Alvin Lee

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Alvin Lee
Lee in 1974 playing his Gibson ES-335 ("Big Red")
Lee in 1974 playing his Gibson ES-335 ("Big Red")
Background information
Birth nameGraham Anthony Barnes
Born(1944-12-19)19 December 1944
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Died6 March 2013(2013-03-06) (aged 68)
Estepona, Spain
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1960–2013

Alvin Lee (born Graham Anthony Barnes; 19 December 1944 – 6 March 2013) was an English singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He is best known as the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of the blues rock band Ten Years After.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Nottingham[1] and attended the Margaret Glen-Bott School in Wollaton. He began playing guitar at the age of 13. In 1960, Lee, along with bassist Leo Lyons, formed the core of the band Ten Years After. He was influenced by his parents' collection of jazz and blues records, but it was the advent of rock and roll that sparked his interest.


Lee's performance at the Woodstock Festival was captured on film in the documentary of the event, and his 'lightning-fast' playing[2] helped catapult him to stardom.[3] The film brought Lee's music to a worldwide audience, although he later lamented that he missed the lost freedom and spiritual dedication of earlier audiences.[4]

Lee was named "the Fastest guitarist in the West", and considered a precursor to shred-style playing that would develop in the 1980s.[5]

Alvin Lee performing in Breda, Turfschip, the Netherlands, 1978

Ten Years After had success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973, Lee was feeling limited by the band's style. Moving to Columbia Records had resulted in a radio hit song, "I'd Love to Change the World", but Lee preferred blues-rock to the pop to which the label steered them. He left the group after their second Columbia LP.[6] With American Christian rock pioneer Mylon LeFevre, along with guests George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Mick Fleetwood, he recorded and released On the Road to Freedom, an acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock.[6] Also in 1973, he sat in on the Jerry Lee Lewis double album The Session...Recorded in London with Great Artists recorded in London, featuring many other guest stars including Albert Lee, Peter Frampton and Rory Gallagher. A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow Theatre in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. Various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron! and Let It Rock.[6] In late 1975, he played guitar for a couple of tracks on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. He finished the 1970s with an outfit called Ten Years Later,[6] with Tom Compton on drums and Mick Hawksworth on bass, which released two albums, Rocket Fuel (1978) and Ride On (1979), and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States.

The 1980s brought another change in Lee's direction, with two albums that were collaborations with Rare Bird's Steve Gould, and a tour for which the former John Mayall and Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor joined his band.[6]

Lee's overall musical output includes more than twenty albums, including 1987's Detroit Diesel, 1989's About Time (the reunion album he did with Ten Years After) recorded in Memphis with producer Terry Manning, and the back to back 1990s collections of Zoom and Nineteen Ninety-Four (US title I Hear You Rockin').[6] Guest artists on both albums included George Harrison.[6]

In Tennessee, recorded with Scotty Moore and D. J. Fontana, was released in 2004. Lee's last album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released in September 2012.


Lee died on 6 March 2013 in Spain.[7] He died from "unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure" to correct an atrial arrhythmia.[8] He was 68. His former bandmates lamented his death. Leo Lyons called him "the closest thing I had to a brother", while Ric Lee (no relation) said "I don't think it's even sunk in yet as to the reality of his passing". Billboard highlighted such landmark performances as "I'm Going Home" from the Woodstock festival and his 1971 hit single "I'd Love to Change the World".[9]


Studio albums[edit]

Album US Chart


Pump Iron! 131 1975
Let It Rock 1978
Rocket Fuel 115 1978
Ride On 158 1979
Free Fall 198 1980
RX5 1981
Detroit Diesel 124 1986
Zoom 1992
Nineteen Ninety-Four 1994
In Tennessee 2004
Saguitar 2007
Still on the Road to Freedom 2012
  • NOTE: "Ride On" actually contains one studio side and one live side.

Collaborative album[edit]

Album US Chart


Year Notes
On the Road to Freedom 138 1973 with Mylon LeFevre

Live albums[edit]

Album US Chart


Year Notes
Live at the Filmore East 1970 1970 Chrysalis Records
In Flight 65 1974 Live at the Rainbow Theatre in 1974
Live at Rockpalast 1978 Grugahalle, Essen, Germany, 15 September 1978
Live In Vienna 1994 Label: International House Of Hits
The Last Show 2013 May 28, 2012 - Raalte, Holland


Single US Rock


Year Album
Detroit Diesel 26 1986 Detroit Diesel


  1. ^ "Alvin Lee, rock guitarist in the band Ten Years After, dies at 68". BBC News. 6 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Cricklewood Green – Ten Years After: Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  3. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 201. ISBN 0-600-57602-7. CN 5585.
  4. ^ Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co. 2009. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-4027-6623-7.
  5. ^ Pete Brown, Harvey P. Newquist (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corp. p. 197. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1999). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 263/4. ISBN 0-7535-0257-7.
  7. ^ "Guitarist Alvin Lee of Ten Years After dies at 68". CBS News. 6 March 2013.
  8. ^ Multiple sources:
  9. ^ Schneider, Marc. "Alvin Lee of Ten Years After Dead at 68". Billboard. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d "Alvin Lee Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 12 March 2019.

External links[edit]