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Albert Lee

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Albert Lee
Lee in Los Angeles on 3 July 2019
Lee in Los Angeles on 3 July 2019
Background information
Birth nameAlbert Lee
Also known asMr. Telecaster
Born (1943-12-21) 21 December 1943 (age 80)
Lingen, Herefordshire, England
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • musical director
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin
Years active1959–present
LabelsA&M, Diamond Records, MCA, Heroic Records, Castle, Magnum, Polydor, Sugar Hill

Albert William Lee (born 21 December 1943) is an English guitarist known for his fingerstyle and hybrid picking technique. Lee has worked, both in the studio and on tour, with many famous musicians from a wide range of genres. He has also maintained a solo career and is a noted composer and musical director.

Early life[edit]

Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire, but grew up in Blackheath, London, a member of a Romani family.[1] His father was a musician, and Lee studied piano, taking up the instrument at age seven.[2]

During this time, Lee became a fan of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. He took up guitar in 1958 when his parents bought him a second-hand Höfner President which he later traded in for a Czechoslovak Jolana Grazioso, the forerunner of the Futurama. Lee left school at the age of 16 to play full-time.


Early career[edit]

Lee was with a variety of bands from 1959 onwards, playing mostly R&B, country music and rock and roll. He was accompanying Richard Kneller, (Dickie Pride), in the Castle Pub, Tooting, the night Russ Conway saw him perform there, two weeks before taking Larry Parnes to see Pride. In addition to Buddy Holly, his early guitar influences included Cliff Gallup, Grady Martin, the Everly Brothers, Scotty Moore, James Burton and Jerry Reed.[3] Lee first experienced commercial success as the lead guitarist with Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds. Lee says that he enjoyed playing the Stax-type material, but he really wanted to play country music. Consequently, he left Farlowe and the Thunderbirds in 1968.

During his time playing with Heads Hands & Feet, Lee became a "guitar hero", playing his Fender Telecaster at breakneck speed.[4] Heads Hands & Feet became a popular live band in the UK, making appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and also in Europe, where they appeared on the German music programme Beat-Club. In October 1969 Country Fever, an RCA package toured six countries in eleven days, starting at the Nashville Room with the London band the Kingpins.[5]

International success[edit]

In 1971, Lee performed with Deep Purple's keyboard player Jon Lord on the studio recording of Lord's Gemini Suite. That opus was a follow-up to Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Ritchie Blackmore had played guitar at the first live performance of the Gemini Suite in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the studio version, which led to the involvement of Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Tony Ashton and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Arnold.

Lee left for Los Angeles in 1974 and, through his friend bassist Ric Grech (of Blind Faith), did some session work on three albums with the Crickets who also at the time included Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison. One of these releases is titled A Long Way From Lubbock. Lee also received many other offers of session work. In 1976, he was asked to join Emmylou Harris's Hot Band, replacing one of his heroes, James Burton, who was returning to perform with Elvis Presley. The Hot Band featured other musicians including Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell. Starting in 1978, Lee worked for five years with Eric Clapton, which included playing and singing for a live concert recording at the Budokan in Japan.

Lee was responsible for the Everly Brothers' 1983 reunion concert and was its musical director.[6] He played regularly with the Everlys for over twenty years.

Lee (left) and Vince Gill (right) with tour promoters Ann and Andrew Pattison in Australia, February 1988

In 1987, Lee was invited by Gerry Hogan to headline at a steel guitar festival in Newbury, Berkshire. Lee was at first intimidated by the prospect of having to front a band; however, the gig was successful and he toured as Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes on a regular basis until 2015. The lineup of the band included British musicians Peter Baron on drums, Gerry Hogan on guitar and Brian Hodgson on bass. Pete Wingfield was the original keyboard player, before leaving to be replaced by Elio Pace and later Gavin Povey.

They were renowned for attracting celebrities to their gigs. Stars such as Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Marty Wilde, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Don Everly, Emmylou Harris, Sonny Curtis and Rodney Crowell have all jammed with the band at one time or another. In 1988 Lee toured Australia along with Vince Gill, then a comparative unknown, and has returned to tour the country on several subsequent occasions.

In the early 2000s Albert Lee toured with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. In 2002, Lee appeared at the Concert for George [Harrison]. Also in 2002, Lee received a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from the CD Earl Scruggs and Friends. In September 2006 Lee took part in Primal Twang: The Legacy of the Guitar, a documentary about the history of the guitar. Lee appeared at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival on 28 July and performed with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings at the Ahmet Ertegun tribute show at The O2 in London on 10 December. A new album entitled Like This was released in spring 2008 to coincide with their European tour. He lives in Malibu, California.

Awards and legacy[edit]

Albert Lee performing in 2006 with one of his signature Music Man guitars.

Lee has received many awards as a guitarist, winning five consecutive times Guitar Player magazine's "Best Country Guitarist".[7] Lee is known within the music industry for his speed of playing and his technical virtuosity[8] and yet by the same token, one of the most melodic, playing slower passages approximating the sound of the pedal steel guitar with his Music Man and Telecaster guitars which are equipped with B-Benders.

He is known as "the guitar player's guitar player".[8] Lee is also referred to as "Mr. Telecaster".[9] A long-time Telecaster player, Lee wrote a foreword to A.R. Duchossoir's book detailing the history of the instrument.

Lee's song "Country Boy" helped to redefine country guitar for a whole generation of players, and was later to become a hit for multi-instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs.

Despite positive press from Melody Maker and New Musical Express, Lee has never achieved any great commercial success in terms of record sales during his career, but more as a live performer, session player and sideman, perhaps due to his self-effacing stage presence. Lee has been described by his peers, who include Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, as a complete gentleman who does not know the meaning of the word ego.[4]

After Gram Parsons' death, Emmylou Harris was told that she could gain the backing of a major record label only if she could assemble a really "hot band". Harris did just that, enlisting guitarist James Burton and pianist Glen Hardin, both of whom had played with Elvis Presley and Parsons; she named the band "The Hot Band". When Burton left to return to Elvis Presley, Lee was his replacement. Harris said of him that Lee is "a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equaled. When Saint Peter asks me to chronicle my time down here on earth, I'll be able to say (with pride if that's allowed) that for a while I played rhythm guitar in a band with Albert Lee."[10]

In 2017, Lee was honoured with the Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Americana Awards.

Guitar collection[edit]

Albert Lee owns around 40 guitars, including Don Everly's Gibson J-200. The Gibson Guitar Corporation made one for Don Everly and the other for Phil. The guitars have an all black, high-gloss lacquered finish and are equipped with twin Everly Brothers white pickguards. The Everly Brothers' manager Wesley Rose had wanted the guitar to be presented to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but Everly informed him that guitars like that should be played, not kept sitting in a glass case. Don Everly presented it to Lee, along with his Gibson Everly Brothers model.[3]

Eric Clapton gave Lee the Gibson Les Paul Custom that he played while with Delaney and Bonnie. Lee also plays his signature Music Man (the guitar shown in the photographs) and a 1950s Telecaster (and has versions of both with custom B-Benders), a 1958 Stratocaster and a Martin 000-28 acoustic.[3]

Despite his being heavily associated with the Fender Telecaster, guitar manufacturer Ernie Ball Music Man makes a signature Albert Lee guitar, which unlike the Telecaster has three single-coil pickups.

Band list[edit]



Year Title Label Number Notes
1979 Hiding A&M SP 4750
1982 Albert Lee Polydor 2383 640
1986 Speechless MCA MCA-5693
1987 Gagged but Not Bound MCA Master Series MCA-42063
1991 Black Claw/Country Fever Line LICD 9.01057 O
1994 In Full Flight! Live at Montreaux Round Tower RTMCD 60 with Hogan's Heroes
2002 Tear It Up Heroic HEROIC0001 with Hogan's Heroes
2003 Heartbreak Hill Sugar Hill SUG-CD-3977
2003 That's All Right Mama: The Country Fever & Black Claw Sessions Castle 800
2006 Road Runner Sugar Hill SUG-CD-4011
2006 In Between the Cracks Heroic HEROIC0004 with Hogan's Heroes
2007 Live at the New Morning Heroic HEROIC0005 with Hogan's Heroes
2008 Like This Heroic HEROIC0006 with Hogan's Heroes
2012 Tear It Up AIX Records AIX 85054
2014 Highwayman Palm Bridge 0013964743173
2019 Gypsy Man - A Tribute To Buddy Holly Mann Brothers

Featured appearances[edit]


  1. ^ Derek Watts, Country Boy: A Biography of Albert Lee, Jefferson, NC; McFarland & Co., pp.6–9.
  2. ^ George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia; Bashe, Patricia Romanowski; Pareles, Jon (2001). Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5.
  3. ^ a b c Fishell, Steve; Tom Wheeler (May 1981). "Albert Lee: State of the Art Country-Rock Guitar". Guitar Player. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  4. ^ a b Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music: Albert Lee entry, Guinness Publishing, 1993. ISBN 0-85112-726-6
  5. ^ Derek Watts Country Boy: A Biography of Albert Lee page 90
  6. ^ "Albert Lee – Biography". Homepage.eircom.net. 21 December 1943. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Albert Lee Bio". Riff Interactive. 17 October 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  8. ^ a b Gumbel, Andrew (13 June 2006). "Unsung heroes: session musicians are given their own Hall of Fame". The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 April 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
  9. ^ "AllExperts Questions & Answers". 12 July 2012. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  10. ^ Elder, Bruce (20 August 2007). "Albert Lee – Gig Reviews". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 24 October 2008.


  • The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music. Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-726-6
  • Watts, Derek, (2008). Country Boy: A Biography of Albert Lee. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., ISBN 978-0-7864-3658-3

External links[edit]

Albert Lee website