Larry Carlton

Larry Eugene Carlton (born March 2, 1948)[1] is an American guitarist who built his career as a studio musician in the 1970s and 1980s for acts such as Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell. He has participated in thousands of recording sessions, recorded on hundreds of albums in many genres, for television and movies, and on more than 100 gold records. He has been a member of the jazz fusion group the Crusaders, the smooth jazz band Fourplay, and has maintained a long solo career.[2]

Larry Carlton
Larry Carlton in Ithaca, New York, 1987
Larry Carlton in Ithaca, New York, 1987
Background information
Birth nameLarry Eugene Carlton
Born (1948-03-02) March 2, 1948 (age 74)
Torrance, California, U.S.
GenresJazz fusion, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1962–present

Music careerEdit

Session workEdit

Carlton was born in Torrance, California, United States,[1] and at the age of six began guitar lessons. His interest in jazz came from hearing guitarist Joe Pass on the radio. From Pass he moved on to jazz guitarists Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery and blues guitarist B.B. King. He went to junior college and Long Beach State College while playing professionally at clubs in Los Angeles.[2]

During the 1970s, he found steady work as a studio musician on electric and acoustic guitar in a variety of genres: pop, jazz pop, rock, rhythm and blues, soul and country.[1] Carlton appeared on hundreds of recording sessions with Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Bobby Bland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Paulinho Da Costa, Charly García, the Fifth Dimension, Herb Alpert, Christopher Cross, Dolly Parton, Andy Williams, and the Partridge Family. Carlton performed on Mike Post's 1981 "Theme from Hill Street Blues".[3] In 1982, he appeared on The Nightfly by Donald Fagen, lead singer for Steely Dan.[2]

His guitar work on Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" from their 1976 LP The Royal Scam was ranked No. 80 on a list of the best guitar songs by Rolling Stone magazine.[4]

Solo careerEdit

Carlton recorded his debut solo album, With a Little Help from My Friends, in 1968. In the mid-1970s he built a home studio and called it Room 335 after the Gibson ES-335, an electric guitar he often played. He has recorded most of his albums at Room 335. In 1988, with his solo career in ascent, he was shot in the throat by a teenager outside Room 335 and suffered nerve and vocal cord damage,[1] which delayed completion of the album he was working on at the time, On Solid Ground.[2][5] His left arm was paralyzed and for six months he was unable to play more than a few notes.[6]

Carlton produced six albums from 1978 to 1984. His version of "Sleepwalk" by Santo Farina climbed the pop and adult contemporary charts. From 1985 to 1990 he did various solo projects, including the live album Last Nite.[1]

Carlton was commissioned to compose music for the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in honor of the king's birthday.[2] He recorded The Jazz King (Sony BMG, 2008) with a jazz orchestra that included Tom Scott, Nathan East, and Earl Klugh.[7]

Awards and honorsEdit

Notable instrumentsEdit

Carlton is best known for his 1969 Gibson ES-335.[8] Other guitars he owns and plays include a 1951 Fender Telecaster, a 1964 Fender Stratocaster, and a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Special.[9] He has used a 1958 Fender Deluxe amplifier, and his standard setup included a Dumble.[8]

He now plays Bludotone amplifiers. In 2020, Carlton began endorsing Sire Guitars, with whom he has a signature line of electric guitars.

Personal lifeEdit

Carlton married contemporary Christian music artist Michele Pillar in 1987; they divorced in 2013. He is the father of Katie Carlton and bass player Travis Carlton.


As leaderEdit

  • With a Little Help from My Friends (UNI/Decca, 1968)
  • Singing/Playing (Blue Thumb, 1973)
  • Larry Carlton (Warner Bros., 1978)
  • Mr. 335 Live in Japan (Warner Bros., 1979)
  • Strikes Twice (Warner Bros., 1980)
  • Eight Times Up [live] (Warner Bros., 1982)
  • Sleepwalk (Warner Bros., 1982)
  • Friends (Warner Bros., 1983)
  • Alone / But Never Alone (MCA 5689, 1986)
  • Last Nite (MCA 5866, 1986)
  • Discovery (MCA 42003, 1987)
  • On Solid Ground (MCA 6237, 1989)
  • Christmas at My House (MCA 6322, 1989)
  • Collection (GRP, 1990)
  • Kid Gloves (GRP, 1992)
  • Renegade Gentleman with Terry McMillan (GRP, 1993)
  • Live at the Greek with Stanley Clarke (Epic, 1994)
  • Larry & Lee with Lee Ritenour (GRP, 1995)
  • The Gift (GRP, 1996)
  • Fingerprints (Warner Bros., 2000)
  • Deep Into It (Warner Bros., 2001)
  • No Substitutions: Live in Osaka with Steve Lukather (Favored Nations, 2001)
  • Sapphire Blue (Bluebird, 2003)
  • Fire Wire (Bluebird, 2006)
  • Live in Tokyo with Robben Ford (335 Records, 2007)
  • Greatest Hits Rerecorded, Volume One (335, 2007)
  • Take Your Pick with Tak Matsumoto (335, 2010)
  • Plays the Sound of Philadelphia (335, 2010)
  • New Morning: The Paris Concert (335, 2011)
  • Four Hands & a Heart, Volume One (335, 2012)
  • Unplugged with Robben Ford (335, 2013)
  • Four Hands & a Heart: Christmas (335, 2014)
  • At Billboard Live Tokyo with David T. Walker (335, 2015)
  • At Blue Note Tokyo with Steve Lukather (335, 2016)
  • Lights On [live] with the SWR Big Band (335, 2017)
  • Soul Searchin' with Paul Brown (Shanachie, 2021)

With the Crusaders

  • Crusaders 1 (Blue Thumb, 1972)
  • The 2nd Crusade (Blue Thumb, 1973)
  • Unsung Heroes (Blue Thumb, 1973)
  • Scratch (Blue Thumb, 1974)
  • Southern Comfort (Blue Thumb, 1974)
  • Chain Reaction (ABC/Blue Thumb, 1975)
  • Those Southern Knights (ABC/Blue Thumb, 1976)
  • Free as the Wind (ABC/Blue Thumb, 1977)
  • The Good and Bad Times (MCA, 1986)
  • Happy Again (Sin-Drome, 1995)
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce (Sin-Drome, 1996)

With Fourplay

  • 4 (Warner Bros., 1998)
  • Snowbound (Warner Bros., 1999)
  • Yes, Please! (Warner Bros., 2000)
  • Heartfelt (Bluebird, 2002)
  • Journey (Bluebird, 2004)
  • X (Bluebird, 2006)
  • Energy (Heads Up, 2008)
  • Silver (Heads Up, 2015)

As sidemanEdit

With Paul Anka

  • The Painter (United Artists, 1976)
  • The Music Man (United Artists, 1977)
  • Headlines (RCA Victor, 1979)

With Joan Baez

With Paulinho da Costa

  • Happy People (Pablo, 1979)
  • Sunrise (Pablo, 1982 [1984])
  • Paulinho Da Costa (Columbia, 1984)

With Four Tops

  • Keeper of the Castle (ABC Dunhill 1972)
  • Main Street People (ABC Dunhill 1973)
  • Meeting of the Minds (DABC unhill 1974)

With Michael Franks

With Lani Hall

With Albert Hammond

With Thelma Houston

With John Klemmer

  • Touch (ABC, 1975)
  • Barefoot Ballet (ABC, 1976)
  • Hush (Elektra, 1981)
  • Music (MCA, 1989)

With Bill LaBounty

  • The Right Direction (Noteworthy Records, 1991)
  • Back To Your Star (Chill Phill Records, 2009)

With Megan McDonough

  • In the Megan Manner (Wooden Nickel/RCA, 1972)
  • Megan Music (Wooden Nickel/RCA, 1972)
  • Keepsake (Wooden Nickel/RCA, 1973)
  • Sketches (Wooden Nickel/RCA, 1974)

With Joni Mitchell

With Anne Murray

With Olivia Newton-John

With Maxine Nightingale

  • Night Life (United Artists, 1977)
  • Love Lines (United Artists, 1978)
  • Lead Me On (Windsong, 1978)

With Michael Omartian

  • White Horse (ABC Dunhill 1974)
  • Adam Again (Myrrh 1977)
  • Mainstream (Sparrow, 1982)

With the Partridge Family

  • The Partridge Family Notebook (Bell, 1972)
  • Shopping Bag (Bell, 1972)
  • Bulletin Board (Bell, 1973)
  • Crossword Puzzle (Bell, 1973)

With Michele Pillar

  • Look Who Loves You Now (Sparrow, 1984)
  • Love Makes All the Difference (Urgent, 1991)
  • I Hear Angels Calling (335 Records, 2006)

With Helen Reddy

With Johnny Rivers

  • L.A. Reggae (United Artists, 1972)
  • Blue Suede Shoes (United Artists, 1973)
  • New Lovers and Old Friends (Epic, 1975)
  • Wild Night (United Artists, 1976)

With Marlena Shaw

With Steely Dan

With Barbra Streisand

With Dionne Warwick

With others


  • 1987 Larry Carlton Live
  • 1988 Scrooged
  • 1989 Star Licks Larry Carlton
  • 1992 Star Licks Larry Carlton Vol. 2
  • 1997 Larry Carlton Live at Montreal International Jazz Festival
  • 2002 Ohne Filter (inakustik)
  • 2002 Live at Montreal Jazz Festival (Eagle)
  • 2004 Larry Carlton Recorded Live in Paris
  • 2005 Carlton/Lukather Band – The Paris Concert (inakustik)
  • 2007 Larry Carlton with Robben Ford Live in Osaka (335) - bonus DVD with CD Larry Carlton with Robben Ford Live in Tokyo
  • 2008 Carlton, Ford + Autour Du Blues – The Paris Concert (inakustik)
  • 2008 Carlton and the Sapphire Blues Band – The Paris Concert (inakustik)
  • 2009 Carlton Trio – The Paris Concert (inakustik)
  • 2004 Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 417. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e Skelly, Richard. "Larry Carlton". AllMusic. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "Top Adult Contemporary Songs of 1981 ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts".
  4. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs". Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  5. ^ Gress, Jesse (September 1, 2009). "10 Things You Gotta Do To Play Like Larry Carlton". Guitar Player. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  6. ^ Heim, Chris (June 30, 1989). "Guitarist Larry Carlton Puts Tragic Shooting Behind Him". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  7. ^ "The Jazz King Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Heidt, John (May 2001). "Larry Carlton: The Return of Mr. 335". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  9. ^ Bolinger, John (July 2014). "Rig Rundown: Larry Carlton". Premier Guitar. Retrieved July 14, 2014.

External linksEdit