Performers for the 2018 National Folk Festival
photo courtesy of artist
Albert Lee occupies a unique niche—British by birth and upbringing, he gained acclaim in the 1960s as one of the UK’s top R&B players, and since the 1970s has been recognized as one of the top rockabilly guitarists in the world. In England, Albert Lee is a household name, and in Nashville and Los Angeles, he’s long been one of the most in-demand session guitarists. Nicknamed “Mr. Telecaster,” he is a musician’s musician, noted for his fingerstyle and hybrid picking technique, his lightning speed and melodic sensibilities. Vince Gill described him as “One of the finest guitar players who ever walked this earth ….”
Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire, but grew up in Blackheath, London. His father, who played piano and accordion, provided his introduction to music. Lee’s first instrument was the piano, which he took up at age seven. When rock and roll came along, he switched to guitar, fascinated by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and others. He set out to learn every lead guitar part on every early rock and roll record, and did. At age 16, he turned professional.
From 1959 on, Lee was in a variety of bands playing R&B, country, and rock and roll. He played with the Thunderbirds, one of England’s best R&B bands, and passed through several others. It was during his time with progressive country group Head, Hands & Feet that he became a “guitar hero,” playing his Telecaster at breakneck speed. When the band broke up, Lee did session work for the next few years, and backed touring American artists such as Skeeter Davis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Working on Lewis’s London Sessions in 1973 opened doors to working with other American artists. In 1974, Lee moved to the U.S. Over the years he’s played and recorded with the Crickets, the Everly Brothers, Joe Cocker, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Bo Diddley, and Eric Clapton, to name a few. Lee’s song “Country Boy” helped to redefine country guitar for a generation of players, and later became a hit for multi-instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs.
Lee has received many awards, including a Grammy®, and was named Best Country Guitarist five consecutive times by Guitar Player magazine. With a self-effacing demeanor, Albert has never really sought center stage, but rather has made his mark as a live performer, session player, and sideman. As Emmylou Harris stated, he’s “a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equaled.”