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Albert Lee, (born 21 December 1943 in Leominster, Herefordshire England) is a English guitarist known for his finger-style and hybrid picking technique.
He grew up in Blackheath, London. His father was a musician, and Albert studied piano. During this time, like many of his age, he became a fan of Buddy Holly, and also of 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 Czechoslovakian Grazioso, the forerunner of the Futurama. Later, he wished he had bought a Fender instead. Albert Lee left school at the age of 16, to play full-time.
Lee was with a variety of bands from 1959 onwards, playing mostly R&B, country music and rock and roll. In addition to Buddy Holly, his early guitar influences included Cliff Gallup, The Everly Brothers, Scotty Moore, James Burton and Jerry Reed. 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. Heads Hands & Feet became a very 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 and later performed with German bassist Georg Grimm who discovered Nasville Singer-Songwriter Sylkie Monoff.
In 1971, Lee performed with Deep Purple's keyboard player Jon Lord on a live 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 the guitar part at the occasion of the first live performance of the Gemini Suite, in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the live studio version, which led to the involvement of Albert Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Roger Glover (Deep Purple), Tony Ashton and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by late Sir Malcom Arnold.
Lee left for Los Angeles, California in 1974 and joined The Crickets through his friend bassist Rick Grech (Blind Faith) who also included Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison. The band cut three albums together including A Long Way From Lubbock. He also got lots of offers of session work. In 1976, Lee 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 such as Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell. Starting in 1978, Lee worked for five years with Eric Clapton, 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 the musical director. He played regularly with the Everlys for over twenty years.
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 now tours with Hogan's Heroes on a regular basis. Hogan's Heroes are renowned for attracting celebrities to their gigs. Stars such as Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, 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 2002, Albert Lee appeared at the Concert for George. 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—the first definitive theatrical journey through the guitar’s colourful and surprisingly controversial 3500-year history. Albert 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 Albert Lee and Hogan's Heroes album entitled Like This was released in spring 2008 to coincide with their European tour. Lee continues to tour and work in the studio, and tours on a regular basis with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. He lives in Malibu, California.
Lee has received many awards for his playing, including the five times consecutive winner of Guitar Player magazine's "Best Country Guitarist". Lee is known within the music industry for his speed of playing and his technical virtuosity 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" because of the presence of so many guitarists, famous or unknown, everywhere he performs. Albert Lee is also referred to as "Mr. Telecaster". A long-time Telecaster player, Lee wrote a foreword to A.R. Duchossoir's book detailing the history of the instrument.
Albert Lee's song "Country Boy" helped to redefine country guitar for a whole generation of players, and was later to become a huge 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 vast 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.
Earl Scruggs, commenting on Albert Lee has stated: "I have been a fan and admirer of his guitar work from the first moment I heard him play. I am constantly amazed at his talent. I am sure there are many guitar players who have been influenced by his style and will continue to be influenced for years to come. Albert is in every sense of the word, a genuine guitar wizard".
It is widely quoted that Eric Clapton is on record as stating that Albert Lee is, in his opinion, "the greatest guitarist in the world." Emmylou Harris has stated that Lee "[is] a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equalled. When St 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."
Reflecting on the Heads Hands & Feet period of his career, Lee has stated: "What amazes me is how many musicians in Nashville have a copy of our first album in their personal record collections, and still ask me what happened to the band."
Albert Lee owns more than 25 guitars, including Don Everly's Gibson J-200. The Gibson Guitar Corporation made one for Don and the other for Phil Everly. 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.
Eric Clapton gave Lee the Gibson Les Paul Custom that he played while with Delaney and Bonnie. Lee also plays his signature Music Man and a 1950's Telecaster (both with custom B-Benders), a 1958 Stratocaster and a Martin 000-28 acoustic.