Now a country music superstar, winner of 22-Grammys and who last toured Australia as part of The Eagles, Vince Gill was still establishing his solo career when the Australian tour took place.
Now based in Nashville, he knew Albert Lee when they were both living in Los Angeles and moving around in the same music circles.
On Live at The Prince of Wales Hotel, 1988, Vince can be heard laughingly telling the audience, “I was the only one in the US stupid enough to play after Albert Lee!”
Thirty three years later, Vince exclaims, “That’s still true! No one plays like Albert. He has a swing and a bounce, and so intoxicating to play with.
“There’s absolutely no competition when we play together, just total admiration.”
In 1988, Albert Lee enjoyed legend status among other musicians.
Born in England, he was “the guitarist’s guitarist”, for his technical virtuosity and for playing his Telecaster at breakneck speed.
This was the time of squealing feedback courtesy Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Lee wanted to play country music and thought he’d try his luck in Los Angeles in 1974. He was embraced there, recording and touring with heaps of musicians, notably with the Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris.
“We were the youngsters who picked up the mantle after the great country names like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard,” Albert recalls.
“That’s when I first met Vince. He was more into bluegrass. But he and Ricky Skaggs would tell you I was an influence on them picking up the guitar.”
Listening to Live at The Prince of Wales, 1988 brought back memories.
“I wasn’t nervous about hearing those old tapes because I knew we played well,” Albert says. “But we wanted to do this for ARCA’s Roadie Fund. Being a crew member is tough and there’s no pension, so it’s all I could do to help.
“I don’t think there’s a fund like ARCA’s in America, not that I’ve heard of. But I do know musicians are doing charity shows for crews.”
Vince put the spotlight on the relationship between musicians and crews.
“The sound, the lights, everything’s done for you. So many guys who do that are musicians themselves. Maybe they never made it up to that level of musicianship or singing but they love being around people who love the same things.
“It’s been a crazy 12 to 18 months and it’s apparent everybody is struggling. Everyone’s in the same boat, and there are a lot of good people doing things like this to give a hand up.”
On Live At The Prince Of Wales, 1988, the mood is both laid-back yet intense, the crowd cheering them along as they exchange licks, harmonies and affectionate stage patter.