Alvin Lee-Rock and Roll Guitar Picker

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This year’s 50th anniversary of Woodstock Music and Art Fair brought to mind the late, great guitarist, Alvin Lee-rock and roll guitar picker.

When I was an impressionable beginning guitarist at seventeen, the documentary Woodstock came to my small Illinois town’s theater . One had to be eighteen to get in, but miraculously, I wasn’t carded! Joe Cocker, Santana, Richie Havens, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, and many others who performed were featured in the film. I was mesmerized at the sheer power of its music.

Ten Years After

One of the amazing bands at Woodstock was Ten Years After-a powerhouse blues-rock band fronted by Alvin Lee and his lightning-fast guitar playing. One of the film’s highlights featured THREE simultaneous Alvin Lee images on the screen as he blasted through “I’m Goin Home” with his kick-ass band -Ten Years After.

Ten Years After was founded in 1966 (after several name changes) by Alvin Lee, bassist Leo Lyons, keyboardist Chick Churchill, and drummer Ric Lee (no relation to Alvin). Their first album, Ten Years After, was released in 1967. They went on to record eight studio and three live albums. Ten Years After was English blues at its best. Alvin left to go a different direction in 1973.

After Ten Years After

After Ten Years After, Alvin Lee played on albums by Mylon Lefevre, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others. He fronted his own band; also the bands Rx5, Ten Years Later, and trio with Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana (formerly Elvis’ Presley’s backup musicians).

I saw Alvin when he was in RX5 (early 80’s). He came out slowly rocking and weaving and looked he wasn’t gonna make it. Trance-like, he then rocked faster and faster, shredding his guitar-AMAZING! His band was the warm-up for ZZ Top on their “Eliminator” tour. They played THREE encores (an opening act!) I’ve never seen a better live guitarist. ZZ Top paled in comparison to Rx5 that night!

The Bluest Blues

One of the greatest guitar songs ever recorded is “The Bluest Blues“, featuring not only Alvin Lee, but George Harrison’s stunning slide guitar solo as well. Click on the fore-mentioned link if you want a sonic treat. You won’t be disappointed!

The Last Show

The last show Alvin Lee would perform was May 28, 2012 in Holland. A recording was released. Although the fingers wouldn’t fly as fast, the feel was still evident, and that’s really all the matters, isn’t it?

Alvin Lee passed away March 6, 2013 in Spain. He succumbed due to complications from a routine heart procedure. He was 68 years old.

His recorded legacy is one to be proud of- over thirty albums.

Alvin Lee-Rock and roll guitar picker extraordinaire!

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot Media

Jackson C. Frank


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Jackson C. Frank

Early Tragedy

It seemed tragedy always stalked Jackson C. Frank (born in 1943).  A school  furnace explosion took 15 of his 11-year-old  classmates.  Burns ravaged over 50% of his body,  serious damage occurred to his thyroid, and he suffered severe depression from then on. Later, he was given a guitar during his recovery,  and learned his craft.

“Catch a Boat”

Jackson would “catch a boat”  (lyric from his “Blues Run the Game“)  to England (from New York) in 1964.   He received over $110,000 as an insurance settlement from the elementary school explosion upon turning 21.  He recorded his only album, self-titled “Jackson C. Frank“,  in 1965.  Paul Simon produced it.  Art Garfunkel and Al Stewart were there, too.  Frank was so self-conscious, he would insist on being surrounded by screens while recording.  I believe it’s a  masterpiece.   If you liked the early 60’s folk scene, check it out.  Even if you didn’t, check it out!

During this time,  Jackson dated Sandy Denny (later from Fairport Convention), and convinced her to give up a nursing career for singing full-time.  She wrote the haunting “Who Knows Where the Time Goes“, later covered by Judy Collins and many others.

More Tragedy

Unravelling,  Jackson C. Frank was soon followed by more tragedy.  He settled in Woodstock, New York,married, and had a son and daughter.  His son died of cystic fibrosis, and he had to go to a mental institution for depression’s devastating effects.

Jackson was eventually treated for paranoid schizophrenia, and spent the rest of his life trying to overcome this (as well as many physical problems).  His music had degenerated into unlistenable angry confusion.

Final Years

The final years of Jackson C. Frank were filled with psychiatric institutions, homelessness, and even having an eye shot out while sitting on a bench.  His once-promising life ended at 56 years (March 3, 1999), but he was a tremendous influence on many musicians to come.

His only album is deeply inspiring.  I am grateful to have heard it.

Additional information on Jackson C. Frank.

©2018 J. Mark Witters