Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire, but grew up in Blackheath, London, a member of a Romany family. His father was a musician, and Lee studied piano, taking up the instrument at age seven.
During this time, Lee became a fan of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. He took up guitar in 1958 when his parents bought him a second-hand Höfner President which he later traded in for a Czechoslovakian Grazioso, the forerunner of the Futurama. Lee left school at the age of 16 to play full-time.
Lee was with a variety of bands from 1959 onwards, playing mostly R&B, country music and rock and roll. In addition to Buddy Holly, his early guitar influences included Cliff Gallup, Grady Martin, the Everly Brothers, Scotty Moore, James Burton and Jerry Reed. Lee first experienced commercial success as the lead guitarist with Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds. Lee says that he enjoyed playing the Stax-type material, but he really wanted to play country music. Consequently, he left Farlowe and the Thunderbirds in 1968.
During his time playing with Heads Hands & Feet, Lee became a "guitar hero", playing his Fender Telecaster at breakneck speed. Heads Hands & Feet became a popular live band in the UK, making appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and also in Europe, where they appeared on the German music programme Beat-Club.
In 1971, Lee performed with Deep Purple's keyboard player Jon Lord on the studio recording of Lord's Gemini Suite. That opus was a follow-up to Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Ritchie Blackmore had played the guitar at the first live performance of the Gemini Suite in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the studio version, which led to the involvement of Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Tony Ashton and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Arnold.
Lee left for Los Angeles in 1974 and, through his friend bassist Rick Grech (of Blind Faith), did some session work on three albums with the Crickets who also at the time included Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison. One of these releases is titled A Long Way From Lubbock. Lee also received many other offers of session work. In 1976, he was asked to join Emmylou Harris's Hot Band, replacing one of his heroes, James Burton, who was returning to perform with Elvis Presley. The Hot Band featured other musicians including Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell. Starting in 1978, Lee worked for five years with Eric Clapton, playing and singing for a live concert recording at the Budokan in Japan.
Lee was responsible for the Everly Brothers' 1983 reunion concert and was its musical director. He played regularly with the Everlys for over twenty years.
In 1987, Lee was invited by Gerry Hogan to headline at a steel guitar festival in Newbury, Berkshire. Lee was at first intimidated by the prospect of having to front a band, however, the gig was successful and he now tours with them on a regular basis. They are renowned for attracting celebrities to their gigs. Stars such as Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, Marty Wilde, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Don Everly, Emmylou Harris, Sonny Curtis and Rodney Crowell have all jammed with the band at one time or another.
In 2002, Lee appeared at the Concert for George. Also in 2002, Lee received a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for Foggy Mountain Breakdown from the CD Earl Scruggs and Friends. In September 2006 Lee took part in Primal Twang: The Legacy of the Guitar—the first definitive theatrical journey through the guitar’s colourful and surprisingly controversial 3500-year history. Lee appeared at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival on 28 July and performed with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings at the Ahmet Ertegun tribute show at The O2 in London on 10 December. A new album entitled Like This was released in spring 2008 to coincide with their European tour. He lives in Malibu, California.
Lee has received many awards as a guitarist, winning five consecutive times Guitar Player magazine's "Best Country Guitarist". Lee is known within the music industry for his speed of playing and his technical virtuosity and yet by the same token, one of the most melodic, playing slower passages approximating the sound of the pedal steel guitar with his Music Man and Telecaster guitars which are equipped with B-Benders.
He is known as "the guitar player's guitar player". Lee is also referred to as "Mr. Telecaster". A long-time Telecaster player, Lee wrote a foreword to A.R. Duchossoir's book detailing the history of the instrument.
Lee's song "Country Boy" helped to redefine country guitar for a whole generation of players, and was later to become a hit for multi-instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs.
Despite positive press from Melody Maker and New Musical Express, Lee has never achieved any great commercial success in terms of record sales during his career, but more as a live performer, session player and sideman, perhaps due to his self-effacing stage presence. Lee has been described by his peers, who include Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, as a complete gentleman who does not know the meaning of the word ego.
After Gram Parsons's death, Emmylou Harris was told that she could only gain the backing of a major record label if she could assemble a really "Hot Band". Harris did just that, enlisting guitarist James Burton and pianist Glen Hardin, both of whom had played with Elvis Presley and Parsons; she named the band "The Hot Band". When Burton left to return to Elvis Presley, Lee was his replacement. Harris said of him that Lee is "a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equaled. When Saint Peter asks me to chronicle my time down here on earth, I'll be able to say (with pride if that's allowed) that for a while I played rhythm guitar in a band with Albert Lee."
In 2017, Lee was honoured with the Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Americana Awards.
Albert Lee owns around 40 guitars, including Don Everly's Gibson J-200. The Gibson Guitar Corporation made one for Don Everly and the other for Phil. The guitars have an all black, high gloss lacquered finish and are equipped with twin Everly Brothers white pickguards. The Everly Brothers' manager Wesley Rose had wanted the guitar to be presented to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but Everly informed him that guitars like that should be played, not kept sitting in a glass case. Don Everly presented it to Lee, along with his Gibson Everly Brothers model.
Eric Clapton gave Lee the Gibson Les Paul Custom that he played while with Delaney and Bonnie. Lee also plays his signature Music Man (the guitar shown in the photographs) and a 1950s Telecaster (and has versions of both with custom B-Benders), a 1958 Stratocaster and a Martin 000-28 acoustic.Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds
Heads Hands & Feet
Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band
Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings
Biffbaby's All Stars, featuring: Albert Lee, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Morse and Steve Lukather. In association with Ernie Ball products
Albert Lee – Hiding (1979)
Albert Lee – Real Wild Child (1982)
Albert Lee – Albert Lee (1982)
Albert Lee – Speechless (1986)
Albert Lee – Gagged But Not Bound (1987)
Albert Lee – Black Claw/Country Fever (1991)
Albert Lee – Heartbreak Hill (2003)
Albert Lee – That's All Right Mama (2005)
Albert Lee – Road Runner (2006)
Albert Lee – In Full Flight! (2007)
Albert Lee – Tear It Up (2007)
Albert Lee – In Between The Cracks (2007)
Albert Lee – Like This (2008)
Albert Lee – Highwayman (2014)
Poet and the One Man Band – Poet and the One Man Band LP (1969)
Heads Hands & Feet – Heads, Hands & Feet LP (1971)
Heads Hands & Feet – Tracks LP (1972)
Heads Hands & Feet – Let's Get This Show on the Road!
Heads Hands & Feet – Jack Daniels Rare Old No.7
Heads Hands & Feet – Old Soldiers Never Die LP (1973)
Heads Hands & Feet – Home From Home – The Missing Album LP (1995)
Bo Diddley – The London Bo Diddley Sessions
Jerry Lee Lewis – The London Sessions
Eddie Harris – E.H. in the U.K. (Atlantic, 1973)
Herbie Mann - London Underground (Atlantic, 1973), Reggae (Atlantic, 1973), Reggae II (Atlantic, 1973 )
Emmylou Harris – Luxury Liner, The Ballad of Sally Rose, Blue Kentucky Girl, Roses in the Snow, Evangeline (Guitars, Mandolin)
Eric Clapton – Just One Night, Another Ticket, Money and Cigarettes
John Prine – The Missing Years (Guitar, Mandolin, Piano)
Rosanne Cash – Seven Year Ache
Jon Lord – Gemini Suite
Earl Scruggs – Earl Scruggs and Friends
Ricky Skaggs - Don't Cheat In Our Hometown
Paul Kennerley – The Legend of Jesse James (Guitars, Vocals, Mandolin)
The Crickets – Long Way From Lubbock, The Crickets and Their Buddies
Joe Cocker – Sting Ray
Nicolette Larson – The Very Best of Nicolette Larson
Rodney Crowell – The Essential Rodney Crowell
Dolly Parton – White Limozeen
The Return Of Spinal Tap – DVD (As himself, playing on "Break Like The Wind")
John 5 – Death Valley
Carlene Carter – I Fell in Love
Foster and Lloyd – Version of the Truth
Nanci Griffith – I Knew Love
Hugh Moffatt – Dance Me Outside
Shakin Stevens – Hot Dog
Everly Brothers— Reunion Concert (Guitars, Piano, Musical Director)
Don Everly – Sunset Towers
The Refreshments – Cover of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock"
Dave Edmunds – "Sweet Little Lisa"
Marcel Dadi – Nashville Rendez-vous
Bert Jansch – Heartbreak
Jerry Scheff – Fire Down Below
Brad Paisley – Play
Jackson Browne – Under the Falling Sky
Jean-Pierre Danel – "Tulsa Time"
Arlen Roth -Toolin' Around
Maestro Alex Gregory - Bach on Steroids (2009)
Maestro Alex Gregory - Another Millennium (2010)
Steve Morse -The Introduction (lead guitar in "General Lee") and Stand Up (vocals and guitar in "Rockin' guitars")
The Geoff Everett Band – The Quick and the Dead (2012)
Maestro Alex Gregory - Holy Grail of 7 strings (2013)
Various Artists - Guitar Heroes: Making History (2015), featuring James Burton, Amos Garrett, Albert Lee & David Wilcox
Jericho Summer - Night Train' (2015), featuring Richard Fortus, Marco Mendoza