Bands typically form when friends come together and start bashing out music. Supertramp, on the other hand, was the result of a Dutch millionaire's offering English singer and keyboardist Roger Davies the opportunity to split from his current group - The Joint - and form a new band, to his own specifications. Davies did, with Stanley August ("Sam") Miesgaes supplying both seed money and a name - derived from W. H. Davies' 1907 novel, The Autobiography of a Supertramp.
The first incarnation of the group found Davies, who'd advertised for musicians in the English paper Melody Maker, abetted by guitarist Richard Palmer, bassist Roger Hodgson and drummer Bob Miller. When their first album - 1970's Supertramp - failed to arouse any significant interest, the group disbanded, re-forming a year later, with Hodgson moving from bass to lead guitar, and bassist Frank Farrell and drummer Kevin Currie in for Palmer and Miller. A second album - Indelibly Stamped - was the group's second commercial failure. It also marked the end of Miesgaes' funding of the band.
Davies and Hodgson, evidently deciding that their problems could be blamed on their rhythm section, recruited as new members saxophonist Bob Helliwell, bassist Dougie Thompson and drummer Bob Seidenberg. Coupled with producer Ken Scott, the band cut two well-received albums: Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis? Both albums made Billboard's top 50 for sales in the U.S., and established the group's melodic, progressive sound - less long-winded (as some would have it) than the first two albums, and now reminiscent of 10cc and some aspects of Queen.
Moving to a new producer - Geoff Emerick, who had engineered several Beatles classics - the group recorded Even the Quietest Moments, an album including their Fleetwood Mac-sound-alike, Give a Little Bit. That album did so well - top 20 in the States - that it even aroused some interest and mild chart action for the band's 1970 debut. Breakfast in America, its successor, went all the way to No. 1, spawning four hit singles: The Logical Song, Take the Long Way Home, Dreamer, and the title number. The alum has sold something like 20 million copies around the world.
The band's sound continued to evolve, taking on a bit more R&B influence, but - after the live album Paris and 1982's ...Famous Last Words (both Top-10), they never again matched their earlier success. Hodgson left after the latter album. The group disbanded again in 1988, re-forming with Davies at the helm nine years later. With Davies' voice, a memorable name and a strong songbook (Give a Little Bit popped up in a Gap clothing stores television commercial), Supertramp could conceivably march on as long as Davies desires.