Arlen Roth

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Arlen Roth
Background information
Born (1952-10-30)October 30, 1952
Bronx, New York, U.S.
Genres Americana, pop, blues, country
Occupation(s) Musician, teacher
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1963–present
Labels Rounder, Aquinnah, Flying Fish
Associated acts Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Clarence White, Mark Knopfler, Simon & Garfunkel, Michael Bloomfield, Ry Cooder, Johnny Winter

Arlen Roth (born October 30, 1952 in New York, U.S.) is an American guitarist, recording artist, performer, tutor and author. His first solo album won the Montreux Critics' Award for Best Instrumental Album of the Year in 1978.[citation needed] He was a regular columnist for Guitar Player magazine from 1982 to 1992. He has performed and recorded with artists such as Bob Dylan, Danny Gatton, John Entwistle, John Prine, Kate Taylor, James Taylor, Livingston Taylor, John Sebastian, Rick Wakeman, Paul Simon (as well as Simon and Garfunkel), Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Sonny Landreth, Levon Helm, Bill Kirchen, Duane Eddy, Steve Morse, Albert Lee and Phoebe Snow.[1] Roth is a Telecaster enthusiast, and has written the book Masters of the Telecaster, which details the techniques and licks of many famous Telecaster guitar players.[2] As a solo artist Roth performs frequently with his younger daughter, Lexie Roth, a recording artist, performer and songwriter in her own right. He was greatly influenced by Clarence White of The Byrds' string bending style, but at the age of 14, he did not know White had invented a "B-string bender" for his Telecaster, so Roth developed a new style of doing this with fingers alone. He thus innovated many string-bending styles on the guitar, simulating a "pedal steel" guitar. He is also an innovator in the use of "harmonics" within guitar playing.

Music career[edit]

Roth attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City from 1966–69 as an art student. He then studied at the Philadelphia College of Art from 1969–1971. His band Steel lived with him and would play in Woodstock, New York on weekends, where he was discovered. In 1970, Steel put on the first "Woodstock Reunion" concert to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the festival in Bethel, New York, where Arlen lived every summer. Soon after, he moved to Woodstock and began his career as a professional guitarist.

He began to back-up in recording and touring with artists such as Happy and Artie Traum, Eric Andersen, John Herald, John Prine, Pete Seeger, Loudon Wainwright III, Tony Bird, Art Garfunkel, Paul Butterfield, Phoebe Snow, Helen Schneider, Don McLean and many more. He toured with the Bee Gees in 1974, Simon and Garfunkel in 1983, and Duane Eddy with Huey Lewis and the News.

He has also released several solo albums, and performs with his own band, as a duet with his daughter, Lexie Roth, and as a solo act as well. Roth is also known as an innovator of slide guitar,[citation needed] and his first published book "Slide Guitar" was with Oak Publications when he was just 21 years old. He is planning a "Slide Guitar Summit" album, featuring duets with many other great slide guitar players, to be recorded in 2013. In 2012, Thank You Les, a Les Paul Tribute album and documentary was released with Roth performing Mr. Sandman and his daughter Lexie singing the Les Paul and Mary Ford song, "Vaya Con Dios".

Personal life[edit]

Roth is the son of The New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross, who died at the age of 100 in 2012. His father was one of the 4 Roth Brothers, all of whom became cartoonists. His brother is artist David Roth. Arlen Roth's wife, Deborah and daughter, Gillian died in an auto accident in 1998. Gillian had just turned 14, had an acting career and was starting her own TV show on Nickelodeon entitled "The Gunks" about a musical group of girls that was loosely based on The Monkees.


  • Guitarist (1978)
  • Hot Pickups (1979)
  • Paint Job (1983)
  • Lonely St. (1986)
  • Toolin' Around (1993
  • Drive it Home (2002)
  • Landscape (2005)
  • Toolin' Around Woodstock (2008)
  • Subway Walls and Tenement Halls: The Music of Simon and Garfunkel (2009)
  • How Does it Feel? The Music of Bob Dylan (2009)
  • All Tricked Out! (2012)
  • Arlen Roth and the Cordobas Live at the Iridium (2012)
  • Slide Guitar Summit (2015)
  • Paint it Black Acoustic Stones (2016)
  • Telemasters! (2017)


  • Top 100 Most Influential Guitarists of All-time, Vintage Guitar magazine
  • Top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All-Time,
  • Top 10 Guitar Sounds Ever Recorded, Vintage Guitar magazine, "Treat Her Right"
  • New York Blues Hall of Fame (2015)

Media appearances[edit]

  • Roth wrote and performed most, and coached all of Ralph Macchio's guitar parts in the 1986 movie Crossroads and directed many of those scenes. He also served as the film's official authenticator of any scenes involving music, and the performing of the music. On one day, the scene of Robert Johnson recording was halted because Roth noticed that the guitar's tuning pegs were from the wrong era.
  • Roth appeared in the Bob Dylan film, Renaldo and Clara, performing with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Phil Ochs and Patti Smith.
  • Roth appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien with friend Danny Gatton, in 1994, performing "Tequila" from his album Toolin' Around.
  • He appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1978 with Art Garfunkel. During warm-ups for this show Roth, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi just for fun, put on sunglasses and outfits and performed "Rocket 88" for the audience.
  • Roth's trademark tune is his instrumental version of "When a Man Loves a Woman", and was called "Perhaps the most intense workout ever recorded on a Telecaster" by Tom Wheeler of Guitar Player magazine. It reached No. 2 on the British Pop Charts, and was used by BBC Radio to sign off the air every night for many years.
  • His column in Guitar Player, "Hot Guitar", ran for 10 years, and was later published as a book. He also wrote numerous articles for this and other magazines.
  • Roth performed on the live German TV show, Ohne Filter, with Jack Bruce on bass, in 1984.
  • Roth created and performed all the music for the Aaron Spelling TV show, "10-8".
  • Entertainment Tonight did two specials on Arlen Roth's contributions to the film Crossroads
  • In 2016 Roth wrote and performed a solo acoustic guitar piece for an ESPN film at the Minskoff Thearter in NYC with Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom, Jr. of the play Hamilton.

Pioneer of Video Musical instruction[edit]

In 1979 Roth and his late wife, Deborah started the Hot Licks Audio and Video label. While teaching Ralph Macchio the guitar parts for Crossroads, he began recording his first videos. Six of these featured Roth as instructor, and one by friend and bass player of The Who, John Entwistle. The detailed close-ups of the fretting and strumming and other guitar playing techniques he had helped develop for and had been so prominent in the Crossroads film became the trademark for these instruction videos. Before long the number of instructional videos and artist started to grow. Aside from guitar- and bass guitar videos the Hot Licks catalog also came to include drums, banjo, lap steel, mandolin and harmonica instructional videos. Hot Licks Video documented some 150 artists in over 180 videos. Arlen has long been recognized as the very first to create video music instruction.

In 2006 it was announced that The Music Sales Group had acquired the entire Hot Licks video catalog and is implementing an ambitious program of transferring and expanding all existing material onto DVD. The result will be a new lease on life for the instructional series they will also recruit new artists for future releases, ensuring that the brand will continue to develop and attract top star names.[3]

Aside from his Hot Licks instructional videos, from 2007 to 2012 Roth hosted a series of daily video lessons at[4] It is estimated he has close to 1 million students on Gibson,[citation needed] he also wrote blogs for Gibson Guitar. Arlen has been known as the "Master of the Telecaster".

Hot Licks Video and Audio artists[edit]

Eric Johnson, Joe Pass, George Benson, Greg Martin, Lee Roy Parnell, Andy Summers, Emily Remler, Tuck Andress, Mick Taylor, Buddy Guy, Danny Gatton, James Burton, Joe Morello, Stuart Hamm, Harvey Mandel, Debbie Davies, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Ginger Baker, Max D. Barnes, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge, Carmine Appice, Vinnie Moore, Brian Setzer, Tal Farlow, Charlie Byrd, Mundell Lowe, Larry Coryell, Cornell Dupree, Junior Wells, J. Geils, Jimmy Thackery, Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Warren Haynes, Allen Woody, David Grissom, Scotty Anderson, Lonnie Mack, Otis Rush, Joe Morello, Sal Salvador, Jeff Tamelier, Steve Douglas, Mick Taylor, John Entwistle, Jerry Jemmott, Lee Roy Parnell, Brent Mason, Johnny Hiland, Tommy Tedesco, Craig Chaquico, Steve Morse, John Jarvis and many more.

Roth has stated that "many of these Hot Licks artists were also personal heroes of his, and it was an honor to work with them".[5]


Aside from instructional videos Roth has many guitar books to his credit, including: Slide Guitar, How to Play Blues Guitar, Nashville Guitar, Arlen Roth's Complete Electric Guitar, Hot Guitar, Arlen Roth's Complete Acoustic Guitar, Heavy Metal Guitar, Rock Guitar for Future Stars, and Masters of the Telecaster.


  1. ^ Endorsing Artists: Arlen Roth at the Dean Markley Strings website, (Accessed 12 August 2006)
  2. ^ Masters of the Telecaster book description Archived March 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. at JK Lutherie's website, (Accessed 12 August 2006)
  3. ^ [1] Archived November 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Gibson Guitar Lessons(Accessed 17 September 2008)
  5. ^ "Arlen Roth". Arlen Roth. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 

External links[edit]