Malibu Guitar Festival: Albert Lee

With more than half of a century of playing time behind him, Grammy Award-winner and Malibu local Albert Lee will bring more than a guitar and a storied career to the stages of the second annual Malibu Guitar Festival.

Born and raised in England, Lee’s introduction to music came from his father.

“There was a piano around and he played piano and accordion, not professionally,” Lee said. “He loved music, and I bashed away at the piano. By the time I was 13, I discovered the guitar and taught myself to play. It all happened very quickly … I was on the road at 16.”

In the early 1960s, Lee’s love of the guitar lead him to Germany where he played for troops for hours at a time. 

“I went along with a lot of other British musicians in 1962-63, playing German clubs in U.S. Army bases,” Lee said. “That was a great training ground for musicians because you had to play six hours per night for six or seven days per week. That wasn’t happening in the U.K. — you were lucky if you got one or two gigs per week playing an hour or an hour-and-a-half.” 

With influences from idols Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Lee was able to form more than just a rockabilly sound and could easily adapt to the sounds of R&B and country crooners alike. 

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“I was able to feel comfortable playing all the genres,” Lee said. “I played rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll … I started getting into country in the late 1960s. I was with a great R&B singer in the U.K. from 1964-68 — Chris Farlowe — and we had a number one record. We were playing all kinds of music, really. I’d played these clubs in London — that’s when I started to see a lot of great musicians. When I started playing, there was no one to really see, no videos or anything, just listen to the records.”

Living in London in the 1960s was a powerful time for music, and after some success playing behind George Hamilton IV, Skeeter Davis, and also as a session guitarist, Lee packed up and left for Los Angeles to work with Don Everly on his “Sunset Towers” LP.

“I’ve been a longtime friend of Jimmy Webb,” Lee said. “We used to play in a couple of places in Calabasas. There was a fantastic little club called the Sundance Saloon. Throughout the 1970s, everybody used to go out there. I played there with Jackson Browne and Glenn Campbell. That way I got to meet a lot of the players in town and that’s how I got to do sessions and get busy.”

Lee also became a member of Joe Cocker’s band, which led to an offer for a solo album through Cocker’s record label in 1975.

“The turning point for me was when I joined EmmyLou Harris in 1976 and it was the kind of music that I really liked,” Lee said. “I had just finished with Joe Cocker and my girlfriend at the time — who is now my wife — we had been living in Joe’s guesthouse on PCH. All of a sudden, this gig came up and we went and looked for an apartment and saw an ad in The Malibu Times for an apartment on Baylaird Road for about $500 per month. My girlfriend moved in while I was off on the road. We’ve been in the area ever since!”

After massive success in the industry, Lee recently started a new journey in music with his own band, roughly five decades after he started playing his first instrument.

“I’ve had this U.S. band for about three years now. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living here for over 40 years, and in all that time I’ve never put a band together,” Lee said “It’s all new to me. Even though I’ve lived here for so long, all of a sudden I’m a solo artist and people are recognizing me for it more and more.”

Lee’s love of the guitar is due to his consistent training and interest in perfecting his craft.

“I play all the time,” Lee said. “It’s like a tennis player, you stay in form … I’d like to think my playing is improving all the time because I’m always playing.”

For more artist or ticket information, visit malibuguitarfestival.com.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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