I shook Albert Lee’s hand. More to the point, he shook mine. He even held it for longer than I was comfortable. I looked into his eyes, told him I thought he was great, and that I thought the guys (his band) were great too. Then I did something I never do. I put my left hand on top of his (cringe!) and somehow we were no longer holding hands.
If you’re wondering who Albert Lee is, please, let me enlighten you.
Albert Lee is a guitar player. You probably know more songs that he has played on than you realise – or are even aware of. This guy has been playing guitar professionally for 58 years. He has played with the greats, from The Everly Brothers to Eric Clapton to Emmy Lou Harris (if you like that sort of thing). He’s played at The Troubadour. He’s British but lives in the states. He is the coolest, most modest guy you may ever see on stage. If you saw him in the street, you would never think he was one of the best guitar players in the world.
He’s approaching his 75th birthday. To be honest, I was a bit surprised to see his band were my age. I’ve seen him before, a while ago, with a band more his age. I was skeptical of what I was about to see. The drummer seemed cocky. The base player I couldn’t figure out and the guy on the keyboard seemed to be in a world of his own.
By the third song, I thought the drummer was AWESOME. Seriously, I could not stop watching him. I’ve never really appreciated drummers but I don’t know what magic he had – he was absolutely brilliant. I could see him watching the rest of the band and his arms were moving so fast! The faces he was pulling were ridiculous. But he was in it, involved. He was gripped and so was I. No wonder he was cocky!
Albert Lee was of course fantastic. I don’t know how he does it. His fingers move so fast and it’s difficult to believe this tiny guy is making the sounds you’re listening to. I’m not into instrumentals, but I could have listened to these guys just play for hours. They sang too, but that was just a bonus.
Then, the keyboard guy had a solo. His fingers were blurry as he hammered away at the keys. I glanced at his face and he was grinning, looking between each of the band members.
It was so awesome. The whole room was electric.
I had gone to this gig with my dad and his friend. Hey, I know how to kick it with the cool kids. They were definitely more the demographic than me. But I didn’t care! I felt like I may as well have been the only one in the room.
Eventually, of course, they had to finish. I was disappointed, it felt like they’d only been playing for 30 minutes, not over two hours. So, the three of us gathered our things (I’d already made the guys stand up and join me in my standing ovation – along with the rest of the room…), and decided to head back to the pub for a drink and a debrief.
We were talking about all sorts (another post about that is churning over in my mind), I was sat with my back to the door. Cool and calm, my dad says “oh, there’s Albert Lee”. He was obviously staying in the hotel.
Then, my dad turned into a giddy child, saying “I’m going to shake his hand. I am. I’m going to do it”. I looked at him, smiled and said “ME TOO!”
And that’s what we did. My dad’s friend stayed put, watching us moon at this legend, before we returned to our table and grinned at each other for a while.
The bar called time and we finished our drinks and started for the door. Still busy in our conversation, Albert Lee called to us from his table, wishing us a goodnight and hoping to see us again soon. So, we reciprocated and went back to our grinning.
How inspiring and astonishing that a man who has achieved so much, is capable of amazing things and has worked with so many legends, is still a genuinely normal and decent human being. There are people who have done a lot less who aren’t capable of that.
What. A. Legend. Mr. Albert Lee.