King and Sonny Landreth and folk rocker Richard Thompson at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. The concert is part of his Frampton’s Guitar Circus tour, which finds the performer teaming up with guitar greats from a variety of genres.
Passion for music
Frampton, who grew up in the southeast London suburb of Bromley, chose his career path at an early age.
“When I first picked up a guitar, I (decided), ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to be in a band,’ ” he said. “Once I found this passion for music, and specifically guitar, all my energy went into that. I’m very one-track minded.”
True to form, Frampton dropped out of school to join his first rock band at age 16. As the lead singer and guitarist of The Herd, best known for their 1968 hit single “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die,” he attained teen idol status.
In 1969, the 18-year-old performer teamed up with Steve Marriott of The Small Faces to form Humble Pie. He recorded four studio albums and a live album with the rock band before leaving in 1971 to launch his solo career.
Frampton struggled to find his footing for a few years before coming up with the idea of a live album — much like Humble Pie’s 1971 album “Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore.”
“The thought was that lightning might strike again, and it did,” Frampton said.
He credits his loyal following with helping make “Frampton Comes Alive!” — recorded in 1975 at venues in the Bay Area and New York — a smash success.
“It’s surreal when you get to that point,” he said. “It becomes very difficult to know what is the next move is and what is right or wrong. You feel, and everybody else feels, that you’re untouchable.”
Of course, he added, “There’s only one way to go when you’re that high, and that’s down.”
Frampton did suffer some career setbacks over the next decade or so, include commercial flops, a near-fatal car crash in the Bahamas in 1978 and the loss of his entire collection of guitars in a 1980 cargo plane crash in South America. Through it all, he said, he never lost his sense of purpose or his passion.
“I’ve always been a survivor. It’s always been a doer,” said Frampton, who staged a successful comeback with the release of 2006’s “Fingerprints,” which won a Grammy Award for best pop instrumental album. “I’ve been knocked down and it takes me a minute to pick myself up, dust myself off and go at it again.”
Sharing the stage
Now Frampton is entering the next stage of his career with “Frampton’s Guitar Circus.” According to the performer, inspiration came at the end of his 2011-2012 world tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of “Frampton Comes Alive!”
“It was probably the most successful tour I’ve done in years,” Frampton said. “I thought, ‘Where do we go from here?’ That’s when I decided I wanted to have a tour with not just me on the bill this time but … as many guitarists on the stage as possible … ”
Moreover, he said, he didn’t want to restrict himself to a single genre or location — unlike Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, a blues-oriented benefit concert series most recently held in April in New York City.
”When we put the feelers to see if this idea was feasible, the first person who came back and said, ‘I’m in,’ was B.B. King,” Frampton said. “As soon as B.B. King said ‘yes’ to the tour, everybody wanted to be part of it too.”
So far, Frampton has shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Roger McGuinn and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Each artist plays a few songs before handing the microphone to the next performer, Frampton explained. At the end of each concert, the assorted acts come together on stage to jam — joining for the final song of the evening, George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
“My jaw drops every night,” said Frampton, adding that he draws inspiration from being around other musicians. “That’s the ultimate inspiration — to have people that, excuse the expression, can give me a good kick up the ass and give me a run for my money.”
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Peter Frampton with B.B. King
7 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 5 p.m.
Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles
$53 to $113
286-3680 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com