Sad news today…
Alvin Lee, lead guitarist and vocalist for the 1960s group Ten Years After, died this morning of complications from routine surgery, according to his website. He was 68.
Lee’s blues-rock group Ten Years After already was big in England before rocketing to international fame with its wild show at Woodstock in 1969. The band’s 10-minute rendition of Lee’s “I’m Going Home” became a cornerstone of Michael Wadleigh’s film about the festival and its soundtrack album, which would spend four weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. in 1970.
Having grown up on his family’s jazz and blues records but inspired by ’50s rock ’n’ roll, Lee, born Dec. 19, 1944, formed the Jaybirds in his midteens in his hometown of Nottingham, England. The group had some success after following The Beatles to Hamburg, Germany, but took hold after changing its name and relocating to London.
The newly christened Ten Years After played a residency at Marquee Club, where The Rolling Stones had debuted a half-decade earlier. A gig at the 1967 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival led to a record deal with Denam. The band’s 1967 self-titled debut album — an innovative mix of rock, blues and swing jazz that featured “I’m Going Home” — failed to chart but received some airplay in San Francisco’s burgeoning FM radio scene.
That led legendary promoter Bill Graham to bring the band across the pond for a U.S. tour — the first of more than two dozen American jaunts during the next seven years.
Woodstock propelled Ten Years After into the forefront of the second-wave British Invasion, whose emphasis often was on flashy guitar playing with extensive solos.
Lee told the BBC in 2012 that he still had the 335 he played at Woodstock, but that he didn’t use it much any more, “because it’s too valuable.”
Lee also later said he was ambivalent about the band becoming headlining stars, saying it took away some of the intimacy he enjoyed playing for smaller audiences in closer quarters….Lee, like his friend John Mayall, always said he wanted to stay true to the blues, country, jazz and rock roots he heard in his youth, and he spent much of his musical time going back there.
Back to The Hollywood Reporter:
Ten Years After ultimately released 10 albums before splitting in 1973. Lee soon teamed with American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre for a country rock album, On the Road to Freedom, which featured such guests as George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Mick Fleetwood and Ron Wood. Lee would spend the rest of the ’70s touring and making solo records. During the decade’s waning years, he formed Ten Years Later, which released a pair of albums, and he continued to play gigs in the U.S. and Europe.
During the ’80s, he teamed with Rare Bird vocalist Steve Gould and toured with ex-Stone Mick Taylor in his band, and his ”90s albums include Zoom and 1994 (I Hear You Rocking).
In 2004, he released the rootsy Alvin Lee in Tennessee, teaming with Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana from Elvis Presley’s band. His most recent record, 2007’s Saguitar, flowed from hard rock to slow blues to a take on rap. His 14th solo album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released in August. A new compilation album, Best of Alvin Lee, was issued in May.
Rest In Peace, Alvin. You’ve left us too soon.