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Alvin Lee (born Graham Barnes, 19 December 1944, Nottingham, England) is an English rock guitarist and singer. He began playing guitar at the age of thirteen, and with Leo Lyons formed the core of the band Ten Years After in 1960. Originally influenced by his parent's collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that truly sparked his interest and creativity, and guitarists like Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore provided his inspiration.
The Jaybirds, as Lee's early band was called from 1962, were popular locally, and had success at Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany (since that time lead guitarist Lee also took lead vocals), following The Beatles there the same year. But it was not until the band moved to London in 1966 and changed its name, first to Jaybird, dropping 'The' and 's' to make it sound more contemporary; then to Blues Yard (for one gig at the Marquee Club; and finally to Ten Years After (TYA), that international success beckoned. The band secured a residency at the Marquee Club, and an invitation to the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 led to their first recording contract. The self titled debut album surprisingly received play on San Francisco, California's underground radio stations and was enthusiastically embraced by listeners, including concert promoter Bill Graham, who invited the band to tour the United States for the first time in the summer of 1968. Audiences were immediately taken by Lee's distinctive, soulful, rapid fire guitar playing and the band's innovative mix of blues, swing jazz and rock, and an American love affair began. TYA would ultimately tour the U.S. twenty-eight times in seven years, more than any other UK band.
Appearing at the Woodstock Festival, Lee's performance was captured on film in the documentary of the festival and his playing helped catapult him into stardom, and soon the band was playing arenas and stadia around the globe. Although Lee later lamented that he missed the intimacy of smaller venues, there is no denying the impact the film made in bringing his music to a worldwide audience.
TYA had success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973, Lee was feeling limited by the band's style. With American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre and a host of rock talents like George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Mick Fleetwood, he recorded and released On the Road to Freedom, a highly acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock. A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. An energetic mix of rhythm and blues and rock, with a tribute to Elvis Presley thrown in for good measure, Lee once, in his understated fashion, called this band "a funky little outfit". Various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron and Let it Rock. In late 1975, he played guitar and acoustic guitar for a couple of tracks on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. He finished out the 1970s with the trio Ten Years Later who also released two albums, Rocket Fuel (1978) and Ride On (1979) and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States.
The 1980s brought another change in Lee's direction, with two albums that were strong collaborations with Rare Bird's Steve Gould and an extensive tour with the former John Mayall and Rolling Stones' guitarist Mick Taylor joining his band.
Lee's overall musical output includes more than 20 albums, including 1985's Detroit Diesel, and the back to back 1990s collections of Zoom and 1994 (U.S. title I Hear You Rockin' ). Guest artists on both albums include George Harrison. Their duet on 1994's The Bluest Blues led one reviewer to call it "the most perfect blues song ever recorded."
Alvin Lee in Tennessee, recorded with rock and roll legends Scotty Moore and D. J. Fontana was released in 2004 .
Lee's most recent album, Saguitar, was released in September 2007