Personalities | Larry Carlton | A Guitarist’s Guitarist | Guitar Heroes

With his work as a studio player and as a prolific solo and guest artist, Larry Carlton (b. 1948) has long been known as a guitarist’s guitarist. Carlton has won three Grammys for his performances and compositions.

Carlton started learning to play guitar when he was six years old. He warmed to jazz in high school and was influenced by Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel and B.B. King. Saxophonist John Coltrane also made a notable impression on Carlton.

During the Seventies and early Eighties, Carlton was a busy session musician in Los Angeles, appearing on up to 500 recordings a year, including albums by Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel and Quincy Jones. His guitar work on Steely Dan’s ‘Kid Charlemagne’ (from their 1976 album The Royal Scam) was named the third best guitar solo on record by Rolling Stone magazine.

From 1971 to 1976 Carlton played with the R&B-jazz group the Crusaders. In 1977 he signed with Warner Bros.. Carlton produced six albums from 1978 to 1984. His 1983 LP Friends garnered a Grammy nomination. In 1985 he released the acoustic jazz album Alone/But Never Alone. He won a Grammy for his cover of the Doobie Brothers’ ‘Minute By Minute’ from the successful LP Discovery (1986). In 1987 Carlton was the victim of random violence when he was shot in the throat outside his private studio in southern California. Carlton recovered quickly, though, and completed the album On Solid Ground. He followed up with Kid Gloves (1992) and the blues album Renegade Gentleman.

From 1994 to 1997 Carlton toured with Toto guitar ace Steve Lukather, and recorded an album with guitarist Lee Ritenour. In 1997 he took Ritenour’s place in the successful smooth jazz quartet, Fourplay. In 2000 Carlton released Fingerprints. His live album with Lukather, No Substitutions: Live At Osaka (2001), garnered his third Grammy. At the beginning of 2007 Carlton released a live recording with guitarist Robben Ford (Live In Tokyo). In summer 2009, Carlton joined Steely Dan for selected dates on the band's Rent Party ’09 tour.

Gibson produces a signature Larry Carlton model based on Carlton’s own 1968 Gibson ES-335, from which he gained his nickname, Mr. 335.

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