In 1969 Stanley 'Sam' August Miesegaes, a Dutch millionaire, ceased financial support to a band called The Joint as he was disappointed with them. He offered Swindon, UK-born keyboardist Rick Davies, whose talent he felt had been not fully utilized by the group, an opportunity to form his own band, with Miesegaes's backing. Davies hired Roger Hodgson (bass/vocals), Richard Palmer (guitars) and Keith Baker (percussion) after an advertisement in the weekly music newspaper, Melody Maker.
For their parts, Davies and Hodgson had radically different backgrounds and musical inspirations: Davies was fiercely devoted to blues and jazz, while Hodgson was fond of pop and psychedelia.
The group initially dubbed themselves Daddy. Baker was soon replaced by former stage actor Robert Millar. After a few concerts in Munich, to avoid confusion with the similarly named Daddy Longlegs, the band changed its name to Supertramp, a name inspired by The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by William Henry Davies.
The newly formed Supertramp were one of the first groups to be signed to the UK branch of 'A&M Records' to release their first album, the self-titled Supertramp, on 14 July 1970 in the UK and Canada (it would not be issued in the US until late 1977). The album was typical of progressive rock of the era and bore similarity to their British progressive rock act, Cressida.
Dave Winthrop (flute and saxophone) joined the group shortly later.
For Indelibly Stamped, (1971) in both the UK and US, Frank Farrell (bass) and Kevin Currie (percussion) replaced Palmer and Millar, while Hodgson switched to guitar and Davies served as a second lead singer. Hodgson and Davies were now the key music writers and composed separately for this and the band's subsequent albums. Unfortunately, this second attempt sold even less than the debut and as a result all members gradually quit except Hodgson and Davies. It did not take long for Miesegaes to withdraw his financial support by October 1972.
A search for new members resulted in Dougie Thomson (bass), who had done stand-in gigs with the band for almost a year before auditions resumed. In 1973, Bob Siebenberg (initially credited as Bob C. Benberg; drums/percussion) and John Helliwell (saxophone/woodwinds/keyboards/ backing vocals), joined. This line-up would last for the next ten years. It was here that the Wurlitzer electric piano was introduced to their music.
The bond between Davies and Hodgson, however, had begun weakening. Over the group's history, their relationship would be amicable but increasingly distant as their lifestyles and musical tastes pulled them farther and farther apart. Their songwriting partnership gradually dissolved; though all of Supertramp's songs would continue to be officially credited as "written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson", most of them were actually written by either member individually.
The band desperately needed a hit record to continue, and finally got one with 1974's Crime of the Century. This album began the group's run of critical and commercial successes, hitting number 4 in Britain, 38 in the US and 4 in Canada; making into the top 100 from 1974-76 respectively in that country as well despite not achieving top 40 with any track on it. Dreamer, the 1975 UK Top 20 single written by Hodgson, was the band's first hit single and granted the album its success.
Pressures on the band to keep producing hits increased, and the followup Crisis? What Crisis? (1975) had to be recorded in the few months between two scheduled concert tours. Because of the lack of time, most of the material on the album was leftover songs from Crime of the Century. Years later the band would lament on how they felt the album was one of their worst efforts. Despite this hurried production, the album was well received by critics, and when released in November 1975, it broke both the UK Top 20 and the US Top 50 despite not receiving commercial success.
Even in the Quietest Moments... (1977) spawned a hit single with Give a Little Bit receiving 15 US, 29 UK, 8 in Canada), a track first written by Hodgson years earlier (around age 20) before introducing it to the band for recording some three years earlier. The popularity of the album eclipsed the offspring singles, making it reach 16 in the US, 12 in the UK and 1 in Canada.
The band permanently relocated to Los Angeles, California.
Many argue the band reached their commercial peak with 1979's Breakfast in America, which since has sold more than 20 million copies. Take the Long Way Home, The Logical Song, Goodbye Stranger and the title track pushed the album into acclaim. The album reached number 3 in the UK, number 1 in the US as well as and Canada and spawned four successful singles, the most thus far. For the last two months of completing the album, Hodgson had parked a camper outside of the studio to diligently work on mixing, with brief periods of rest in between.
In March 1979, the group took a 10-month 120 date tour for Breakfast In America. The tour broke all previous concert attendance records in Europe and Canada. After the tour, the band decided to take a rest from touring and recording. To avoid lengthy gap between albums during their break, they put out 1980's Paris, a 2-LP live album recorded mostly at the Pavillon de Paris; it broke the top ten in both the US and UK.
Hodgson moved his family from Los Angeles area to the mountains of northern California where he built a home and studio and focused on his family and spiritual life, while recording the solo album, In the Eye of the Storm in 1984.
...Famous Last Words... (1982) achieved two more hits with It's Raining Again and My Kind of Lady, peaking at 5 in the USA and 6 in the UK. A worldwide tour followed in 1983, where Hodgson announced he would not be continuing with the band.
The Davies-led Supertramp went on to release Brother Where You Bound (1985), a deliberate step away from the pop approach of their last two studio albums, it reached 20 in the UK and 21 in the US. It included the Top 30 hit single Cannonball, along with the title track, a 16-minute cold war themed track accented by guitar solos from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. A 20-minute film of the title track by Rene Daalder was used to promote the album.
Free as a Bird (1987) experimented in heavily synthesised music like I'm Beggin' You; a single that got a number 1 on the US dance charts. The change was not well-received over-all, however, and the album itself reached only 93 in the UK and 101 in the US, breaking a streak of seven consecutive top 100 efforts on the American charts.
Not only did they shift from less commercial material but they also decided to drop all of Hodgson's compositions from their setlist to further distance themselves from his past influence. This did not go over well with the audiences and by 1988 they were forced to reintroduce a handful of Hodgson's works back into their set.
After 1988's Brazil tour, the group broke apart.
On April 14, 1993 at the Beverly Hills Hilton, for a special dinner honoring Jerry Moss, co-founder of 'A&M Records', Roger, Rick and John (together with Jeff Daniel) appeared to perform The Logical Song and Goodbye Stranger. Rick and Roger continued on to work recording demos of two new songs, You Win I Lose and And the Light. Disagreements over management forced them to part ways again, with both songs eventually appearing, without Hodgson, on the next release in 1997 under the reformed band.
That reformed band featured Davies with Helliwell, Siebenberg and guitarist/vocalist Mark Hart, four new members were also added as well, bringing the band up to an eight-man line-up. This configuration yielded two albums, Some Things Never Change (1997), that echoed the earlier Supertramp sound, reaching 74 in the UK. That summer, the band took to touring, resulting in the live It Was the Best of Times (1999).
After the 2002 One More for the Road Tour, and the Slow Motion (2002) album, the band went quiet again. Another attempt to bring Hodgson back failed in 2005.
On 21 April 2010, Supertramp performed 35 concerts in late 2010 in Europe. The tour was titled "70-10" to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the group's first release.
Hodgson and Supertramp continued to tour separately in 2011 (each contractually allowed to perform the other's songs).
From July 2011 to 2015, Supertramp went dormant again. Meanwhile, Hodgson toured his Breakfast in America World Tour from 2012 thru 2016.
In 2015, Supertramp announced their first tour in more than four years: a 25-date European tour titled Supertramp Forever. However, on 4 August 2015, the band announced that the tour was cancelled due to Rick Davies being diagnosed with multiple myeloma and undergoing aggressive treatment to combat the disease.