AURORA – He might not be as big of a household name as Peter Frampton or B.B. King.
But even though you might not recognize his name, you probably recognize Larry Carlton’s work. The in-demand guitarist has worked with a host of musicians over the years, including the likes of Herb Alpert, Quincy Jones, Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell. Carlton has won four Grammy Awards, including one for the theme song to “Hill Street Blues,” in which he collaborated with Mike Post.
Carlton will perform Friday, Aug. 16, with Frampton, King, Sonny Landreth and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen as part of Frampton’s Guitar Circus at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway Ave., Aurora.
The show starts at 6:30 p.m., and tickets are available at www.riveredgeaurora.com.
Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Carlton about his illustrious career.
Eric Schelkopf: Of course, you’ve been featured on so many different albums over the years. I suppose a lot of people might know your stuff, but not really know you.
Larry Carlton: I definitely am not known like an Eric Clapton or a B.B. King. But I tour the world 100 days a year on my own and I have 30 solo albums.
I have my core audience. They’re so loyal.
ES: Over the years, you’ve been a session guitarist that has been really in demand. For much of the ‘70s, you recorded on up to 500 albums a year. Why do you think you were in so much demand?
LC: A couple of things. I’m a very, very versatile player.
And, I was one of the first young guys if you will – I was about 22 when I started doing sessions – that could actually read music. Back in the session days, they had jazz musicians who could read music, and rock ‘n’ roll guitar players who couldn’t read music.
The producers wanted to have the rock guys there to make the record sound a little more contemporary, but they needed the guys who could read music also.
And I was one of the first young guitar players that could actually read anything and play very contemporary.
ES: Starting out, who were some of the first people you worked with?
LC: One of my first big time sessions was late in 1969. I was with Quincy Jones.
I was subbing for somebody, and somehow Quincy had heard my name. It was back when he was scoring the “Fat Albert” cartoon series.
I got to work with Quincy early on in my career.
ES: What did working with someone like Quincy Jones early on in your career teach you? What did you learn from the experience?
LC: That was intimidating for me. It was a new experience to be on a sound stage, behind other musicians.
It was a brand new experience, and it was all reading music. There was no ad lib.
It was pressure for a 21-year-old guy. Somehow, I pulled it off.
ES: I understand you started taking guitar lessons when you were 6 years old. What attracted you to the guitar in the first place?
LC: There was an acoustic guitar at my grandmother’s house. My parents said I was just fascinated with it at age 4.
They made me wait until I could physically hold the guitar, and then I could start taking music lessons.
ES: At what age did you realize that this could actually lead to something?
LC: I never really thought of it like that. Even when I was in ninth grade, I had already done enough talent shows and enough one-off gigs that I was playing three days a week on the weekend – Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.
So, I’ve always been a musician. There’s always been work. It just kind of happened.