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Larry Eugene Carlton (born March 2, 1948) is an American guitarist who built his career as a studio musician in the 1970s and '80s 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 groups The Crusaders and Fourplay and has maintained a long solo career.[1]

Larry Carlton
Larry Carlton plays guitar 1987.jpg
Larry Carlton in Ithaca, New York, 1987
Background information
Birth nameLarry Eugene Carlton
Born (1948-03-02) March 2, 1948 (age 70)
Torrance, California, U.S.
GenresJazz fusion, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1962–present
LabelsWarner Bros., MCA, GRP
Associated actsSteely Dan, Joni Mitchell, The Crusaders, Fourplay, Robben Ford


Music careerEdit

Session workEdit

Carlton was born in Torrance, California in 1948 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.[1]

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. 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, the Fifth Dimension, Herb Alpert, Christopher Cross, Dolly Parton, Andy Williams, and the Partridge Family. In 1982 he appeared on The Nightfly by Donald Fagen, lead singer for Steely Dan.[1]

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.[2]

Solo careerEdit

Carlton recorded his debut solo album, With a Little Help from My Friends, in 1968. In the mid-'70s he built a home studio and called it Room 335 after the Gibson ES-335, an electric guitar he played often. 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, which delayed completion of the album he was working on at the time, On Solid Ground.[1][3] His left arm was paralyzed and for six months he was unable to play more than a few notes.[4]

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

Carlton was commissioned to compose music for the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in honor of the king's birthday.[1] He recorded The Jazz King (Sony BMG, 2008) with a jazz orchestra that included Tom Scott, Nathan East, and Earl Klugh.[5]

Awards and honorsEdit

  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, "Theme from Hill Street Blues", 1981
  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, "Minute by Minute", 1987
  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, No Substitutions: Live in Osaka, 2001
  • Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, Take Your Pick, 2010

Notable instrumentsEdit

Carlton is best known for his 1969 Gibson ES-335.[6] Other guitars he owns and plays include a 1951 Fender Telecaster, a 1964 Fender Stratocaster, and a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Special.[7] He has used a Fender Vibrolux amplifier, but his standard setup included a Dumble.[6]

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.


Solo studio albumsEdit


  • 1990 Collection (GRP)
  • 1997 Collection Vol. 2 (GRP)
  • 2005 The Very Best of Larry Carlton (GRP)
  • 2012 Now and Then, Featuring Four Hands and a Heart


  • 1979 Mr. 335 Live in Japan (Warner Bros, Japan)
  • 1983 Eight Times Up (Warner Bros.)
  • 1986 Last Nite (MCA)
  • 2001 No Substitutions: Live in Osaka (Favored Nations)
  • 2007 Larry Carlton with Robben Ford Live in Tokyo (335)
  • 2001 Larry Carlton Trio, The Paris Concert (335)
  • 2013 Larry Carlton & Robben Ford Unplugged (335)
  • 2015 Larry Carlton David T. Walker @ Billboard Live Tokyo (335)


With FourplayEdit

  • 1998 4
  • 1999 Snowbound
  • 2000 Yes, Please
  • 2002 Heartfelt
  • 2004 Journey
  • 2006 X
  • 2008 Energy
  • 2015 Silver

With The CrusadersEdit

  • 1972 1
  • 1973 The 2nd Crusade
  • 1973 Unsung Heroes
  • 1974 Scratch
  • 1974 Southern Comfort
  • 1975 Chain Reaction
  • 1975 Those Southern Knights
  • 1976 Free as the Wind
  • 1980 Standing Tall
  • 1986 The Good and the Bad Times
  • 1994 Happy Again
  • 1996 Way Back Home
  • 1996 Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 2003 Groove Crusade

As sidemanEdit

With Steely Dan

  • 1975 Katy Lied
  • 1976 The Royal Scam
  • 1977 Aja
  • 1980 Gaucho

With Joni Mitchell

  • 1974 Court and Spark
  • 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns
  • 1976 Hejira
  • 1977 Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
  • 1982 Wild Things Run Fast
  • 2004 Dreamland
  • 2014 Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced

With others


  • 1987 Larry Carlton Live
  • 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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Skelly, Richard. "Larry Carlton". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  2. ^ ""The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs"". Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved 2017-05-05.. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  3. ^ Gress, Jesse (1 September 2009). "10 Things You Gotta Do To Play Like Larry Carlton". Guitar Player. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  4. ^ Heim, Chris (30 June 1989). "Guitarist Larry Carlton Puts Tragic Shooting Behind Him". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  5. ^ "The Jazz King Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Heidt, John (May 2001). "Larry Carlton: The Return of Mr. 335". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Bolinger, John (July 2014). "Rig Rundown: Larry Carlton". Premier Guitar. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  8. ^ "Larry Carlton | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Theme from Hill Street Blues". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Larry Carlton | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 December 2016.

External linksEdit