Earth Wind & Fire Experience Featuring Al
@ the Love Supreme Jazz Festival
5 July 2014
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World famous guitarist and multi-platinum songwriter. Veteran session
player, sideman and in-demand instrumentalist, both on stage and
in the studio. A bandleader of international renown.
Over the course of the extraordinary career that is now entering
its fifth decade of uninterrupted music-making, Al McKay has established
a reputation as one of the most innovative and influential artists
of his generation. A musician's musician, McKay's professional portfolio
puts him front and center in many of the pivotal moments on modern
music history and even if his name doesn't immediately ring a bell,
there's no mistaking his unique and distinctive sound. Simply put,
Al McKay is the real McCoy.
Born in the musical melting pot of New Orleans, both his mother
and father were accomplished artists in their own right. But it
was his uncle who introduced the five year-old Al to his first guitar
and, after seeing Elvis Presley in Loving You, the fledgling musician's
career path was set. With influences that ranged from Freddie King
to Duane Eddy; The Everly Brothers to James Brown, Al took his talent
and ambition with him when he relocated to Southern California to
live with an aunt after his mother took ill.
Continuing to polish his guitar chops, McKay landed his first
professional gig at the tender age of eighteen, not long after his
high school graduation. A mutual friend had invited him to meet
R&B kingpin Ike Turner, and when Al pointed out a mistake Turner
was making while rehearsing a version of The Temptations' “Losing
You,” with his band, he was offered a job on the spot as guitarist
for the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
A musical education second to none, McKay’s tenure with
the Revue lasted a year and a half, after which time he returned
to his L.A. home base where he immediately garnered a reputation
as a versatile session player, working on stage and in the studio
with an diverse array of jazz, pop and R&B artists and eventually
landing a short stint with funk progenitors, Charles Wright and
the Watts 103rd St. Band.
Through his connections on the burgeoning L.A. music scene, McKay
was subsequently introduced to the late great Sammy Davis Jr. who
also hired him on the spot after hearing him work out on the latest
development for guitar special effects, the wah-wah pedal. Constant
touring, Las Vegas engagements and the occasional studio session,
all as part of Sammy's Davis Jr’s backing band further honed
McKay impressive abilities and when he finally moved on, there was
no shortage of offers to keep the hot young guitarist on the A-list.
Everyone from Andy Williams and Pearl Bailey to The Sylvers and
Isaac Hayes made use of his distinctive sound.
It was then that McKay was approached by a freshly minted band
out of Chicago with a whole new music approach, who called themselves
Earth, Wind & Fire. The rest, as they say, is history. From
1973, when he first joined the group, up until 1981 when he left
to take a well-deserved break from the hectic world of major musical
stardom, McKay was responsible not only for a lion's share of the
group's instantly recognisable sound, but was also writer and co-writer
on some of their most enduring hits. Along with founder Maurice
White, McKay penned such EWF perennials as “September”
and “Singasong,” which both became chart-topping signature
tracks for the group. But it wasn't only within the band that McKay’s
songwriting shined. As co-writer of The Emotion's smash hit “The
Best Of My Love,” he contributed one of the most enduring
songs of the era, raising the bar on the art of pop craftsmanship
in the process.
After eight years, seven albums, uncounted thousands of tour miles
and a virtually unequalled stack of hit records, McKay left Earth,
Wind & Fire. While he continued to keep his hand in music through
various production and writing projects, his primary focus was on
raising his young son. As a single parent, McKay turned aside from
the demands of a busy career and for several years kept a low profile
to put the emphasis on his personal life.
When he re-emerged, in the early 90's, it was with a different
direction and whole new energy. Since live performing and having
the chance to connect directly with his audience has always been
the single most satisfying aspect of McKay’s multi-faceted
career, it's no surprise that his comeback would entail gathering
the best and brightest musicians to create an unparalleled concert
experience. As the front man for what became variously known as
The L.A. All-Stars and the Al McKay All-Stars, he fashioned a large
and revolving cast of supporting players to fully explore new musical
territory, even as they helped to celebrate Al's incredible history
with performance highlights from his years with Earth, Wind &
A major attraction around the world, the Al McKay All-Stars have
become a premier international concert draw among diehard fans of
McKay and his music, as well as a whole new generation only now
discovering this singularly talented artist with a sound that belongs
to no one else.