“HIS skill is extraordinary, his ear is extraordinary, and he’s gifted on just about every level.”
So says Eric Clapton of legendary Grammy winning guitarist Albert Lee, who hails from just over the border in Herefordshire and is returning to Monmouth’s Savoy this month after sell-out gigs in the US.
His illustrious 60-year career has seen ‘the musician’s musician’ play with Clapton and the likes of The Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris and The Crickets.
Starting his career during the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene of 60s London, Lee swapped bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.
Taking up guitar in 1958 when his parents bought him a second-hand Höfner President which he later traded in for a Czechoslovak Jolana Grazioso, the now 79-year-old showed such talent that he left school at 16 to play full-time.
He accompanied Dickie Pride in early pub gigs before enjoying commercial success as the lead guitarist with Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, staying with them until 1968.
In 1971, he played with Deep Purple’s keyboard player Jon Lord on the studio recording of Lord’s Gemini Suite. and then headed for LA to play with Buddy Holly’s Crickets and later joined Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, alongside Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell, replacing his hero, James Burton, who was returning to perform with Elvis Presley,
She later said: “He’s a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equaled.
“When Saint 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.”
His song Country Boy, which helped to redefine country guitar for a whole generation of players, also became a massive 1985 hit for Skaggs in the US.
Starting in 1978, Lee worked for five years with Clapton, which included playing and singing for a live concert recording at the Budokan in Japan.
And he was then responsible for The Everly Brothers’ 1983 reunion concert and was its musical director, playing regularly with them for more than 20 years.
He toured as Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes from the late 80s until 2015, attracting celebrities to perform with him such as Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Marty Wilde, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Don Everly, Emmylou Harris, Sonny Curtis and Rodney Crowell.
He also toured with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and in 2002 received a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for Foggy Mountain Breakdown from the album Earl Scruggs and Friends.
Other awards include five consecutive Guitar Player magazine’s “Best Country Guitarist” and the Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 UK Americana Awards.
Albert Lee is at Monmouth Savoy on Thursday, October 26, at 7.30pm. Tickets £22 are available from the theatre box office or via monmouth-savoy.co.uk/theatre/