SHOREWOOD, Minn. — Joe Molland lives a quiet life in the suburbs. The only outward signs of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle are the Mercedes-Benz and the old Jaguar in his driveway and the battered guitars and banjo on the walls of his one-story house.
Gone are the days when Mr. Molland shared a concert stage with George Harrison or recorded with John Lennon or when he played for Badfinger, the Beatles-esque band that struck it big in the early ‘70s with such hits as “No Matter What” and “Day After Day” before ending in tragedy.
“It’s always struck me as odd, if you like, that I was the guy who happened to be in the right place and somebody pushed me into the lightning,” says Mr. Molland, 54.
Along with the highs, he talks of the lows: court fights over money, the suicides of two band members, being “flat broke” and having to sell his guitars after leaving Badfinger.
These days, he plays up to 30 shows a year with the band “Joey Molland’s Badfinger,” mainly at casinos and state fairs, and recently finished his fourth solo album.
“I was raised to go to work, to get up in the morning and go to work,” says Mr. Molland, who worked as a carpenter and carpet-layer during the lean times.
Mr. Molland grew up near Penny Lane in Liverpool, England, birthplace of the Beatles, and taught himself guitar. In 1969, he auditioned for Badfinger, a Welsh band formerly known as the Iveys. The band had signed with the Beatles’ Apple Records and already recorded “Come and Get It,” a Paul McCartney tune composed for “The Magic Christian,” a 1969 movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr.
Nicknamed Joey, Mr. Molland became the baby-faced member of the band. He shared guitar duties with Pete Ham, while Tom Evans played bass and Mike Gibbins drums.
All four wrote songs, with Mr. Ham’s “No Matter What,” “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day” soaring up the charts.
Badfinger’s most enduring song was not even released as a single. “Without You” appeared on their second album, “No Dice” (1970).
“We were recording at Abbey Road,” Mr. Molland recalls, “and Tommy had his chorus ‘I can’t live, if living is without you’ and Pete had this verse ‘Well I can’t forget this evening’ and we put the both of them together in the studio.
“I worked out a little guitar thing, a lead guitar part for it. And we recorded it that day, and we stuck it on the record like, nice little song. We thought, it’s OK.”
The “nice little song” became a No. 1 hit for singer Harry Nilsson in 1972 and in 1994 for Mariah Carey.
Neil Aspinall, who runs Apple, came up with the name “Badfinger” after hearing Mr. Lennon refer to playing his “Bad Finger Boogie.”
Apple didn’t care for the tracks Badfinger submitted for its third album, Mr. Molland says, so Mr. Harrison started producing the songs, then handed the job off to Todd Rundgren. The result was “Straight Up,” an album that set the stage for the 1970s power-pop explosion.
Badfinger performed on Mr. Harrison’s 1970 album, “All Things Must Pass,” and played at Mr. Harrison’s Bangladesh relief concert at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Mr. Molland also got to perform for one of his heroes when Mr. Lennon’s assistant called in 1971 looking for musicians to play on the album, “Imagine.”
“He was just exactly like you’d imagine him to be,” Mr. Molland says of Mr. Lennon. “His language was a little fiery at times. He was dead straight with everybody.”
Badfinger signed a $3 million deal with Warner Brothers Records, but in 1974, when their second album for Warner, “Wish You Were Here,” was climbing the charts, the company discovered money missing from Badfinger’s escrow accounts. Warner pulled the record from stores.
Mr. Molland, who left the group later that year, blames Badfinger’s breakup on business management problems.
In April 1975, Mr. Ham hanged himself in his garage.
Mr. Molland started his own band, Natural Gas, with ex-Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley, and recorded one album before they broke up. He then teamed up again with Mr. Evans for two final Badfinger albums, “Airwaves” in 1979 and “Say No More” in 1981.
In 1983, Mr. Evans also hanged himself.
British courts finally approved a settlement in 1985 that resolved disputes over Badfinger’s royalties. Mr. Molland took his share and moved to Minnesota with his wife, Kathie, a Twin Cities native. They have two sons, Joe III, 22, also a musician, and Shaun, 21.
Mr. Molland’s latest solo album, “This Way Up,” was released on his own Independent Artists label. It features much of the same melodic pop for which Badfinger was known.