Guitarist Alvin Lee of “Ten Years After” dies at 68

Alvin Lee, whose fire-fingered guitar playing drove the British blues-rock band Ten Years After to stardom in the 1960s and early 70′s, died on Wednesday in Spain. He was 68.
He died “after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure” – according to a brief post by family members on his Web site. His manager, Ron Rainey, said that Mr. Lee had been living in southern Spain for some time. Mr. Lee was not as well known as other emerging British guitar stars of the era, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and perhaps even Albert Lee, with whom he was occasionally confused (and with whom he once recorded alongside Jerry Lee Lewis). But he was among the nimblest when it came to musicianship.

Guitarist Alvin Lee of "Ten Years After" dies at 68
Alvin Lee.

Alvin Lee (the speed-fingered British guitarist who lit up Woodstock with a monumental 11-minute version of his song “I’m Going Home”) has died – according to his website. He was 68.
“With great sadness, we have to announce that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure” – read the message on alvinlee.com. “We have lost a wonderful, much loved father and companion. The world has lost a great and truly gifted musician.”
The note was signed by Lee’s daughter, Jasmin, wife, Evi, and former companion Suzanne.
Lee died Wednesday.
Born in Nottingham, England, in 1944, Lee was the leader of the band Ten Years After.
His performance at Woodstock in 1969 catapulted him into the front ranks of the period’s British guitar heroes, which included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend.
In an image from the 1973 book “Rock Dreams,” he and those four others are pictured in tuxedos carrying guitar cases into a building.
“Groups would play for an hour without pausing, not to be mobbed or screamed at but in hopes of an ovation” – critic Nik Cohn wrote about musicians in the caption.

The UK band’s intense 11-minute performance of “I’m Going Home” at Woodstock in 1969 was immortalized in the documentary about the festival, with director Michael Wadleigh focusing almost exclusively on Lee the entire time. With the film’s success, the band’s popularity ballooned and they began playing larger venues around America.
Formed in 1966 in Nottingham, Ten Years After were most active until 1974, scoring four hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including one top 40 hit – “I’d Love to Change the World” (No. 40).
Like many of their peers in the late 60′s and early 70′s, the band found more success with their albums. The band logged 12 entries on the Billboard 200 chart, including five top 40 albums: “SSSSH” (No. 20 in 1969), “Cricklewood Green” (its highest charting album, No. 14 in 1970), “Watt” (No. 21 in 1971), “A Space in Time” (No. 17 in 1971) and “Recorded Live” (No. 39 in 1973).
Two of Lee’s former bandmates in Ten Years After released statements to Billboard following the news on Wednesday.
“We are all stunned. All of us” – drummer Ric Lee, no relation, said. “I don’t think its even sunk in yet as to the reality of his passing. We are all thinking of his family and friends today, and offer our own condolences.”
Bassist Leo Lyons called Lee the “closest thing I had to a brother” and said he was in shock upon hearing of the guitarist’s death.
“We had our differences, but we shared so many great experiences together that nothing can take away” – Lyons said. “I will miss him very much He was an inspiration for a generation of guitar players.”
After leaving the group, Lee launched a prolific solo career with 1973′s “On the Road to Freedom,” a collaboration with Mylon LeFevre that featured guest spots by George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Ron Wood.
Seven of his 14 solo efforts charted on the Billboard 200, with the highest being 1975′s “In Flight” (No. 65).
Lee’s most recent entry on any Billboard chart was in 1986, when the album “Detroit Diesel” hit No. 124 on the Billboard 200. It’s title track also reached No. 24 on the Mainstream Rock airplay tally that same year. His final album, “Still on the Road to Freedom,” was released last year.

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