Albert Lee: A guitar player’s guitar player

Dubbed the “the greatest guitarist in the world” by none other than Eric Clapton, Grammy-winning Albert Lee is well-known among fellow musicians for his fingerstyle and hybrid picking techniques. Over the years he has shared the stage with the Everly Brothers, Clapton, and Joe Cocker. His tour brings him to Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne on Jan. 6. Andrea Valluzzo spoke with him about the upcoming show.

Andrea Valluzzo: I hear you have an amazing guitar collection. How many do you have and do you have a favorite?

Albert Lee: I have a number of favorites, I don’t really know exactly how many I have [laughs]. I’m guessing it’s in the region of 40 to 50 guitars. I have my own model, the Ernie Ball Music Man. I have a number of those that the company has given me over the years. I have 10 or so of those.

AV: Favorite guitar to play?

AL: My Music Man, my signature guitar. I’ve been playing that guitar or a guitar like it for many years. You get so comfortable with a certain model and the feel of it and the sounds you are going to get. They are pretty consistent so I can switch from one to another.

AV: You’ve been called the guitar player’s guitar player. How did you develop your technique?

AL: The early rock and roll players, late ’50s early ’60s, there were a few players in England who were influenced by the same people, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck; we were buying rock and roll records before we heard some of the great American blues records. I kind of stayed with the rock and roll and with country and they went off in a more blues direction. I’ve always had a great friendship among guitar players and I seem to have a little bit of a reputation. I get that title because it’s mostly musicians that know about me and not so much the general public.

AV: Tell us what your show here will be like.

AL: I have had a U.S. band for almost five years now. I had been living in America for 40-odd years and never had my own band here. I finally put it together and it’s opened up a whole new world for me where I can work around the States doing my own shows. These are guys who I have been playing with for a while in L.A. and they are all great musicians. We play a mixture of music, rock and roll and a bit of country. I play the piano and do some piano ballads; it’s quite a mixed bag really. People are surprised to hear me sing and play the piano because they just know me as a guitar player. Being a guitar player, it’s usually the guys who come out to see me, their wives and girlfriends come out reluctantly but then they are surprised it’s a bit more musical than they expected.

AV: What’s the best thing about performing live?

AL: I always look forward to playing; you always hope that it’s going to be the best gig you’ve ever done. There’s a great deal of satisfaction playing live and just making it up as you go along.

AV: Who have you most enjoyed sharing a stage with or collaborating with musically?

AL: I’d have to say the Everly Brothers because that’s really a longstanding relationship. I first met them in the early ’60s. When I first came to America in the early ’70s, I got to know Don Everly quite well. He and his brother had just split up. They hardly spoke for 10 years so I got to do quite a few things with Don and, of course, I always hoped I’d get to play with the two of them. That happened in ’83. We went on the road in ’84 and it lasted for another 26 years so I have to say that was a very important part of my musical career.

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