Alvin LeeAlvin Lee was the front-man for British hard-rock band Ten Years After, a Blues-based four-piece who were very popular on the British club scene before exploding to world fame after appearing at the Woodstock Festival. Alvin played staggeringly quick-fingered guitar solos and as the tall, skinny, long-haired guy splattering guitar notes around the room, he became the stereotype of a ‘guitar hero’.

Graham Alvin Barnes was born in Nottingham in 1944, and he formed his first band with school-friend and long term bassist Leo Lyons in 1960 to play Rock’n’Roll like Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore. They were attracted to the club scene that started the Beatles, in Hamburg, Germany and when they returned to London in 1966, they got a residency at the Marquee Club, where they were known as ‘Jaybird’. With Chick Churchill on keyboards and Ric Lee on drums, they changed the name to Ten Years After and when they played the Windsor Rock Festival the next year, they won a recording deal with Deram.

In 1968, their second album, ‘Undead’, was recorded at a London club and showed Alvin’s improvising skills in some extended Blues jams. They toured The States, and their spectacular stage show and good FM airplay built an audience there very quickly. The band was booked for the Newport Jazz Festival and then at Woodstock the band played a nine-minute version of ‘I’m Going Home’, Alvin’s command of dynamics and his lightning-fast fingers on the fretboard brought them to world attention.

Alvin and the boys work out on ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’;

Ten Years After became one of the first huge stadium-rock bands, and they moved ship-loads of records. By 1974, they had toured the States many times and released ten albums, but Alvin was concerned at the direction the music was taking, and he broke up the band after the ‘Positive Vibrations’ album.

There was a constant flow of albums issued over the years, and there was a series of brief re-unions for Festival appearances, and a version of Ten Years After resumed playing in 2003 with Joe Gooch on guitar and vocals. As a solo artist, Alvin released over a dozen albums and made countless guest appearances on other peoples work, for example with Bo Diddley and Scotty Moore. His 70s albums ‘Pump Iron’, ‘Let It Rock’, ‘Rocket Fuel’ and ‘Ride On’ all sold well and Alvin’s band was always on tour. He continued to tour and record over the following decades and his latest album, Still on the Road to Freedom’ was released in 2012. Sadly, Alvin died from complications to a medical procedure on March 6th 2013.