Larry Carlton first picked the guitar at age six and has never put it down. As a permanent reminder, Larry's left index finger is more crescent shaped than straight, indicating the hours he dedicated to playing guitar while his hands were still forming. With hundreds of gold and platinum recordings to his credit and a catalog of acclaimed solo projects, Larry is truly a guitarists' guitarist.
RB-Do you remember your first paid session?
LC-Yeah. I think so. The first one I remember getting paid for was with this surf band locally here in California called the Challengers who were making records. The leader of that band was the drummer, Richard Delvy. I knew those guys from the South Bay and they knew me and they knew that I could read music, but also I still sounded like a kid - but a polished kid. So, I remember Richard calling me for a series of sessions one week when I was about sixteen years old, 'cause I was driving. And, uh, it was for the Challengers, but they didn't play on any of their records, and it was all studio guys. I remember Hal Blaine was playing drums, and I believe Larry Knechtal was on it either playing bass or piano and I had. We played "Tequila" and a bunch of cover tunes. I remember I was there because...
Now prior to that I remember doing an unpaid session. I spent the weekend, I don't even remember how I met this guy. But you can see if this is interesting or not. I think I was about twelve. And, I had a manager and I was playing local talent shows and sitting it with various bands. Somehow I ended up spending the weekend with Tommy Reddick and he was the original Jeff in the series, the Television series, Lassie. Okay, that was Tommy. But he was in his twenties by now. And somehow I ended up spending the weekend at his house. And he was into music and if I got there like on a Friday. Well we went to a garage studio on Saturday and laid down a track for this group that he had for these singers that he had found, and we cut a tune called "Oh, What a Night."
RB-The tune that I remember . . .
LC-No, It's oh, what a night ba doom, . . just a one, six, two, five, oldies kind of song, but it wasn't an oldie then. But, anyway we cut this track and about two or three months later on KRLA, which was the big pop station n town at the time, I hear this tune and it's these guys that I cut it with and they were called the Tokens.
LC-Now that was the original Tokens. They ended up selling that name after the hit to the guys who did the "Lyon Sleeps Tonight" and all that stuff. But, yeah, I was twelve or thirteen years old. The reason I remember that so vividly is because when I heard it on the radio I ended the tune with a big G-six-nine cord. And it was on the record. There was an actual ending and I went . . . . and spelled out the six, nine cord. So that was the first hit I ever played on. I was twelve or thirteen.
RB-So you demanded money after that one.
RB-Reflecting back besides your solo projects, what were some of your favorite records?
LC-Well at different stages of my career there were favorites. Uh, I'd say probably the first favorite that I remember would be cutting the Crusader one album. The Crusaders in 1971. Most people know this, but when I was fourteen years old I was jamming along at home with Crusader records and making up harmony parts to the sax player and to the horns. So, then at 23 years old to be called and actually end up cutting an album at hit with them, was just thrilling to me.
RB-What about later in your career.
LC-For sure the Joni Mitchell dates-Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira. Those were milestones for me. My sound became so identifiable with the Crusaders and with Joni that people were copying me by then and that was very flattering.
RB-You want to say anything about what might be a least favorite. Probably a forgotten album, probably something people wouldn't know. But, sometimes that question sparks something.
LC-Nothing comes to mind. There were a lot of mediocre dates.
RB-It was just go in, get paid and go home?
RB-Anything particularly memorable?
LC-There was a session in the early seventies, probably '72, '73 - a movie call I was on with Tommy Tadesco. He was the ‘other' guitar player. I was the young, hot guy who was there to play the contemporary sounding stuff and Tommy was there obviously because of his expertise in reading and everything else. There was one cue that said ‘rock and roll solo' and it was on my music stand, 'cause they planned on my playing it. To make a point to me as a young player, from Tommy who was the veteran - he said, ‘here, give me the part.' And he took the part and he turned on his wa-wa, his fuzz -tone, he turned on virtually everything he had and put it on the treble pick up and when the take started he just started taking his hand and running it up and down the neck as fast as he could with rhythm. He played no real notes and no licks, and at the end of the take everyone from the booth said, ‘that's great, take a break.' Tommy was letting me know that I should not to take this business too seriously because they listen a lot with their eyes and not with their ears.