Albert Lee was born on December 21, 1943, in Herefordshire, England. He grew up in Blackheath, London, where his father played English pub music on piano and accordion. At seven, Albert took up piano and studied formally for two years, delving into the styleics, learning pop tunes, and coming to love rock and roll in part through the music of Jerry Lee Lewis.
In about 1958 he got his hands on his first guitar, a Hofner President acoustic arch-top. Taking an immediate liking to Buddy Holly And The Crickets, he learned all he could from their records. For a time the acoustic guitar served its purpose, but soon Albert longed for an electric:
"My first real guitar was a Grazioso which was the forerunner of the Hofner Futurama. I paid £85 second hand for it, so it was really expensive...but I always used to wish that I'd bought a Fender instead."
Was "Luxury Liner" done live or as an overdub?
Due to an insatiable craving for American country, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues, Albert diligently studied recordings by Jimmy Bryant, Gene Vincent And The Blue Caps (featuring Cliff Gallup on lead guitar), the Louvin Brothers, Ricky Nelson (James Burton on lead), and especially the Everly Brothers. An important milestone was guitarist Hank Garland's masterwork Jazz Winds from a New Direction, the 1960 LP that shattered the barriers between jazz and country.
"Of the other guitarists on the scene at the time, the ones that impressed me most were colin Green (who made his name with Georgie Fame), Bob Steel (who went to Paris to join Vince Taylor), and Mickey King (who was in Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers but also had a day job in a music shop called Lew Davis on Charing Cross Road...you'd walk in there and he'd say "Hey, I've just worked out James Burton's latest solo", and he'd rattle off this great solo. He was excellent - and also the first guy I saw who played with his fingers as well as a pick...that opened up a whole new world to me), and Harvey Hinsley (who was the first really inventive player I saw, back in early '60. He was doing Cliff Gallup stuff, but the number which knocked me out was 'Goofin Around', an instrumental recorded by Bill Haley's Comets)."
Albert quit school in Christmas of 1959 (only 16) when his band turned pro:
"We got a job touring Scotland with stars from Larry Parnes' stable - but after two tours (Dickie Pride and Sally Kelly), I jacked it in. We each got £20 for 12 days - but we had to pay our own hotel bills out of that. Even so, I still saved enough money to put a deposit on an amp when I got back! That would have been Jan '60...my first taste of the
road." Various day jobs followed but it wasn't until 1961 that his luck turned when he was approached by Bob Xavier to join his band.
"By 1961, I'd been through various day jobs (including making blueprints, working in a laundry, and paint spraying) but still hankered after being able to earn enough playing in a group...and I was in Selmers one day (helping a friend choose a Les Paul Junior, which he then used to lend to me) when I ran into this bloke called Bob Xavier, who asked me to join his band. So I wore a variety of open necked silky shirts and worked American airbases and London clubs for over a year.
"Bob Xavier was West Indian, and the band was modelled on Emile Ford and the Checkmates. Most other groups around town were still doing rock'n'roll, but we were into Drifters/Brook Benton sort of stuff...but in summer '62 Xavier left and we became the house band at the 2Is [paid 18 bob a night].
"We'd play in the cofee bar 5 or 6 nights a week - backing whoever wandered onto the stage...and at weekends we would go out of town doing one-nighters backing Vince Eager, Keith Kelly and Jackie Lynton (who were all managed by Tom Littlewood - owner of the 2Is at the time).
Albert's first record was cut when he was with The Jury backing Jackie Lynton on All Of Me/I'd Steal (Piccadilly 7n35064 - sept 62...just on the A-side, produced by Les Reed).
"Trying to make it as a rock musician was a very haphazard business in the early sixties - and it was pretty dangerous too...you could get caught up in all manner of things. I was lucky because I could always go home to my parents - it was just a question of hopping onto the tube. I often wonder if I'd ever have become a professional musician if I'd been living somewhere like Cornwall, because I wasn't the sort to move into some sleazy digs and endure all that suff...even though I was soon spending a lot of time living in small cupboards adjoining unsavoury clubs spread around Germany!
"We [The Nightsounds] went to Hamburg for three weeks playing the Top Ten Club - the same time as The Beatles were playing The Star Club. It was my first trip abroad...in the day when every musician had to pay his dues in Hamburg - nightly, dusk to dawn.
"Towards the end of 1962 I joined Don Adams' band and went to Germany again - in a little A35 van. It was that really cruel winter, and there was no heater in the van; we had to huddle round a little tiny Primus stove in the back! Bloody hell, we almost froze to death - and almost wrote ourselves off when we turned it over on the ice! It was the usual thing - pumping out Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Little Richard for 6 hours a night, 7 days a week - I was glad to come home again after that one...but the weird thing was, I flew straight back out there to play with this German band Mike Warner and the Echolettes for 3 months.
"Neil Christian provided a few months of stability, paying me £15 a week whether we worked or not, which was pretty good. It was going out to clubs all over England in this old ambulance he used as a gig wagon. The 'Stones had come along by then and it wasn't cool to wear matching uniforms anymore. The rage was a grey shirt with rounded collars and a knitted tie, and you had to comb your hair forward like The Beatles - but I didn't go for all that...I've always been about 10 years behind everybody else in fashion. Anyway, for some strange reason I quit Neil and went back to Germany to play in Mike Warner's band again, which turned out to be a foolish move - he dumped us and it took me ages to scrape up my fare home. Then I was hanging around town again until I got a gig with Mike Hurst [replacing Jimmy Page] and went on a package tour with Gene Pitney and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas." Albert again replaced Jimmy Page in Neil Christian's band The Crusaders and was replaced by Ritchie Blackmore when in 1964 he joined Chris Farlowe And The Thunderbirds, a seminal R&B/rock and roll band that was somehow overlooked in the U.S. during the British Invasion of the mid-60s. He recorded and toured with Farlowe for four years during this period.
"In May 1964, I joined Chris Farlowe and I stayed with him four years. I thought it was a great band - the best in Britain at what we did...but we never got much in the way of recognition or public acclaim. It was very frustrating; we'd support bands like The Animals, who were terribly ragged in comparison, with very little feeling or finesse - and they'd go down a storm while we got a smattering of applause from the few punters who weren't in the bar. I've got tapes of some of our gigs and they still stand up - some of our stuff was killer! Farlowe was a dynamite singer! But there was practically no crowd reaction. We worked solidly for years...tours, one nighters, all nighters, doubles, trips to Germany and Scandinavia - we went all over the place, but we never cracked it beyond a certain level.
"By the end of '67, Farlowe had decided to revamp the band - so it was him backed by a trio, with Pete Solley (aka Pete Shelley & Pete Sheridan) playing bass pedals as well as the usual stuff on his organ...but by this time I was getting a bit bored with r&b and the way the rock scene was going. Everyone was into huge Marshall stacks and maximum power, and that sort of thing held no appeal for me."
From 1968 to 1970, Albert played throughout England in various club bands, often supporting American country artists on European tours. One such band was Country Fever who were together for about 18 months and played U.S. air bases in Britain and Germany.
"I was spending more and more time sitting in with a country group (The Flintlocks, later to evolve into Jamie John & Gerry), at the Red Cow in Hammersmith - and we decided to form a new band together...Country Fever." Country Fever toured with visiting U.S. stars like George Hamilton IV, Bobby Bare, Skeeter Davis, Connie Smith, Jody Miller, Guy Mitchell & Nat Stuckey. Albert was now singing for the first time and had begun to get calls for playing sessions.
"In America, country rock was only just beginning and it was unheard of here - but we were trying for it...mixing rock'n'roll and c&w, much as the Burritos did a few months later - but nobody wanted to know. The audiences just wanted the same old Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves imitations - and we usually got a pretty hostile reaction. In the end, it was just too frustrating, so I went into session work."
When their record company, MGM, went bust, Poet & The One Man Band were forced to fold - later surfacing as Heads Hands & Feet. Jerry Donahue and Pat Donaldson were replaced by Albert and Chas Hodges, who had been collaborating on a Lee solo album for Bell. (Only a single came out: That's Alright Mama/The Best I Can, on U.S. Bell). Their self-titled debut album 'Heads Hands & Feet' (Island ILPS 9149 - May 71), featured the original version of the now styleic "Country Boy". Co-written with band members Tony Colton and Ray Smith, it was a showcase for Albert's dazzling picking style. Two albums followed - 'Tracks' (Island ILPS 9185 - Mar 72), and 'Old Soldiers Never Die' (Atlantic K40465 - Jan 73). The band did get to tour the U.S. but as the last LP's title implies, a sense of frustration had set in over the group's lack of acceptance; they disbanded before its release.
"I bummed around London for a while, doing the odd session and feeling a great sense of relief; I hadn't really enjoyed it too much".
In 1973 Albert began occasional touring and recording with the Crickets.
"I happened to meet Ric Grech at some press reception and he was about to go on the road with the Crickets...he persuaded me to do a couple of gigs with them since Glen D. Hardin was finishing up some dates with Elvis. I ended up doing the whole tour - and played with them on the next one too.
"Not long after the first Crickets tour, they flew me out to LA because they'd got a record deal...and then we drove the 2000 odd miles to Nashville - all at one go! Drove there non-stop in three and a half days! Blimey...I don't ever want to do that again!."
The album was 'Long Way From Lubock' (Mercury 6310007 - Apr 74). After a second UK tour, Albert left the Crickets and moved to Los Angeles for good.
His career took a turn upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Somewhat disappointed in efforts to gain recognition through touring, he pursued the difficult course of L.A. session work. Through his association with the Crickets he met musical idols, Phil and Don Everly, and their friendship remains to this day. At the time Don was gigging informally at the Sundance Saloon, in Calabasas, near L.A. Albert accepted Don's invitation to sit in along with pedal steel titan Buddy Emmons. Their reputation as a monster group spread quickly, and their Tuesday night gigs became legendary. Albert and the nucleus of Heads Hands & Feet played on Don's second album 'Sunset Towers' and a tour was in the pipeline when Albert got the call from Joe Cocker. After Albert left, Lindsey Buckingham was chosen to take his place. (Lindsey toured with Don and got to play with his idol Merle Travis, while still building up a following with Buckingham/Nicks who were later snapped up by Fleetwood Mac).
Lee's reputation was growing, and his talents led him to more studio and road work. Albert and Pete Gavin (ex HHF drummer) got the S.O.S. call from Joe Cocker's manager, Reggie Locke (ex HHF boss). and joined up. They troued America twice during last half of 74.
"Joe is a great guy, but he was certainly having a few problems then. He was nervous, jittery...couldn't eat...was drinking heavily. He'd throw up on stage most nights - but he finished the whole tour"
After considerable personnel shuffle, they toured Australia and New Zealand (March '75), after which Albert left. The only Cocker album Albert contributed to was 'Sting Ray'. By this time, A&M had approached him to do a solo album on which he now concentrated. "I worked on my album, on and off, for the rest of '75 - flying in Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock and using them along with Pete Gavin and J.D. Maness - but it didn't really turn out the way I wanted it to...which was my fault entirely: I didn't really do enough preparation and made the mistake of trying to produce it myself. The results were shelved until 1978, when I did most of it again - with Brian Ahern producing. Only 2 tracks survive from the earlier sessions, the rest is new." Before the album was finished, however, Albert came to another crossroads. He saw Emmylou Harris at a club called the Laguna Bowl in early 1976 and Emmylou planned to ask him to join the Band when James Burton left. This plan was accelerated when Burton fell ill with 'flu. An old acquaintance from the Cricket days, veteran session pianist Glen D. Hardin, asked him to fill in. Burton was committed to Elvis Preley's road group while maintaining his slot with Emmylou, but when scheduling finally became too hectic for him in the spring of 1976, Lee was asked to become a permanent Hot Band member. Albert first played with The Hot Band at The Branding Iron in San Bernadino in February 1976. Luxury Liner was Emmylou's first LP to feature Lee's accompaniment, and its brisk title track amply displayed his amazing agility. (Frank Reckard replaced Albert Lee two years later and stand-ins over the years for once-off gigs have included Bob Warford, Jay Lacey and Vince Gill).
Lee chose this time to complete his postponed solo album, with the assistance of producer Brian Ahern and the Hot Band, 'Hiding' (A&M, AMLH64750) was released in February 1979. It included Albert on vocals, piano and guitar and offered perhaps the definitive rendition of "Country Boy", with Ricky Skaggs helping out on fiddle and Emmylou on backing vocals. Although Albert's solo career led to his departure from the Hot Band in 1978, his guitar work has graced many of Emmylou Harris's LPs since Luxury Liner, including the Grammy award-winning Blue Kentucky Girl, and Evangeline.
In December 1978, Albert came home to London for Christmas and while there played on a Marc Benno session (for 'Lost In Austin'), where he me Eric Clapton who invited him to join his band. He toured with Eric Clapton and performed on Clapton's double album, Just One Night. Recorded live at The Budokan theatre, Tokyo, the album featured Albert on lead vocals for a cover of Mark Knopfler's 'Setting Me Up'. He also added his touches to Eric's LPs Another Ticket and Money and Cigarettes. Albert continued to work with Clapton for five years before Eric decided to change his entire band.
Around this time Albert played a role in Paul Kennerley's musical documentary album, The Legend of Jesse James, and continued to work closely with the Hot Band. In spring of 1982 he signed a deal with Polydor who released his second solo album "Albert Lee" (POLS 1067 Aug'82).
In 1983 he was an instigator in the Everly Brothers reunion when he was chosen as guitarist/musical director for the Everly's first concert in 10 years at The Royal Albert Hall in London. He continues to tour with The Everlys spending up to four or five months on the road with them each year.
Two instrumental albums were released on the MCA Masters series - "Speechless" 1986 and "Gagged But Not Bound". In 1987 Albert was approached by Gerry Hogan to headline at a steel guitar festival in Newbury, England. Although daunted at first by the prospect of fronting his own band, the gig was a success and Albert now tours Europe with Hogan's Heroes. In 1993 Albert released his first vocal-oriented album in years - "In Full Flight", was recorded live at Montreux with Hogan's Heroes.
Through his association with The Ernie Ball co. Albert has appeared occasionally with The Biff Baby All-Stars - a celebrity supergroup who's members include Eddie Van Halen, Steve Morse and Steve Lukather.
More recenlty Albert has been touring with ex-Stone Bill Wyman and his band The Rhythm Kings. The band is a veritable who's who of british rock - Albert shares the stage with Bill, Peter Frampton and Georgie Fame. "I recorded about a dozen tracks for him [Bill Wyman] last year ['96] and thought no more about it until I got a call from his office telling me an album was coming and would I like to do some gigs. We only did three cities; Hamburg, Amsterdam and London. It was great fun and I hope we do it again next year".
Albert Lee: State of the Art Country-Rock Guitar (GP, May 1981)
"Sweet Little Lisa" [on Dave Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary] was an overdub, but it was all one take. I was really pleased because it came out so well, but I couldn't believe how high he mixed it up -- it's right up front. It was painful at first to listen to -- you really had to listen to hear the backing--but it came out really well.
Video Thumb Albert Lee (Sweet Little Lisa) DAVE EDMUNDS UNBEFUCKINGLIEVABLE! 5:13 Added about an hour ago http://post.ly/1nBpw AND NICK LOWE WATCHES TOO! Get ready guitarists and music lovers to get a musical chubby and or moist place in your vagina for the only musician who Dave EdmUnds may stand aside in massive awe to sweeten up anything he is plugged into. I do not break out euphemisms when I say this is the UNSEEN INSTUDIO PRIVATE SESSION OF SWEET LITTLE LISA THAT WILL LEAVE ALL OF YOU SUPPOSED GUITAR SLINGERS FANDANGOLESS. LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BEST CHICKEN PICKEN' COUNTRY BAKERSFIELD PICKER WHO WAS EVER REARED IN BLIGHTY, MR. ALBERT LEE!!!!!!!!! Albert Lee (Sweet Little Lisa) DAVE EDMONDS 'Makes My Dick Hard!'Related Searches by Google
Staccato hot burst from the stage, chasing the vocal like buckshot shadowing the Roadrunner. The tune is careening headlong around the horn as the lead guitarist maneuvers fearlessly through every curve, somehow calm at 90 miles an hour, punctuating each escalating statement with some new, other-worldly resolution until the song suddenly ends with an impossible syncopated phrase. The audience roars, except perhaps for a few stunned guitarists who stare in disbelief at Albert Lee. The gaping pickers shake their heads in bewilderment: How does he do it?
The most obvious musical hallmark of England's Albert Lee is his taste and precision at high speeds, although he will be the first to tell you with a wide grin that "speed isn't everything, but it helps." One irony of his career is suggested by the lyrics of his song "Country Boy" -- I may look like a city slicker... underneath I'm just a cotton picker -- for although he graduated with honors from Britain's 1960 rock and roll school, he has the reputation of being one of the world's eminent country guitarists.
As an accompanist, Albert differs significantly from the studio multi-stylists who can sound like just about anybody; armed with a Telecaster, he can perfectly embellish music as diverse as Emmylou Harris' modern country or Dave Edmunds' churning rock or even Eric Clapton's funky blues, while always managing to sound exactly like himself.
As Emmylou says, "Albert is conscious of different styles when he's playing due to his early love of country music, the Loving Brothers, and the Everly Brothers. His playing is hard and metallic but clear and lyrical, with a rock and roll edge. One night onstage during 'Luxury Liner,' at the point where Albert takes off, I turned to Rodney Crewel and said, 'Look at that cave man go.'"
Lee's musicianship is considered state-of-the-art among fellow artists. His right-hand technique employs both the flyspeck and several fingers, all at once. And although he holds the pick between the thumb and first finger, he is ever ready to bust out with some right-hand unpacking, a 5-string banjo roll, or an occasional pedal steel lick -- often but not always with the help of a guitar mounted pitch-changing device, or pull-string.
Many guitarists have explored the deceptively subtle language of the Fender Telecaster, but few are as fluent or as eloquent as Albert Lee. Like Roy Buchanan or Arlen Roth he is a master of the blistering Tell lick, and like Steve Cropper or James Burton he can mold a disarmingly simple phrase into the perfect fill. He elevates rhythm guitar playing above the common crank-and-bash method to a sophisticated chord-melody style, complete with pianistic boogie bass lines and killer single-note fills. Dave Edmunds' rave-up version of "Sweet Little Lisa" on Repeat When Necessary spotlights this refined but gritty rhythm style.
Albert's career has led him to many roles in the record business: band founder and member, sideman, solo artist, studio musician. Since February of '79 he has played side by side with Eric Clapton as a member of Eric's touring and studio band. Aside from Emmylou Harris, Dave Edmunds, and Eric Clapton, a list of other artists with whom he has recorded and/or toured suggests both his versatility and musical prowess: Don Everly, Joe Cocker, Herbie Mann, Eddie Harris, Rosanne Cash, Jackson Browne, Rodney Crowell, Joan Arbitrating, and the Crickets.
Albert Lee was born on December 21, 1943 in Here fordshire, England, where his father played English pub music on piano and accordion. At the age of seven Albert took up piano and studied formally for two years, delving into the styleics, leaning pop tunes, and coming to love rock and roll in part through the music of Jerry Lee Lewis.
In about 1958 he got his hands on his first guitar, a Hoofer President acoustic archetype. Taking an immediate liking to Buddy Holly and the Crickets, he leaned all he could from their records. For a time the acoustic guitar served its purpose, but soon Albert longed for an electric like the one on the cover of the Chirping Crickets Album [out of print], a Fender Straitjacket. He finally scored a Czechoslovakian copy of the Strait called a Crazies.
Due to an insatiable craving for American country, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues, Albert diligently studied recordings by Jimmy Bryant, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps (featuring Cliff Gallup on lead guitar), the Louvin Brothers, Ricky Nelson (James Burton on lead), an especially the Everly Brothers. An important milestone was guitarist Hank Garland's masterwork, Jazz Winds From A New Direction, the 1960 LP that shattered the barriers between jazz and country.
In 1964 Albert Joined fellow Englishmen Chris Fallowed and the Underbids, a seminal R&B/rock and roll band that was somehow overlooked in the U.S. during the British "invasion" of the mid-'60s. He recorded and toured with Farlowe for four years and during this period Albert influenced younger British guitarists, among them Jimmy Page and Steve Howe.
From 1968 to 1970 Albert played throughout England in various club bands, often supporting American country artists on European tours. He then co-founded Heads Hands & Feet, a band whose eclectic sound blended British and American rock and country influences. Their debut album of 1971, Heads Hands & Feet, featured Albert's now-styleic original version of "Country Boy," a showcase for his dazzling picking style. Tracks and Old Soldiers Never Die followed. As the last Lip's title implies, a sense of frustration had set in over the group's lack of acceptance; they disbanded before its release.
Shortly after the group's demise, its crack rhythm section was signed on as the core of support for what would become Jerry Lee Lewis' The Session album. Although sometimes a bit tattered around the edges -- due to the "Killer's" penchant for minimal rehearsals and foot-to-the-floor-arrangements -- the record still crackles with energy, thanks in part to Albert Lee's daredevil rock and roll magic.
In 1973 Lee began occasional touring and recording with the Crickets. A year later, his career took a turn upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Somewhat disappointed in efforts to gain recognition through touring, he pursued the difficult course of L.A. session work. Through his association with the Crickets he met a musical idol, Don Everly of the Everly Brothers, and their friendship remains close to this day.
At the time Don was gigging informally at the Suntans Saloon, a rustic little club in Calabooses, near L.A. Albert accepted Don's invitation to sit in along with pedal steel titan Buddy Ermines. Their reputations as a monster group spread quickly, and their Tuesday-night gigs became legendary. Albert recalls: "I walked in one night and couldn't believe it -- there was Ermines sitting there. He used to just nail me to the wall. I had to stop playing sometimes. I couldn't even play rhythm when he'd go into a solo. And he was so unassuming, so quiet, he'd just sit there and hardly utter a word. He'd be so polite: 'Excuse me, I'm going to do a solo now.' He just killed me -- everything he did." The jamming partners later evolved into the studio unit for Waverly's Sunset Towers LP.
Albert's reputation grew, and his talents led him to more studio and road work. He joined Joe Crockery's 1974 tour of Australia and New Zealand, and his abilities attracted the attention of Cracker's A&M record label. In 1975 he signed on as a solo artist.
Before the solo album was finished, however, Albert came to another crossroads. An old acquaintance from the Cricket days -- veteran session pianist Glen D Hardin -- asked him to fill in for James Burton in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band. Burton was committed to Elvis Presley's road group while maintaining his slot with Harris, but when scheduling finally became too hectic for him in the spring of 1976, Albert was asked to become a permanent Hot Bender. Luxury Liner was Emmylou's first LP to feature Lee's accomplishment, and its brisk title track amply displayed his amazing agility. The heart-rending "Poncho & Lefty" was underscored by Albert's lyrical sensitivity, while Chuck Berry's "Chest La Vie" was impeccably punctuated with excerpts from his rock and roll vocabulary.
Lee chose this time to complete his postponed solo album, and with the keen assistance of producer Brian Ahem and the Hot Band, Hiding was released in 1979. It included Albert's lively vocals, rollicking piano style, and searing guitar work, and although in no way was this strictly a country album, it offered another rendition of "Country Boy." (There is little resemblance to the original: The new version features a snappier rhythm track and was predominantly played on a Telecaster, whereas the original was preformed entirely on a nylon-string.) The song's remarkable final solo uses an Archipelago to achieve a boggling avalanche of sixteenth-notes.
Although Albert's solo career led to his departure from the Hot Band in 1978, his guitar work has graced every one of the Emmylou Harris' LPs since Luxury Liner, including the Grammy award-winning Blue Kentucky Girl in 1979. Evangeline, released earlier this year, sizzles with more of his solo work on "How High The Moon" and "Oh Atlanta," while the title track is embellished by his lilting, emotional fills. In December 1980 Lee was voted into third place in the Best Country Guitarist category of the annual Guitar Player Readers' Poll.
Now Albert is on the road again as a featured member of the Eric Clapton Band. He performed on Clapton's live album of last year, Just One Night, and has added his touches to Eric's latest studio LP, Another Ticket. He recently played a major role on Paul Kernel's beautiful musical documentary album, The Legend Of Jesse James.
Albert has adopted the expression Posh Rat for his company. The term refers to a half-gypsy, and it seems especially appropriate for Albert Lee, who at age 37 shows ho signs of forsaking the musician's life on the road.
Many people consider it ironic that a member of England's electric guitar scene of the 1960's went on to distinguish himself primarily as a country stylist.
Americans think we're really isolated in England, but we're not. It's the same thing that happened to the Beatles -- they were exposed to all those records from all different markets and types of music. We get the best of everything over there. If it's good, it filters over, I was lucky enough to pick out some good records.
Who were your earliest guitar influences?
The first playing that I really liked was Buddy Holly. As far as technique was concerned, the first records were the early Gene Vincent songs with Cliff Gallup on guitar. He was very influenced by Les Paul and Chet Atkins. Trying to learn his solos really got me to develop more of a jazz technique, using all my fingers and playing scales as opposed to two-fingered walk-ups across the strings. I used to buy everything the Everly Brothers did and also everything to Jerry Lee Lewis, because I always loved to play piano as well.
Where did you first encounter James Burton's Playing -- on a Ricky Nelson record?
Yeah, all of those solos just knocked me out, everything he did, because Iowas really alien at the time. I thought: "How was he doing that? I never knew that anyone could play with an unwound third string. Duane Eddy came over to England in 1960 and did an interview and said, "Well, yeah, all the hot players in the States use thin banjo strings." So then I started using two first strings and throwing away the sixth so that the fifth was on the bottom. That was heavy compared to what I'm using now, but I used to get a great tone out of the Les Paul with that combination.
On one of the Heads Hands & Feet album jackets that's a photo of you with Jerry Reed. Did he influence your playing?
Oh yeah, he was a big influence. What he was doing wasn't totally new to me, but he sort of put the stamp of approval on what I was trying to do. I was really into that kind of playing, and when he came along I thought, "Boy, that's where it's at, he's doing it right."
Chris Flowers band was influential in England, yet it never received much recognition in the United States.
That was a great band. It was so frustrating at the time because we thought we were one of the best. It was hard-driving rock and roll with rhythm and blues, just a small group with guitar, bass, drums, and piano.
Why didn't you go the standard route -- plug into a Marshall and do the Jimmy Page thing?
Well, I've always played this way, in more of a James Burton vein with some jazz thrown in. Everybody went into Mars halls and really cranked it up, but I just wasn't interested -- it didn't turn me on at all. Maybe I'd be a lot richer now if it had, but I was really enjoying what I was doing at the time.
Have you always used a Telecaster?
Since 1963. My first good guitar was a Les Paul Custom, a single-cutaway 3-pickup model. That was great. I sold it because I wanted to get a More Scatty [Elvis' guitarist] model, a Gibson Super 400. Big mistake! It was just a disaster, totally wrong for the way I was playing. Perhaps the only good thing to come of it was the according to Steve Howe, I encouraged him to play an archetype.
When you started playing Telecasters, had you heard that sound before or did you discover it on your own?
Telecasters were quite rare in England. They had the image of being a rhythm guitar because the band over there in the early '60s was Cliff Richard and the Shadows. The lead player had a Strait and the rhythm player had a Telecaster, so everyone thought that Tales were rhythm guitar sand there weren't that many around. I got an old Tee, about a '59 or '60, and it must have been one of the first with rosewood fingerboard. It cost about $120.00 and was pretty beaten up. The guy at the store said, "Look, a James Burton guitar." It seemed really Mickey Mouse compared to the Les Paul Custom, but as soon as I played it I thought, this is great. It sounded so live, so electric, more so than anything I'd ever played. From then on it was always number one. My style evolved around that guitar. I suppose my favorite is my '53 Tale.
More than any other guitar the Telecaster seems to have fostered a whole school of players such as yourself, Roy Buchanan, and James Burton. It's almost as if the Telecaster has a language all it's own.
That style just doesn't sound right on another guitar. I'll get really frustrated sometimes and dig out the Strata or my Les Paul and take it along to a gig, and I'll think, ah, shit, I wish I'd brought the Tee. Even though the others have great characters of their own, you develop a style on a Tee you don't develop on another guitar.
Do you prefer a maple fingerboard over rosewood?
I haven't really found that much difference, although I know a lot of people have. I wish I still had my old rosewood-neck Tele, but I always wanted the older maple-neck kind because it looked so neat with a line running down the back of the neck. When they first started importing Fenders to England in about 1960, you didn't see anything like the maple-neck Teles. You only saw them in photographs and on album covers. That's why I just went crazy when I first came to the States -- I just had to have a '50s Tee and a Strait as well. I finally got myself a Buddy Holly type sunburst Strat.
Have you recorded much with that guitar?
I used it on Clapton's live album and quite a lot on my solo album too, for rhythm things. I really like the Strat's rhythm sound, but I guess I'll always be a Tele man.
Do you have a vibrato on your Strata?
Yeah, when I bought the guitar, the arm was missing. I've been meaning to pick one up somewhere.
Does it stay in tune?
Yeah, it does. It has five springs on the back. I borrowed an arm and put it in and found that it's really easy to use with five springs.
Have your Tales been fretted?
The '53 has original frets, but the brown one that I have in England has new frets; John Crushers did the work for me. Most of the electrical work I did myself-repairs, replacing switches, and the like. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Do you find it difficult to go from one guitar to another?
I can adjust. I'll try and play licks that I would only play on the Tele and just don't sound the same on the Strat. You have to tailor your playing accordingly. Moving to an acoustic guitar also takes some adjustments. I really like to practice on acoustic myself, and I don't do too much practicing at home on electric.
On Jerry Lee Lewis' The Session album jacket there are some photos of you with a Gibson SIG.
Ah, that was one of Pete Downshifts breakups. One of his roadies gave me the bits. It was in about four pieces: " Here, do what you want with this [laughs]; we've just got boxes of 'em -- we don't know what to do with 'em." So this American friend of mine, Keith Nelson -- a great banjo player and excellent craftsman who lives in London -- stuck it all together and put some nice inlays down the neck. It's a great guitar now, it really is.
Did you use it very much on the sessions with Jerry Lee?
No, most of the tracks were done with the Tele and some with the pull-string. [Ed. Note: A pull-string guitar entails internal cranks and linkages that connect to the forward strap button at one end and to one end and to one or more strings at the other. Pulling down on the neck against the guitar strap's tension engages the mechanism and raises the appropriate strings(s), permitting pedal steel effects.]
Are you playing much pull-string these days?
Not very much. I rarely play it onstage, but I always find an opportunity to use it in the studio.
Do you listen to steel players for pull-string inspiration?
There was a period when I wanted to be a steel player. I had a steel for about a year, but I never really played it. It was a really Mickey Mouse English one.
Who made your custom pull-string guitar with the striped body?
That was Dave Evans, a guy who lived in L.A. for a while. He was friendly with [renowned flatpicker] Clarence White for a time and they worked on it. I really don't think that there's much of a market for that kind for thing. You do it for the love of it. There are a lot of players who just can't get on with them. Leo Fender also experimented with the pull-string idea [the Fender Bender, never commercially produced].
Is the Evans similar to the Gene Parsons pull- string design, in that it is built into the guitar?
Yeah, it's a slightly different mechanism, though. I do prefer the Evans because it's what I learned to play on, although every one is different. There's a lever that runs down to the spring where you get your tension, and it's a lot longer on the Evans. You have to rout out more of the guitar to do it, but for me it's definitely a smoother action. For some reason the necks didn't always line up properly. Evans said that he modeled the first one after Clarence's guitar, assuming that all Telecasters were interchangeable. My experience with my two Evans bodies were that if you slapped a Fender neck on there it wasn't lined up -- the first string was hanging off the edge of the neck. I got really frustrated with one of them and just drilled some more holes.
Did you make any other modifications to your Dave Evans pull-string?
I swap pickups a lot. I've had DiMarzios and Seymour Duncans in there. I thought about trying to get a bridge with a roller in it. I mentioned it to Dave, and he said he had toyed with the idea but never followed through. You do have to put a little bit of oil on the bridge because the string actually saws across the bridge and wears it away. You don't have to lubricate it very often, just put on a little oil. I've even used butter when I've been stuck. On my Evans you can adjust the tension of the spring. That's quite necessary. You need to have it as light as possible for an easy playing action, but it can't be so light that when you let go of the guitar on its strap it pulls out of tune.
Is the device very noisy?
Yeah, without lubrication it sounds like somebody sawing through the guitar. The noise of metal against metal goes right through and into the pickup. In fact, I think there are one or two records that I've played on where you can actually hear it.
Do you use a different gauge for the string that attaches to the pull-string?
No, the second string is just my normal gauge.
What are some of the specific chord resolutions you do with the device?
I like to alter the sound of chords. I'll play a chord with the second string flatted a tone, and just bring it up to pitch with the pull-string, like the old steel licks. You can really get some outrageous chords.
On the Telecaster, do you play on the lead pickup most of the time?
All of the time. Sometimes for really honking rock and roll I'll put it out of phase for that funky sound. I love that sound. I've just put a phase switch in- -that's about the only thing I've done to it.
Of all the different pickups that you've tried, have you found any that you like better than the stock Fenders?
Not really. They're all good in their own way, but there's something about the fatness and the inherent distortion in these old pickups. It's frightening to me, really -- if anything happened to my '53 Tele I don't know what I'd do. It gives you a felling of insecurity when you're relying on something that isn't made anymore. I know a lot of guys who'd probably disagree with me, especially Seymour Duncan. He'd say, "I could build something exactly the same or even better."
What pickup do you use on the Strat?
Usually the out-of-phase position between the first and second pickup, the middle sound. The only thing I don't like about the Strats is the weakness of the lead pickup compared to the Tele. If I could get that bite on a Strat, I'd use one all the time. There's something about that bite.
The Gibson jumbo steel-string on the cover of Hiding is particularly unusual, with a black body and huge, cream-colored pickguards.
Oh, my dream guitar, the prototype for the Everly Brothers model. I'd always hoped that one day I'd have one like that. In fact, I was looking around for a J-200 that I could just spray, but I couldn't find one [laughs]. Don Everly has always been my number one favorite singer, and every time I was with him I'd drool over this guitar. He had loaned it to Jerry Allison of the Crickets for nearly ten years and forgotten all about it. He finally got it back and gave it to me, and I just couldn't believe it. It's just the most outrageous guitar.
How did its design come about?
When the Everly Brothers finally got some money, they went out and got matching J-2-s, and then they got the idea of painting them black. Don told me that the drew out the pickguards on brown paper and sent them off to Gibson and said, "I want matching pickguards like this." There's a guy in Holland who's actually started a fan club for the guitar. He's sending out questionnaires to people who own them. There weren't that many made. [Ed. Note: According to Gibson's reasonably accurate shipping records, 488 Everly Bros. models left the factory from 1962 to 1971.] Some would say it's not the greatest of guitars. A real purist would say they were terrible with those pickguards because they do kill the sound, but there's something about them.
Was the Everly Brothers guitar shaped like the Gibson's J-185?
Yes, My prototype is a J-200 that they put pickguards on, but Gibson based the production models on the J-185. [Ed. Note: The Everly Bros. was slightly shallower.] I'm just a custodian for the guitar, looking after it for Don. If he ever wants it back. I'd be happy to let him have it if I could only see him up onstage using it again.
Are there any other unusual guitars in your collection?
Well, I seem to be collecting Everly Brothers at the moment; I'm cornering the market. I've got the prototype, plus a black one, a blond one, and a real strange blond one with only one pickguard on it. It's the factory finish, but it's a second with a '2' stamped on the back of the head. They must have run out of pickguards [laughs].
How many guitars do you have?
About 25, I think. I keep some in England so I don't have to take stuff back and forth. I've got another old Tele, a '52, but I prefer the '53. I have a pull-string in England and one in L.A. I also have a '58 strat with a two-tone sunburst and really early sunburst Jazzmaster with a gold pickguard.
What about other acoustic guitars?
I have a top-of-the-line Mossman Golden Era that's great, and also one of their 12-strings. It's so nice. My favorite recording guitar is my Martin, a '68 000-28, my first really good acoustic. It just records so nice with a perfectly balanced sound. It's amazing how that size guitar is coming into vogue again -- just the perfect size. I have a guitar usually prototype made by Ron Saul, a guitar builder at Earthwood. It's the first guitar he ever made. It's about a 00 Martin size but with a carved back and quite a large sound-hole. I've also got some unusual Gibsons, like a hollow ES-225T from the '50s with a thin body and single cutaway, and an ES-295 -- all gold with trapeze, a real rockabilly guitar.
What kind of acoustic did you use on the Heads Hands & Feet version of "Country Boy"?
A Baldwin electric styleic. It's what Jerry Reed used to use. They have the best sound. But I don't think that they're still available. I just recently picked one up like new for $200.00. The guitar is a cheap acoustic, but it's the pickup -- a Baldwin Prismatone. When I recut "Country Boy" for the solo album, I used an electric Ovation gut-string with a Baldwin pickup built in because it sounds so much better.
What do you think about the vintage guitar market?
It's real sad that there are people around who do it just for money. I see a lot of it on the road with Eric because people come along with primo guitars and just want the earth for them. They know that people like Eric can afford it, although he's stopped buying. There are still a lot of guys who keep buying them. It's all right if you can afford it, but it's hard for people who really need these instruments. I can't believe how much my '53 Tele is worth now. You can pay $1,500.00 for a real good one. I paid about $350.00 for it in 1972. I suppose that was a lot then.''
What kind of flatpicks and strings do you use?
Ernie Ball heavy picks, and Ernie Ball strings, quite light -- perhaps too light. I've changed around a lot. For the last four to five years I've been using this particular set, mixing them rather than buying stock sets. The gauges are .008, .011, .013, .024 wound, 030, and .038. It depends on what guitar I'm using. The Les Paul Custom sounds great with just regular Slinkys, which start with a .010; anything lighter just doesn't have the power. Being all black like that the Les Paul reminds me of a concert grand piano [laughs] -- that's why I like it so much.
When did you start playing mandolin, before the guitar or after?
After. I was influenced by Johnny Duncan. He was around in England during the skiffle era, and he used to do a couple of songs on the mandolin. He had a pickup on it and the sound used to blow me away. I got my first mandolin in 1962, a real cheapo German thing, but it was nicely made, just smothered in inlay. You couldn't buy anything like that now.
What did you use for the mandolin parts on Emmylou Harris' Roses in the Snow album?
I used Brian Ahern's round-hole Gibson F-2, made in the '20s. Boy, it's such a good sounding mandolin and really records well. I know the purists prefer the f-holes of the F-5 because they project a bit more, but the F-2 is really mellow and smooth-sweet sounding for recording -- and I always use that when ever I can.
What kind of effects devices do you use onstage for guitar?
An MXR analog delay and an MXR Phase 100. I've only begun to use effects in the last few years, because the ones that you can buy now really enhance the sound of the guitar. I never bought a fuzztone or a wah-wah. I'd like to have one now; I'd probably find a use for one.
Your guitar solo on Emmylou's version of "How High The Moon" has that Les Paul, speeded-up quality, yet I think you played it straight without effects.
It was done with an Echoplex. The first time I heard it was on a Jim And Jesse album of mandolin instrumentals. Someone told me that Jesse McReynolds is the greatest, the way he backpicks. It sounded outrageous, just too good, but I thought there must be a trick there somewhere. I finally realized that it was done with an Echoplex. I had mine for about two years before I figured out exactly how to do it. I was playing too many notes, when in fact all you have to do is play four beats to the bar.
How do you set the Echoplex for this effect?
You can move the playback head back and forth. If you play four beats to a bar and gradually move the head until it plays in time, it will repeat half a beat later. But you must set it for a beat-and-a-half later and play quarter notes. It sounds like the repeat is directly after the note, but it's not; it's a beat-and-a-half later. It also works two-and-a-half beats later, but I haven't messed around with that so much. You have to keep that four-to-the-bar thing going. If you miss a note or stop playing, the whole thing falls apart. I suppose you could compare it to playing bass -- real simple lines can sound clever. A lot of guys use the Echoplex, especially jazz players, but I've never heard that many people do it in tempo. The way I use it, the repeat must be the same in tone and volume as the original note so that it sounds like you're playing all those repeats.
Do you ever have a problem with the tempo if the band drags?
Oh yeah, often. A few bars before the solo I'll just hit four to a bar and move the heads as best I can so that it sounds in time. You can also hear it on "Sister's Coming Home" on Blue Kentucky Girl, and on the end of "Country Boy" on my solo album. It's not a totally original thing. A lot of guys were doing it in Nashville for a while; then it got to be passe' down here.
What kind of amplifiers do use?
I've almost always had a real small amp, or nothing bigger than a Fender Twin. During the '60s in England I was using a Fender 4x10 Bassman, and with Emmylou I had a 4x10 Music Man with JBLs. It really depends on whom I'm with. At the moment with Eric, I'm using a Music Man 130-watt head with a 4x12 cabinet. I've got two setups -- the one in the States has Electro-Voice speakers, and the one in England has JBLs. Music Man now has a 150-watt top. I want to get that. I've also got one of Music Man's first 2x10 130-watt amps, serial number 124.
What amp settings do you use onstage?
Obviously, it depends on the room. I usually have the master volume up full. I like a nice fat, clean sound. The other volume control is up to about 7, usually.
What amps do you use in the studio?
A bunch of little old amps, like a Fender Pro, a 1955 Model that Sonny Curtis gave me. He used it on some old Holly records. It's a nice amp with one 15" speaker. I used the 2x10 Music Man a lot in the studio. I recently bought an old Supro with a 10" speaker in it for $5.00 at a garage sale. It's great! I used it on The Legend Of Jesse James for all the dirty sounding guitar things.
Are your amplifiers modified in anyway?
Not really. When I first got the Music Mans, the guys who designed them, Tom Walker, rigged them up so I could link them. With the Joe Crocker I had three 4x10s linked so that I could use the controls on one and just the power amps on the other. He did that for a couple of Eric's amps, too. I never use more than one amp now.
Was three amps the biggest setup you've ever used?
Yeah, I couldn't understand it -- I still couldn't get it loud enough. I figured out afterwards that it was the speakers. I didn't really like Eminence speakers. With Electro-Voice or JBLs I would have been happier with one amp, I suppose. The Eminence do the job, and I can understand their predicament because if Music Man put JBLs or other speakers like that in their amps, boy, the price would be just out of reach for most people. They just give you the option to put in your own speakers.
Do you vary your hand position and attack much while playing?
Sometimes I'll play closer to the bridge for a brighter sound. Also, I like to really pull the strings at times and let them slap the frets, although it's pretty hard to do that real fast.
How has your playing changed over the years?
Really I don't think I've changed all that much. It's a bit more refined. Now there are certain more technical things I didn't think of at the beginning. When I listen to things from the early '60s, I'm amazed at how set my style was then.
You play a lot with your flatpick combined with your fingers.
Yeah, I tried to learn fingerstyle with the thumbpick. There was a phase in England when everyone wanted to play like Chet Atkins. Some guys really did it well, but I couldn't quite manage it. I did get my own approximation, but I wanted to do some hot Jimmy Bryant takeoff and couldn't do that with a thumbpick because it was too stiff, so I just developed the use of a flatpick with my fingers.
How many fingers do you use?
Well, I use them all at some time or another. It's not true styleical method. I'll use maybe one finger and a pick and do rolls, whatever finger happens to be nearest at the time.
Have you heard anyone else play that way?
No, not really. The guys that play that style generally do it with a thumbpick. I've never been able to do that. I was relieved to read a really early interview [GP, Apr.'69] with Glen Campbell where he said he used a flatpick and fingers. I thought -- at least I'm on the right track if Glen Campbell does it.
When you're not fingerpicking, it looks like you hold the pick with the thumb and two fingers.
I do, I know that it's wrong. In all the books it says to hold it with your thumb and first finger, with the first finger curled along the side of the pick, but I can't do that. I think I can play faster that way, but I seem to have more control with my thumb and two fingers.
How much do you practice?
Not a lot, actually. It's getting less and less, I'm ashamed to say.
When you do practice, do you have specific scales or exercises you do, or do you just play tunes?
I'm not very good at playing tunes. I usually put on a real hot record, crank it up, and play along with it. It gives me that feeling of playing along with a band, gets the old adrenalin going.
Do you have any favorite records that you play along with?
I suppose one that I play more than any other is Fiddlin' Frenchie. There's a great guitarist on there [Randy Corner]. That's always a great record to play along with.
Have you ever studied jazz?
There are a few players that I've listened to, but I've never had any jazz instructions. The guys who were really hot in the early '60s like Tal Farlow and Jimmy Raney were too far out for me. I didn't know where they were. But I really enjoyed listening to Hank Garland -- that Jazz Winds From A New Direction really turned me on when it first came out. Jimmy Bryant was playing country, but it was obviously from a heavy jazz standpoint, just outrageous. He did quite a few albums with Speedy West, all instrumental, but I suppose people would know him mainly through playing on the old Tennessee Ernie Ford records. He was one of the regular studio players for Capitol in the '50s, and everything he did just blew me away. It's really sad that little or none of his work is available now.
Do you ever play in modes, or are you conscious of playing certain scales over chords?
No, not particularly. I use to practice scales, but I think mainly in positions. I do runs that go from position to position, basically around chord shapes. I can get around pretty easily going from one position to another, and on a good night it sounds pretty hot. I'll take chances. I seem to be able to end up on the wrong foot and somehow get back again. Sometimes I'll trip over myself, but most times I'm lucky.
[Laughing] You seem to have pretty good luck.
[Laughs] Well, I find it pretty hard sometimes if I can hear too much of myself. I try to get away from the amplifier so that I can hear the drums. That's the most important thing for me. I can take chances then because I know the drums are real solid and I can always fall back on them.
Do you practice augmented and diminished scales?
No, I didn't learn any of those things [laughs]. I was very basic, really more interested in country music, which is more basic major and minor scales. I get more fun out of trying to learn a fiddle tune than trying to learn some augmented or diminished runs.
Do you have certain patterns that you know you can step outside the time with, or is that all spontaneous?
It's all spontaneous. A few times it doesn't work, but usually it does. Sometimes it just sounds like I'm trying to play fast for the effect. I couldn't try and work it out mathematically at all, because it would confuse me. It's just the way I feel at the time. If things are going really well, I'll usually try and go for something -- especially if the band is really steaming along. But I try not to do it too much.
It is easy to apply your piano knowledge to the guitar?
Certainly, when I think of scales and things, I can't really see it very well on a guitar fretboard, so I always think of the piano keyboard. It seems so much more logical to me; it's all there. It helped a lot with my guitar technique. If I just spend a couple of days playing a piano, guitar comes so much easier because I'm using the muscles a lot more.
You started on piano, but chose to concentrate on the guitar instead.
Yea, boy, I wish I had preserved and kept at the piano. If the guitar hadn't come along I definitely would have been a keyboard player. I often wonder what style I would be -- would I be a Jerry Lee Lewis, or a Keith Emerson?
Do you use any specific approach towards a guitar solo in the studio?
I never know what I'm going to play, really. I'll have an idea and we'll run it through a couple of times, an then I'll just play around with that -- rarely the same way twice. After about three or four takes I'll reach a peak. If it hasn't quite worked out by then, it will start to deteriorate because I know that I'm repeating myself and it's hard for me to do that. I always try to keep the first take.
Are many of your solos spliced from different takes?
Some are. I don't really like to do that, but sometimes it works well, "Sweet Little Lisa" [on Dave Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary] was an overdub, but it was all one take. I was really pleased because it came out so well, but I couldn't believe how high he mixed it up -- it's right up front. It was painful at first to listen to -- you really had to listen to hear the backing--but it came out really well.
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