Alvin Lee - The Early Years

1944: Born in Nottingham, England to Sam and Doris. Avid fans of swing jazz and ethnic blues, Sam and Doris exposed their children to a broad range of musical styles

Alvin Lee, aged 2

Alvin at age 2, with his father Sam

Age 4, building sandcastles

1955: Asked to study an instrument, Alvin chooses clarinet

1956: Taken with the new skiffle sound popular in England, Alvin swtiches his studies to the guitar. His mother recalls that "he practiced every minute he could and got on like crazy with it, so quickly. We knew the talent was there and nothing could stop him."

1957: Alvin joins his first band , Vince Marshall and the Squarecaps, playing rhythm guitar.

1958: Now the lead guitarist of Alan Upton and the Jailbreakers, Alvin plays his first professional gig - a 10 minute spot between films at a drive in movie theatre.

Alvin Lee age 15
Alvin at age 15

1960: Alvin Lee and Leo Lyons meet when they both join a local Nottingham, England band called the Atomites with drummer Pete Evans. Recruiting singer Ivan Jay, they became Ivan Jay and the Jaymen. An attempt to make it "big" in London backfires, and the band, sans singer Jay, returned to Nottingham.

1961. The Jaymen become the Jaycats

The Jaycats

1962: The Jaycats become the Jaybirds. They head to the Star Club in germany for a five week gig. Lead guitarist Lee also takes over lead vocals while in Germany. Later that year original drummer Pete Evans is replaced with Dave Quickmire.

1963: The Jaybirds find local success in the Nottingham/Mansfield area

1964: Encouraged by their local success, Alvin and the Jaybirds move to London, but after "nearly starving to death" return home to Nottingham .

Around this time, Alvin purchased a 1959 cherry red Gibson ES335 for 45 pounds. That guitar would go on to be lovingly called "Big Red" and be almost as famous as its owner.

1965: In August Ric Lee is persuaded to leave his band, the Mansfields, and take over drumming duties for the Jaybirds.

1966: The Jaybirds move to London and find work as a back up band for a pop group, Ivy League. Chick Churchill becomes the keyboard player for the Jaybirds. In November they sign with a manager, Chris Wright. Looking for a more modern name, they try out Blues Trip, play one gig at London's Marquee Club as Blues Yard (supporting Bonzo Dog Band), and finally settle on Ten Years After - a name they picked from local radio listings