Howard Roberts

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Howard Roberts
Howard Roberts
Howard Roberts
Background information
Birth nameHoward Mancel Roberts
Born(1929-10-02)October 2, 1929
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 1992(1992-06-28) (aged 62)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
GenresJazz, rock, country
Occupation(s)Session musician, educator
Years active1950s–1992
Associated actsBobby Troup, Chico Hamilton, the Wrecking Crew

Howard Roberts (October 2, 1929 – June 28, 1992) was an American jazz guitarist, educator, and session musician.[1]


Roberts was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and began playing guitar at the age of 8. By the time he was 15 he was playing professionally locally.[2]

In 1950, he moved to Los Angeles, California.[2] With the assistance of Jack Marshall, he began working with musicians, arrangers and songwriters including Neal Hefti, Henry Mancini, Bobby Troup, Chico Hamilton, George Van Eps, and Barney Kessel. Around 1956, Bobby Troup signed him to Verve Records as a solo artist. At that time he decided to concentrate on recording, both as a solo artist and a Wrecking Crew session musician, a direction he would continue until the early 1970s.

Roberts played rhythm and lead guitar, bass guitar, and mandolin. He was known for his heavy use of the Gibson L-5 guitar in the studio and for television and movie projects, including lead guitar on the theme from The Twilight Zone as well as acoustic and electric guitar on I Love Lucy, The Munsters, Bonanza, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Green Acres, Get Smart, Batman, Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, Peter Gunn, Lost in Space, Dragnet, Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Odd Couple, Dick Van Dyke, I Dream of Jeannie, and the theme for the film Bullitt.

Roberts recorded with Georgie Auld, Peggy Lee, Eddie Cochran, Jody Reynolds, Shelley Fabares, Dean Martin, the Monkees, Roy Clark, Chet Atkins, and the Electric Prunes.

In 1961, Roberts designed a signature guitar which was produced by Epiphone. The guitar was a modified Gibson ES-175 (Epiphone is owned by Gibson and during this period Epiphone guitars were manufactured in the same factory as Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo, Michigan), with a round sound hole and a single pickup. A redesigned version was later produced by Gibson.[3]

In 1963, Roberts recorded Color Him Funky and H.R. Is a Dirty Guitar Player, his first two albums after signing with Capitol. Produced by Jack Marshall, they both feature the same quartet with Roberts (guitar), Chuck Berghofer (bass), Earl Palmer (drums) and Paul Bryant alternating with Burkley Kendrix on organ.[4] He recorded ten albums with Capitol before signing with ABC Records/Impulse! Records.

As a member of the Wrecking Crew, Roberts was a part of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, playing guitar on some of the most famous songs in pop music history.

From the late 1960s, Roberts began to focus on teaching rather than recording. He traveled around the country giving guitar seminars, and wrote several instructional books. For some years he also wrote an acclaimed column called "Jazz Improvisation" for Guitar Player magazine. Roberts developed accelerated learning concepts and techniques, which led to the founding of Playback Music Publishing and the Guitar Institute of Technology. In 1977, he co-founded the Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood.

Roberts died of prostate cancer in Seattle, Washington, on June 28, 1992.[5]

Howard Roberts was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2007, Howard Roberts and other members of the Wrecking Crew were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.


Howard Roberts' main instrument was a Gibson ES-150. Howard Roberts worked with Epiphone and Gibson to create several signature guitars. In 1962, Howard Roberts endorsed Epiphone and later the Epiphone Howard Roberts model was introduced. It was a 16" wide hollow body guitar with a Gibson humbucker bridge pickup and an oval sound hole in the center of body. In 1969 the model was rebranded as a Gibson. In 1970, Gibson introduced the Howard Roberts Fusion model, an electric semi-hollow guitar. The model evolved into Howard Roberts Fusion II in 1988 and Howard Roberts Fusion III in 1991. Both models are now discontinued.


As leader[edit]

  • Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar (Verve, 1957)
  • Good Pickin's (Verve, 1959)
  • Color Him Funky (Capitol, 1963)
  • H.R. Is a Dirty Guitar Player (Capitol, 1963)
  • Something's Cookin' (Capitol, 1964)
  • Goodies (Capitol, 1965)
  • All-Time Great Instrumental Hits (Capitol, 1966)
  • Whatever's Fair! (Capitol, 1966)
  • The Movin' Man (VSP, 1966)
  • The Velvet Groove (Verve, 1966)
  • Guilty!! (Capitol, 1967)
  • Jaunty-Jolly! (Capitol, 1967)
  • Out of Sight (But "In" Sound) (Capitol, 1968)
  • Spinning Wheel (Capitol, 1969)
  • Antelope Freeway (ABC Impulse!, 1971)
  • Sounds (Capitol, 1974)
  • Equinox Express Elevator (ABC Impulse!, 1975)
  • Lord Shango (Bryan, 1975)
  • The Real Howard Roberts (Concord Jazz, 1978)
  • Turning to Spring (Discovery Records, 1981) - Featuring Bill Mays
  • The Magic Band Live at Donte's (V.S.O.P., 1995)
  • The Magic Band II (V.S.O.P., 1998)

As sideman[edit]

With David Axelrod

With June Christy

With Sonny & Cher

With Buddy Collette

With Nancy Sinatra

  • Sugar (Reprise Records, 1966)

With Chico Hamilton

With John Lee Hooker

With Milt Jackson

With Diane Schuur

  • Deedles (GRP, 1984)

With Plas Johnson

With Hank Jones

With Harry Nilsson

With Bette Midler

With John Klemmer

With Rosemary Clooney

With Charles Kynard

With Peggy Lee

With Herbie Mann

With Thelonious Monk

With Frank Morgan

With Shorty Rogers

With Pete Rugolo

With Lalo Schifrin

With Bud Shank

With Gábor Szabó

With Bobby Troup

  • Bobby Troup (Capitol, 1953)

With Larry Williams


  • Roberts, Howard; Almeida, Laurindo; Heitmeyer, Howard; Hendrickson, Al; Kessel, Barney; Pitman, Bill; Bain, Bob; Marshall, Jack (1961). West Coast Guitar: Eight Original Solos for Guitar. New York: Leeds Music Corporation. ASIN B0080YPG16. OCLC 79391800.
  • Roberts, Howard; Stewart, James (1971). The Howard Roberts Guitar Book. Cherry Lane Music. ISBN 978-0899150000.
  • Roberts, Howard (1972). Howard Roberts Guitar Manual Chord Melody. Cherry Lane Music. ISBN 978-0899150024.
  • Roberts, Howard; Grebb, Bob (1972). Howard Roberts Guitar Manual: Sight Reading. Playback Music Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0899150031.
  • Roberts, Howard; Hagberg, Garry L. (1989). The Praxis System Guitar Compendium. Advance Music. ISBN 978-3892210191.


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Howard Roberts Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b Sallis, James. "Middle Ground: Herb Ellis, Howard Roberts, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow" Jazz Guitars: An Anthology. First ed. New York: Quill, 1984. 197-207. Print.
  3. ^ Marshall, Wolf, The Howard Roberts Guitar Sound, retrieved 2012-06-14
  4. ^ "The Howard Roberts Quartet". Guitarchives. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  5. ^ Voce, Steve (2 July 1992). "Obituary: Howard Roberts". The Independent.
  6. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  7. ^ Larry Williams: Bad Boy The Legends of Specialty Records, Speciality Records 1989, liner notes


External links[edit]