Meet the guitar legend leading the Muster's blues line-up
ALBERT Lee never aspired to be a star, but his talent eventually pulled him into the spotlight.
The British guitar legend has performed and recorded with the greats including Keith Richards, Dolly Parton, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bill Wyman and Eric Clapton, who labelled him "the greatest guitarist in the world".
"I was really only interested in being a lead guitar player. I thought I would end up in some really successful band and that would be my career," he says.
"It didn't quite end up that way. I didn't start singing until the late '60s. I'd been on the road for almost 10 years and it finally built up to a point in the mid '80s where I'd already done a couple of solo albums where I was singing and a friend of mine talked me into doing a festival in the UK and fronting a band. When I finally did it I thought 'This turned out easier than I expected' and it went on from there. I like to think my vocals have improved from that moment on."
Lee, 74, is in the country for the first time in 10 years for a series of shows including two performances at the Gympie Muster this weekend.
"This all stemmed from doing guitar clinics," he says. "I do a two-hour clinic where I'm talking all the time. I've also done some shows with Peter Asher with our two guitars where we're singing and telling stories.
"If the audience seem like they'll appreciate them I'll throw in a few stories."
As a child growing up in Blackheath, London, Lee learned to play piano before his parents bought him a second-hand Hofner President for his 15th birthday.
"I did piano lessons for a couple of years, and I think I progressed quite well considering I rarely practised," he says.
"But in the end the teacher said to my parents 'I think you're wasting your money here. He's not really practising in between lessons'."
He credits those piano lessons with loosening up his fingers for the hybrid picking style he became famous for as a guitar player.
"I put that down to the fact that I started on piano," he says. "It got both hands working really well and built up independence in the fingers. Picking up the guitar came quite easily. I play a hybrid finger style with the right hand, which is the important hand on piano."
Lee will perform a solo show at the Muster, as well as take part in the Vox Guitar Jam alongside Ian Moss and Troy Cassar-Daley.
"My regular set is quite a mixture of songs," he says. "I always get nice comments after the gigs from people saying you've got a really interesting selection of songs you do. I guess you could say it's country rock based what I do. I also sit down at the piano and do a few songs."
After nearly six decades in the industry, Lee says regular playing keeps his fingers and mind nimble.
"My fingers get a little stiff now and again," he says.
"I've got a build up on one of the tendons on the right hand and eventually I'll get it seen to. I put it down to the fact that I've always played. I've never been successful enough to take six months off like these super group guys. I'm playing every week. I can't complain. I'm happy I'm still able to play like I've always done."
Albert Lee performs at the Gympie Muster's Blues Bar on Saturday at 2.30pm, as part of the Vox Guitar Jam, and at 6.10pm in a solo show.