Personalities | Adrian Belew | An Underrated Six-Stringer | Guitar Heroes

Master of guitar-generated sound effects, Adrian Belew (b. 1949) makes his Parker Deluxe guitar not only sing but also scream, squawk, roar, tweet and talk in elephant tongue. Best known for his time in King Crimson during the early Eighties as comic foil to Robert Fripp’s relatively nerdy straight man, Belew is one of the most underrated six-stringers in the world today.

Adrian was born Robert Steven Belew in Covington, Kentucky. He began his musical career as a drummer, playing in his high-school marching band. But after discovering the Beatles, he picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play. After honing his skills, he joined a popular Nashville-area cover band called Sweetheart in 1975. Two years later, while on a Nashville tour stop, Frank Zappa caught a show and immediately recruited Belew to join his own band, which he did.

As Zappa’s 1978 world tour was winding down, David Bowie saw Belew’s performance and invited him to join his band after his Zappa stint was finished. Belew took the gig and accompanied Bowie on his 1978 world tour as well as on his 1978 live album, Stage, and 1979’s studio effort, Lodger.

As good fortune would have it, Belew soon met Talking Heads producer Jerry Harrison, who invited him to contribute guitar tracks to their 1980 album Remain In Light and then continue on as a touring guitarist. On the first day of the Talking Heads tour, Belew met guitarist Robert Fripp, who invited him to join a reconstructed King Crimson. Abandoning their prog-rock roots for a more modern, Talking Heads-style sound for which Belew’s quirky guitar style was well-suited, Crimson recorded three acclaimed albums – Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984) – before disbanding once more.

Belew spent the remainder of the Eighties and the first half of the Nineties recording as both a solo artist and a member of the Bears, as well as a session guitarist, notably on Paul Simon’s 1986 masterpiece, Graceland, and Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral (1994). In 1995 he reunited with his Crimson mates to record THRAK, and has since recorded two more King Crimson albums. Belew continues to explore new musical frontiers in his Power Trio. He released A Cup Of Coffee And A Slice of Time (2009) with pianist Michael Clay.

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