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Albert Lee

Albert Lee occupies an odd niche in music -- British by birth and upbringing, he spent the mid-'60s as a top R&B guitarist, but in the 1970s became one of the top rockabilly guitarists in the world, and no slouch in country music either. In England he's a been household name, and in Nashville and Los Angeles he's been one of the most in-demand session guitarists there is; but outside of professional music circles in America, he's one of those vaguely recognizable names, and occasionally misidentified with his similar-sounding contemporary, ex-Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee (with whom he did share a berth once, in Jerry Lee Lewis's band on the latter's London Sessions album) -- but where Alvin was a hero of Woodstock and a flashy guitarist, in the manner of British blues extroverts Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, Albert is much more likely to be found playing in the background, behind the Everly Brothers or alongside Eric Clapton.

Lee was born in Leominster, England, in 1943. His introduction to music came from his father, who played piano and accordion. His first instrument was the piano, which he took up at age seven -- he was lucky enough to be more than five years into his keyboard study when rock & roll came along, and his first idol was Jerry Lee Lewis, which also marked his introduction to rockabilly music. Within a couple of years, however, Lee had switched to guitar, and also discovered the music of Buddy Holly & the Crickets. He started learning the guitar in earnest and studying their records very closely, and not long after graduated from an acoustic to an electric instrument, and was learning the lead guitar parts on records by Holly, Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, the Louvin Brothers, and the Everly Brothers -- except that to him they were just as much records by Tommy Alsup, Jimmy Bryant, Cliff Gallup, James Burton, Chet Atkins, and Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, among other guitarists. At 16, he turned professional and joined the stable of musicians working for manager Larry Parnes, playing behind Dickie Pride, among other stars on Parnes' roster. He later joined the backing band of R&B singer Bob Xavier, and later played behind Jackie Lynton, through whom he appeared on his first recording. Lee twice succeeded Jimmy Page as a lead guitarist, first in Mike Hurst's band and then in Neil Christian's backing group. And Lee, in turn, was succeeded in the latter band by Ritchie Blackmore when he jumped to Chris Farlowe's backing group the Thunderbirds.

He spent four years with the Thunderbirds, who became known in British musical circles as one of the best R&B bands in England, and all gained fame as Farlowe charted singles (including a number one hit) in 1966 and early 1967. He finally left Farlowe in 1968, feeling bored after four years, and over next two years passed through several bands playing behind various visiting American country stars, including George Hamilton IV, Skeeter Davis, and Bobby Bare. Lee passed through several groups, including Country Fever and Poet & the One Man Band, before finally reaching a semipermanent berth with Heads, Hands & Feet, a progressive country outfit who were sort of England's answer to the Flying Burrito Brothers or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He first achieved public notice as a member of this group, which achieved some positive critical notice -- and allowed Lee to expand his playing beyond the guitar -- but saw little commercial success. They split up after two years, and Lee made his living as a session guitarist for the next couple of years, and was also able to latch on to a piece of new recording action going on in England. In 1970, Chess Records had scored an unexpected chart success with The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, which had led to a spate of "London Sessions" albums by Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, among others at Chess, and even a B.B. King album on ABC Records built along the same lines. He got in on Jerry Lee Lewis' London Sessions album, and that seemed to reopen Lee's relationship of the early '60s with American acts -- except that this time one circle of his life seemed to close when he was chosen to replace Glen D. Hardin in the Crickets. He toured with them and also cut sides with them in Nashville for a Mercury Records release, Long Way From Lubbock. When the smoke cleared from his two years with the band, Lee had moved to Los Angeles, where he made contact with Phil Everly and Don Everly, who were working separately at the time. Lee joined Don's band and even got his Heads, Hands & Feet bandmates to work on his Sunset Towers LP.

From there, Lee became a member of Joe Cocker's band, which, in turn, led to the offer of a contract in 1975 to do a solo album with A&M Records, which was Cocker's label at the time. A gig playing (and recording) with Emmylou Harris delayed the completion of his own record for a couple of years, until the end of 1978, though when Home, as it was titled, finally appeared, it was not only a guitar virtuoso showcase but included Harris on it as a guest performer. He was signed to Polydor as a solo artist, but by that time the session work and offers were coming in fast and furious, and Lee was seemingly everywhere, playing with everyone from Jackson Browne to Bo Diddley to Herbie Mann. His most visible gig, however, was playing with Eric Clapton, first on Just One Night and then on the tour that followed. And when the Everly Brothers reunited for a concert, a live album, and a concert video, Lee was there in the band. Lee's own solo career continued into the late '80s with Speechless (1987) and Gagged but Not Bound (1988), both issued by MCA and both critical successes. He was also later a member of Gerry Hogan's bluegrass group Hogan's Heroes, and toured and recorded with Bill Wyman's band, the Rhythm Kings. He has also played with Eddie Van Halen and Steve Morse in a supergroup called the Biff Baby All-Stars.

In his fifth decade as a professional musician, Lee was part of a rarefied fraternity as a virtuoso's virtuoso, respected on three continents and pretty much living out a professional life that most of his colleagues, when he started out, could only dream of. He continued to record in the 21st century, cutting the country/rockabilly album Heartbreak Hotel for Sugar Hill in 2003. That same year, Castle Records issued a Lee retrospective compilation, That's All Right, Mama. A second Sugar Hill release, Road Runner, appeared in 2006. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Yes
tjahan
Plumsteada, you are thinking of Alvin Lee who fronted TYA, this is Albert Lee, a different far mellower and way more gifted guitarist/mu s i c i a n than Alvin
... no mention of 10 years After...?
"His version" of "Country Boy" is the first - he wrote and has been playing it since the early '70's. And yes, he uses a b-bender telecastet.
funky guitar riffs we all know who steves influences are R.I.P. brother
charlesm04
Heh..My wife and I went to see him a couple weeks ago in Santa Cruz CA at a small venue called Kuumbwa Jazz Theater. Holy smokes! Notes were coming from every where! We were blown away! He is such a mellow guy, we met him after the show.. And, we stayed for the second show, couldn't resist. So. If y'all ever get a chance, DO NOT miss his show. The entire band was made up of exceptional musicians. A real treat..
He looks a lot like Martin Short a.k.a. Jiminy Glick!
belkat
Tasty guitar licks!! Some nice bass playing backing him up, too.
sdkeimig
Albert Lee was not in Ten Yrs After -- that guy was called ALVIN Lee
Wasn't he in Ten Years After,that where he caught my attention! PEACE
mytacosaninj a
He's fantastic!!!
lovin it!
serigor10
unbelievable guitar player !!!
glh56
saw him with EMMY LOU in '71. Been a knock out for a looooong time.
dominick45
Boy is bad to the bone.
spiderjhn
I remember Albert Lee from Heads Hands and Feet band. The album was Old Soldiers Never Die. Country boy at heart was one I recall off it.
One of my guitar heroes, truly one of the greats!
beautiful voice. this picture of him looks like Martin Short in drag
Smooth as glass....NIc e !
Great pick'n. Reminds me of the Mark Knoffler rockabilly work.
once saw alvin and ten years in atlanta ga. in the seventies, at a college show georgia tech. if you were there, you remember it. he performed a blazing, brilliant show in an intimate setting, maybe 2,500 people. i think it may have been a weeknight, i can't remember, anyway we did the cylocybin (sp?) before the show started, and alvin blew the roof off the place about 20 mins into the show. it was incredible. he has never been given the credit he deserves, doesn't seek the spotlight, but i
a74reece
The female singer on "Blues Side of Town" is Patty Loveless
Wow - Payola is deep South, front porch stuff....... . l o v e it
WOW!
the leemaster general
Wow, this guy kicks a**.
joe.shephard
Check out his version of "country boy" that Ricky Skaggs did so well with. His Les Paul influenced echo tricks caused jaws to drop then and now.
wnconrad
I only recently discovered him and he is fantastic! Find him on youtube with Vince Gill.
LOVE IT LOVE IT and I have never heard of him. Thank you Pandora Radio.
isn't this the B-bender guy?
Check out Albert Lee on "The Life and Times of Jesse James" (if you can find it). Scorching guitar, phenomenal L.P.
"TILL I GAIN CONTROL AGAIN" IS A VERY PRETTY SONG BY SIR ALBERT,IT IS AN OLD EMMYLOU HARRIS SONG BUT WELL DONE BY LEE..THIS MAN CAN REALLY LIGHT UP AIR WAYS WITH HIS PLAYING..
Not bad stuff dude, I love this! Its a shame so many of these artists I never heard... Thanks pandora! Man, reminds me of when I was a kid. My old man would always play stuff like Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, etc... Good stuff!
quincy.walla c e
check out General Lee on Steve Morse's 1st solo record
There are guitar players who are talented and some who are gifted. Albert has a true gift!!! Whenever I get bored with my playing I just listen to Albert and have to pick up my guitar. Thanks man!!

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