Howard Roberts

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Howard Roberts
Birth name Howard Mancel Roberts
Born (1929-10-02)October 2, 1929
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Died June 28, 1992(1992-06-28) (aged 62)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Genres Jazz, rock, country
Occupation(s) Session musician, educator
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1950s–1992
Associated acts Bobby 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][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.

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

Awards and honors[edit]

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


As leader[edit]

  • Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar (1956/1957) Norgran MGN-1106; Verve MGV-8192 [reissued on Verve UMV-2673 (Japanese import) in 1981; CD reissue: Fresh Sound 478 in 2008] (note: included on this CD are 5 bonus tracks from a January 1957 session for Intro Records featuring Red Norvo, Gerald Wiggins, Howard Roberts, Ben Tucker, and Joe Morello; this material was originally released as part of 'Collections' (Intro LP-608) along with 5 tracks recorded by Art Pepper)
  • Good Pickin's (1959) Verve MGV-8305 [CD reissue: Verve B0005931-02 in 2006]
  • Velvet Groove (1966) Verve MGV-8662 -compilation of 1956/1957/1959 material
  • The Movin' Man (1966) Verve/MGM VSP-29 -compilation of 1957/1959 material
  • This Is Howard Roberts...Color Him Funky (1963) Capitol ST-1887 [CD reissue: Guitarchives 40016 in 1997; Euphoria Jazz 190 in 2002]
  • H. R. Is a Dirty Guitar Player (1963) Capitol ST-1961 [reissued on Pausa PR-9056 in 1986; CD reissue: Guitarchives 40016 in 1997; Euphoria Jazz 190 in 2002]
  • Something's Cookin' (1965) Capitol ST-2214 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 184 in 2001]
  • Goodies (1965) Capitol ST-2400 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 184 in 2001]
  • Whatever's Fair! (1966) Capitol ST-2478 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 185 in 2001]
  • All-Time Great Instrumental Hits (1966) Capitol ST-2609 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 185 in 2001]
  • Jaunty-Jolly! (1967) Capitol ST-2716 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 186 in 2001]
  • Guilty!! (1967) Capitol ST-2824 [CD reissue: Euphoria Jazz 186 in 2001]
  • Out of Sight (But 'in' Sound) (1968) Capitol ST-2901
  • Spinning Wheel (1970) Capitol ST-336 [CD reissue: Vivid 4540399056340 issued as a Limited Edition "Mini-LP Sleeve Design" (Japanese import) in 2015]
  • Antelope Freeway (1971) Impulse! AS-9207 [CD reissue: Impulse-UMe 602527809557 in 2011]
  • Equinox Express Elevator (1972 [rel. 1975]) Impulse! AS-9299 [CD reissue: Impulse-UMe 602527809557 in 2011]
  • Sounds (1974) Capitol ST-11247
  • The Real Howard Roberts (1977) Concord Jazz CJ-53 [CD reissue: Concord CCD-4053 in 1994]
  • Turning to Spring (1979) Discovery DS-812
  • The Magic Band: Live at Donte's [rec. July 1968] (1995) V.S.O.P. 94
  • The Magic Band II [rec. May 1968] (1998) V.S.O.P. 102

As sideman[edit]

With David Axelrod

With June Christy

With Buddy Collette

With Chico Hamilton

With Milt Jackson

With Plas Johnson

With Hank Jones

With John Klemmer

With Charles Kynard

With Peggy Lee

With Herbie Mann

With Thelonious Monk

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



  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Howard Roberts Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ Larry Williams: Bad Boy The Legends of Specialty Records, Speciality Records 1989, liner notes


External links[edit]