They say “don’t meet your heroes because they might disappoint.” That old adage ran through my head a thousand times the day I was finally going to meet my personal guitar hero, Larry Carlton.
Like most of us, I first tuned into Larry Carlton back in the 70’s when all that buzz erupted over the incredible Kid Charlemagne solo on Steely Dan’s Royal Scam record. I didn’t know it then, but I’d actually heard Larry’s guitar work hundreds of times before on all kinds of hit records because of his session work with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, The Four Tops, Christopher Cross, Barbra Streisand and so many other top recording artists (3,000 sessions worth!).
You’d be hard-pressed to name any other guitar player in history with a pedigree as diverse and distinguished as Larry Carlton’s.
Meanwhile, that Kid Charlemagne solo changed everything for me and I’ve been a major fan ever since. And it just kept getting better; Crusaders, Fourplay, 38 albums as a solo recording artist, 19 Grammy nominations, 4 Grammys, 3 Adlib Awards, Titan of Tone Award, a couple of Lifetime Achievement awards, and he even collaborated with Mike Post in the theme song for one of my favorite TV shows back in the day, Hill Street Blues. You’d be hard-pressed to name any other guitar player in history with a pedigree as diverse and distinguished as Larry Carlton’s.
For a 3-minute video tour of just a few of Larry’s accomplishments, check out this Larry Carlton EPK video.
So there I was headed to an Italian restaurant in Nashville where I was going to meet and have dinner with Mr. 335 for the very first time. I was hyper-nervous and as giddy as a 13-year old being brought backstage to meet John, Paul, George and Ringo. Fortunately I was not driving.
Robert Williams, Larry’s business partner and manager had set up the dinner. My business partner, Ali had somehow charmed Robert into arranging the dinner for all of us to meet and explore doing some educational projects together. Today, I consider Robert a good friend and a mentor. Robert is scary smart, street-savvy and one of the few real visionaries in the music business. I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s the first person I call when in need of business advice.
You couldn’t meet a sweeter, more humble, more genuine person than Larry Carlton.
Don’t ask me the name of the restaurant. I was in a daze and I don’t remember. Don’t ask me what I ordered to eat. I don’t remember. Don’t ask me what we talked about for two hours. I don’t remember. All I know is you couldn’t meet a sweeter, more humble, more genuine person than Larry Carlton. I also know that at some point during the dinner, Robert and Larry agreed to work with TrueFire.
We’ve done many projects together since that night, and the courses that we’ve produced together represent some of our proudest work. I still have to pinch myself when I see Larry Carlton on the other side of our control room glass. And to see him do his thing in the studio is also remarkable — one-takes all the way, all of the solos always improvised on the spot, giant ears and always receptive to any direction I have the guts to suggest…the consummate pro.
So yea, they say never meet your heroes. I’m glad I didn’t listen, because I met mine and my guitar hero is everything and more than I could have ever hoped for.