Guitar great Les Dudek coming to North Shore
Guitarist Les Dudek will appear the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room on Friday in a performance music lovers are not going to want to miss.
“He’s good,” said Eric Johnson, who performs the next night in the Crown Room. “We toured together a few years ago.”
Dudek was born in a Naval air station hospital on the coast of Quonset Point, just north of Wickford, R.I. His father, Harold, from Campbell, Neb., was a radioman in the Navy who served on the U.S.S. Wright and the U.S.S. Utah, the latter which was later destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Harold also flew missions in PBY5A’s Navy seaplanes while stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iceland and Port Lyautey, French Morocco, North Africa during World War II.
Les’ mother, Alma, from Brooklyn, N.Y., was a PBX operator and also danced for the world famous “Rockettes” at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Les has one older sister, Sandi, who was also born in Brooklyn.
When Les’ dad retired from the Navy in 1959, he moved the family to Florida to start a new life. Les became interested in music by listening to his sister’s new records through the bedroom wall. There he first heard Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Connie Francis and The Beach Boys, to name a few. Then came The Beatles, which Sandi would play all night long, and Les was hooked. After constant pleas, his parents gave in and ordered Les’ first guitar; an acoustic silver-tone from Sears and Roebuck. They gave it to Les for Christmas in 1964.
Sister Sandi didn’t realize it at the time, but she had created a “guitar bandito.” For the next few years all she could hear through the adjacent wall was Les practicing his guitar. It nearly drove her crazy. Les had caught the guitar bug and was determined to master it. By the age of 14, he was already playing in bands all over Florida: The Steppin’ Stones, The United Sounds, Blue Truth and Power. With the latter two, he went to Nashville and Richmond, Va., to record demos with hopes of a record deal.
Then on Oct. 29, 1971, the unthinkable occurred; a fellow Florida musician, Duane Allman, was killed in a motorcycle accident. At the time, Les was playing with bandmate Peter Schless, a keyboard player from Venice, Fla., in their band Power. Peter knew Dickey Betts and had heard he was looking for players. So Les and Peter drove to Macon, Ga., to jam with Dickey. A few weeks after returning to Florida, Les was called back to Georgia. As a result, Les was invited to record with The Allman Brothers Band. That’s Les you hear playing guitar harmonies with Dickey Betts on “Ramblin’ Man” and the intro acoustic guitar on “Jessica,” their two biggest hits from the “Brothers and Sisters” album.
The news spread quickly about this young guitar talent, and Dudek was offered a guitar spot with Boz Scaggs. He accepted, and commuted back and forth from Macon to San Francisco, touring with Boz and later appearing on the “Silk Degrees” album. Les also appeared in Boz’s “Low Down” and “Lido Shuffle” videos made for television. In 1974, Boz, with Les, special guested the Joker Tour with The Steve Miller Band, and later Miller invited Les to join his band, so Les moved to California.
Les then formed a band in the San Francisco area from members of Scaggs and Miller, called Polar Bear. Then Les was asked to record a demo for Columbia Records. At the same time, a manager called Les and asked him to come to a rehearsal hall in San Francisco to hear this new band he was nurturing. He wanted “the two guitar heroes” of the Bay Area to be in the same band, “… and we’re going to call it Journey.” The same day Les was invited to the first Journey rehearsal, he was offered a solo recording deal from Columbia records.
During the next six years Les released four critically acclaimed solo albums, (Les Dudek debut, “Say No More,” “Ghost Town Parade” and “Gypsy Ride”), scoring two FM radio hits, “City Magic” and “Old Judge Jones.”
Throughout the ’90’s Dudek toured the U.S. and Europe, also releasing a rock ‘n blues album titled “Deeper Shades Of Blues” and “Freestyle 2002” (E Flat Productions). Additionally, Les wrote and performed instrumental library music for television. This music can be heard on NBC, ABC, ESPN, Fox Sports and E channel. These instrumentals are featured on such programs as “Friends,” “Extra,” “Wild On,” “Search Party” and “Access Hollywood.”