Sunday, November 19 , 2017, 2:44 am | Fair 42º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: ‘Country Shredder’ Albert Lee Coming to Lobero Theatre

Amazing guitarist to play Sings Like Hell show on Saturday

If you're the sort of person who pays attention to liner notes, you've probably seen the name Albert Lee pop up so many places that you think it can't possibly all be the same guy. Could the guitarist who recorded and toured with Eric Clapton really be the same one who played with Emmylou Harris' Hot Band, and who played with the Everly Brothers for their Albert Hall reunion show (and stayed on for 26 more years), and who also shows up on recordings by Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, Bill Wyman, Chris Farlowe and Deep Purple's Jon Lord?

Well, it is the same Albert Lee who did all of those things — and more. And somehow he also has found time to lead his own smokin' hot bands over the years.

On Saturday, Aug. 19, Lee will bring a quartet to the Lobero Theatre for a Sings Like Hell show, which also will feature a performance by special guest Bryan Titus. Tickets are available online by clicking here.

Lee talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and his amazing career in music.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming show?

Albert Lee: People are always very surprised at my song selection because I like good tunes and good melodies, but I also kind of shred on the guitar as well. And I play the piano, too — I do ballads on the piano. So I think people are pleasantly surprised because there are certain aspects of what I do that they weren't aware of. I've played in Santa Barbara before, maybe once with this band. We're really looking forward to coming back.

JM: I think it's safe to say that "Country Boy" is your signature tune. How did that song come together?

AL: Well, I was with the band Heads Hands & Feet in the late-'60s/early-'70s, and we were preparing our first album. It was obvious that we needed some vehicle for me to play guitar on, and the three of us — me and Tony Colton and Ray Smith, the main writers of the band — all three of us came up with it. And it was an ideal vehicle for me to do country shredding, I guess you'd call it [laughs].

JM: Can you tell me a bit about joining Emmylou Harris' Hot Band?

AL: That was a turning point for me because I realized that I was playing with a great band that was really going somewhere. She'd just released her second album, and I realized from that moment on that I was living in Los Angeles. And I really haven't looked back since. I don't regret a moment of it. It's just been great. I often wonder if I'd stayed in England what I would've done, if I wouldn't have been as successful and accepted as I am now. I have no idea. I didn't like what was happening in England at the time with bands like Yes and Pink Floyd. It just wasn't my kind of music, and that's what most people wanted at that time in the U.K. I was more into the roots music that was happening here.

Guitar wizard Albert Lee will bring his quartet to the Lobero Theatre on Saturday as part of the Sings Like Hell concert series.
Guitar wizard Albert Lee will bring his quartet to the Lobero Theatre on Saturday as part of the Sings Like Hell concert series. (Publicity photo)

JM: Another big gig for you was joining up with Eric Clapton, which included the Just One Night album. What are your memories of the concert that became that album?

AL: Oh, that was at that Budokan in Tokyo. We hadn't been together that long at that time. I joined him early on in '79, and then we did a big tour of the States. He was working with his band — he called them the Tulsa Tops. They were all the guys from Tulsa that had been with him for 10 years, like Carl Radle and Dick Sims and Jamie Oldaker. And at the end of that first big American tour, he fired the whole band except me, and I thought, "What the hell is going on here?"

Anyway, he decided that he liked having an English guy around, and he put together an English band that lasted another two or three years, and then he fired all of those guys. Now, I managed to survive that purge, but I realized at that point that this isn't the kind of gig that I can really depend on, the way he was changing musicians. He finally let me go in '84 or '85.

But prior to that, the Everly Brothers had started to talk to each other again, and I always hoped that I'd get a chance to play with them if they invited me. And lo and behold, they both agreed that I should be the guitar player, as I'd known them quite well for a number of years. I did the Albert Hall with them, which was a great success, and I thought, "At least I got to play with them once."

Then I got call saying, "The guys have gotten a record deal" — they were going to do a record — "and we're going to work in the summer, do a tour of the U.S." And I thought, "That sounds cool," and in actual fact it worked out great because I was just about to get fired from Eric, so I went from Eric to the Everly Brothers, not knowing how long that would last. And in fact it lasted for another 26 years.

So I knew those guys quite well. They always sounded so good. And the band was good, too. We had a great band. We had Larrie Londin on drums for a number of years, and I stood next to Buddy Emmons, the world's greatest steel player for about eight years or more. I'd be up there with this band, and these two guys would be standing in front of us, and I thought, "Boy, this sounds pretty good. It doesn't get any better than this."

JM: Do you have anything in the works right now?

AL: You know, I'm 73, but as you probably guessed, there are no pensions in this business, no decent pensions for musicians, you know? Unless you've been a session guy for 30 years. They're the guys who get big checks every month. So I'm still fit — I like to think I'm still fit — and I love to play. If the touring is well-planned, I like to tour as well. So I have this American band as you know, and I have a U.K. band now that I've just put together. These guys are younger guys, and there's a lot more enthusiasm, so I'm going to be working with them in Europe for two or three months of the year, and then working in the U.S. and other countries like Japan and maybe Australia with the U.S. band. So it just keeps ticking over. I'll keep doing it until I can't do it anymore.

Click here for the full interview with Albert Lee, which includes more on playing with artists like Joe Cocker, Don Everly, Jon Lord and Chris Farlowe, plus the story of meeting Gram Parsons and how he influenced the then-teenage Jimmy Page.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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