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Larry Carlton

Like so many other Los Angeles studio musicians, guitarist and composer Larry Carlton was faced with a choice a number of years back: whether to go solo and develop a name for himself, or to continue the less risky, more lucrative existence of a session guitarist, making good money and recording with prominent musicians. Fortunately for fans of this eclectic guitarist, he chose the former, and has recorded under his own name for Warner Bros., MCA Records, GRP Records, and various other labels since 1978.

Carlton's studio credits from the ''0s and early '80s include work with musicians and groups like Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis, Jr., Herb Alpert, Quincy Jones, Bobby Bland, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and literally dozens of others. Among his more notable projects as a session guitarist were Joni Mitchell's critically acclaimed Court and Spark album and Donald Fagen's Nightfly album. For much of the '70s, Carlton was active as a session guitarist, recording on up to 500 albums a year. Although he recorded a number of LPs under his own name as early as 1968's With a Little Help from My Friends (Uni) and 1973's Playing/Singing (Blue Thumb), he didn't land a major-label contract until 1978, when he signed with Warner Bros.

Carlton began taking guitar lessons when he was six. His first professional gig was at a supper club in 1962. After hearing Joe Pass on the radio, he was inspired to play jazz and blues. Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel became important influences soon after he discovered the jazz guitar stylings of Pass. B.B. King and other blues guitarists had an impact on Carlton's style as well. He honed his guitar-playing skills in the clubs and studios of greater Los Angeles while he attended a local junior college and Long Beach State College for a year until the Vietnam War ended. Carlton toured with the Fifth Dimension in 1968 and began doing studio sessions in 1970. His early session work included studio dates with pop musicians like Vikki Carr, Andy Williams, and the Partridge Family.

In 1971, he was asked to join the Crusaders shortly after they'd decided to drop the word "Jazz" from their name, and he remained with the group until 1976. In between tours with the Crusaders, he also did studio session work for hundreds of recordings in every genre. But it was while he with the Crusaders that he developed his signature, highly rhythmic, often bluesy style. His credits include performing on more than 100 gold albums. His theme music credits for TV and films include Against All Odds, Who's the Boss, and the theme for Hill Street Blues. The latter won a Grammy award in 1981 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Carlton delivered his self-titled debut for Warner Bros. in 1978, shortly after he was recognized for his groundbreaking guitar playing on Steely Dan's Royal Scam album. (Carlton contributed the memorable guitar solo on "Kid Charlemagne.'') He released four more albums for Warner Bros., Strikes Twice (1980), Sleepwalk (1981), Eight Times Up (1982), and the Grammy-nominated Friends (1983), before being dropped from the label. He continued studio session work and toured in between, emerging again in 1986 on MCA Records with an all-acoustic album, Discovery, which contained an instrumental remake of Michael McDonald's hit "Minute by Minute." The single won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1987. Carlton's live album Last Nite, released in 1987, got him a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.

While working on his next album for MCA, On Solid Ground, Carlton was the victim of random gun violence, and was shot in the throat by gun-wielding juveniles outside Room 335, his private studio near Burbank, California. The bullet shattered his vocal cords and caused significant nerve trauma, but through intensive therapy and a positive frame of mind, Carlton completed work on On Solid Ground in 1989. He formed Helping Innocent People (HIP), a non-profit group to aid victims of random gun violence.

Despite the tragedy foisted on him in the late '80s after he was shot, with a long period of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Carlton continued his active recording and performing schedule over the next two decades, beginning with a number of albums during the '90s on the GRP label: 1992's Kid Gloves; 1993's Renegade Gentleman; 1995's Larry & Lee (with Lee Ritenour); and 1996's The Gift. Carlton also released the 1995 holiday collection Christmas at My House on MCA. And in 1997 he replaced Lee Ritenour in the popular, contemporary jazz outfit Fourplay, first appearing on the group's 4 album in 1998.

The 2000s found Carlton as active as ever, recording live and in the studio as both leader and collaborator for a variety of labels. Two albums on Warner Bros. began the decade, Fingerprints -- including guest appearances by Michael McDonald, Vince Gill, Kirk Whalum, and Vinnie Colaiuta -- in 2000, and Deep Into It in 2001. A popular concert draw in Japan, Carlton could be heard as a collaborator on two live recordings from that island country during the decade, Live in Osaka (with Steve Lukather), issued in 2001 on the Favored Nations label, and Live in Tokyo (with Robben Ford) on 335 Records in 2007.

Meanwhile, his albums as a leader continued, with Sapphire Blue and Fire Wire released by Bluebird/RCA in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and The Jazz King -- with Carlton leading an all-star band performing music he composed on commission to celebrate the 80th birthday and ascension to the throne of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej -- issued by Sony BMG in 2008. In 2009 Carlton appeared as guest guitarist on selected dates during Steely Dan's U.S. summer tour. Take Your Pick (with Tak Matsumoto) appeared in 2010. Always happy to meet with the press, Carlton has a sweet, peaceful personality, and listeners continue to hear it in his unique rhythmic and warm guitar chords and ringing guitar tones. Carlton was featured on and produced vocalist Michele Pillar's holiday album, I Hear Angels Calling, in 2011. Also appearing in 2011 was Larry Carlton Plays the Sound of Philadelphia, followed by Four Hands & a Heart, Vol. 1 in 2012. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Larry is a legend. Keep the music coming Larry. Thanks for all the "hundreds" of albums you contributed your effort on. Also. Thanks Pandora.
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txladyrah201 5
One of my all time favs.
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lavonnefield s
Funky :)
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..Larry is...well... Larry..nuff said.......
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Saw him on Schuller's Hour of Power show in 1989, shortly after his recovery. Doctors had told him he may never sing again. He sang a beautiful rendition of Our Father Which Art in Heaven on the Schuller show.
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This man is just fantastic. I love his style jazzy blues. Just excellent
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Classic!
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Oh man I wanna swear . Love this guy
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Larry is fantastic!
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queenrasheed a h
I have enjoyed him every since I heard him when he was with FourPlay��
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Ah, SMILES & SMILES TO GO, a Larry Carlton classic! : )
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Long time admirer the man can play. Seeing him live amazing.
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anngreen68
Larry's music makes life worth living
I keep living with his music as he keeps on playing. PD n the PM
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titup18
Larry Carlton is one of the all time best.!!!! " Bar None "
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Larry and his son are so tight and in tune with the whole band! I truly enjoyed the show at the Coach House last friday!!!
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flyfish_chas
Perfect song to relax by.
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Fantastic guitarist great musician outstanding performer n he's a member of fourplay do I have to say more?!!!!
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I've be a fan since the 80s love your music.
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Ugh ugh ugh smooth funky sexy grown folk music
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Good guitar songs Love it
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Clean and great guitar chops!
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This Gentlemen and this song is UNBELIEVABLE Wooowwww. I could lay back and listen to this one song all night long...Simpl y Marvelous. I would like for everyone on the list to join me with a salute with a cup of Organo Gold Gourmet Black Coffee from: www.simplyma r v e l o u s c o f f e e . m y o r g a n o g o l d . c o m We will salute Larry Carlton on May 17, 2014, 11:30 pm. Love everyone...
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morning magic is funky coool:)
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Mr. Carlton enjoying himself just as much as I do.
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gogocetina
i love his work with Michael Franks back in the day.
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Been listening to Larry since the mid eighties, bad boy!
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greg19rowlet t
Larry Carlton is the BEST!!!!
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Did he ever do any session with the Double Brothers? Does anyone know?
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roxxinmoodi
I luv his sound.....li k e Bob James, just easy 2 listen 2!
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smooooth.... .
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Always been a fan...SASTO, m e l l o w . . . ;-)
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swellspinky7 7
This is soooooo nice!!!!
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KOOOOOL!!!!!
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johnmargie6
I love this, easy on the ears, first time for me.
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Live at Osaka with Steve Lukather - Room 335, Awesome!
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This guy is just awesome-plai n and simple.
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My my my what would this world be without the magic of jazz
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rogerblocke
Pandora Rules! They pay royalties for every song played wether its 10 seconds or 5 minutes long...
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Greatness
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I loved his touch on The Art of Tea from Micheal Franks back in the 70's!
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andrew8044
The guy can play a guitar for sure... technically very good, but over-all it's the kind of waiting room music that makes me want to drive bamboo splinters under my fingernails. Sorry Larry.
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What a resume! He can do it all….clean sound with rhythm.
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Classy sound!!!
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drivewithlou
You da man Larry!
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Isn't he the regular Monday night performer at the Baked Potato? Oh wait, it's not the 70's any more.... darn.
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rarsnyder
He is Just a Wonderful Musician!!.. . a n d a Great Beautiful person..
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What a musician...i t flows from within him, out of the strings. I love it!
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This is a beautiful song!
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One of my favorite guitarist of all times..
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very good sound
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