[Slowhand] Albert Lee's Biography, with EC Foreword
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Mon Apr 14 12:57:47 EDT 2008
Man's email led to a book on a rock legend
Published Date: 14 April 2008
Source: Sussex Express Series
A LEWES writer who emailed a rock music legend 'because no-one had ever
written about him' won himself a dream ticket.
Derek Watts, 64, of Cliffe High Street, is putting the finishing touches to
the first-ever biography of 'the guitar player's guitar player' - Albert
Albert - who coincidentally is the same age - wowed a 1,500-strong audience
at Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings concert at the Brighton Dome earlier this
He now lives in the USA and is best-known here for his work with Eric
Clapton, The Crickets, Emmylou Harris and the Everly Brothers.
His early life takes an astonishing trajectory from Romany roots in South
East London and Kent to the highest pantheon of rock music greats in the USA
and the UK.
No less astonishing is how Hastings-born Derek came to land the job.
He told the Express: 'Albert was a name around my head for about 35 years.
'I went to see the band in 2003 and he just struck a chord.
'I thought, I bet Albert has had an interesting life, and then I discovered
there was no book about him.
'I emailed him and asked if he'd like me to write one.
'I'd written a book about England and Sussex cricketer Jim Parks.'
Albert got back in touch and said he would be interested, although he turned
down numerous approaches from US-based music journalists.
'When I asked why he said: "It's because you've already written a book".'
While Albert was making his name, Derek left university, trained as a
teacher and taught in Sierra Leone and Zambia, returning to teach geography,
history and English in the UK in the 1970s.
This experience at marshalling facts helped him trawl through Albert's life
and set up a 'timeline' so information about each decade could easily be
slotted into place.
'Researching and writing the book was a fantastic journey over
two-and-a-half years - in more ways than one.'
It took Derek and his partner, Gerry (pictured with Albert) to Nashville and
Albert's home town of Los Angeles.
Albert had given Derek signed pieces of paper instructing every one he
wanted to interview 'to give him all the help you can'.
He interviewed the likes of Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis of The Crickets,
Chris Farlowe, Emmylou Harris ('intelligent, articulate, lovely, very
together') Chris Farlowe and Chas and Dave.
In October 2005 he talked at length to Eric Clapton who agreed to write the
There were some he couldn't get hold of in time like Joe Cocker and Shakin'
Stevens - but all Derek's interviewees, no matter how stellar themselves,
agreed every aspiring guitarist wants to play like Albert.
He chatted to Bill Wyman before a Rhythm Kings concert and even sat in on a
two-and-a-half-hour rehearsal - 'one of my abiding and fondest memories.
'They're a bit like a Sunday football team - whoever is around on the day
Derek described his latest subject as 'the most laid-back, unpushy man you
Albert's family were Romany fairground folk operating coconut shies in
London and Kent (yes, some of the coconuts were filled with lead).
He pointed out: 'Romany history is aural and all those tales of dancing
round the camp fire have roots in fact.'
Born in Leominster where his accordian and fiddle-playing dad was on wartime
service, he was taught the piano, mentally transposing the keyboard onto the
frets of his guitar.
He experimented with skiffle where his nomadic soul meshed in spirit with
the established American country scene - itself rooted in the songs and
music of first-generation immigrants who built the railroads.
His talent spiralled him through the 60s into a career with Chris Farlowe's
Thunderbirds and the British cult rock and country group, Heads, Hands and
Feet before moving to the USA.
Married for more than 20 years he has five children, and lives in a
wood-framed house overhanging a canyon in Malibu where every surface is
elbow-deep in books, CDs, musical instruments, 'heaps of stuff which no-one
Country Boy includes 66 photographs, many from Lee's personal collection,
and can be pre-ordered from US-based McFarland at a cover price of $45 or
direct from Amazon.
Publication is expected later this spring.
To find out more log onto www.mcfarlandpub.com and tap Albert Lee or Derek
Watts into the quicksearch space.
The full article contains 753 words and appears in Sussex Express Series
Last Updated: 14 April 2008 10:50 AM
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