You would know Louie Shelton’s guitar riffs and legendary solos, even if you’ve never heard his name. Lionel Ritchie’s Hello? Yep, that’s Louie Shelton. The Jackson Five’s ABC and I’ll be There? The Monkees’ Last Train to Clarksville and Valerie? They all include Louie Shelton’s guitar magic. There’s more too. He’s recorded with Boz Scaggs, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and… well, the list is massive… you get the picture.
As well as being a session musician with the greats, Louie Shelton has released six albums in his own name, the most recent being Bluesland (July 2016.)
What you might not know about Louie is that he calls the Gold Coast home.
“We wanted to get out of LA for a different lifestyle and checked out a lot of places and took into consideration climate and general social quality of life. We ended up visiting Sydney and lived there and our kids went to school there. When they finished school we moved back to the States did studio, recording, session work in Nashville for nine years.”
“And then our kids started having kids and they wanted to raise them in Australia. So they moved to the Gold Coast and we came with them.”
“We were surprised how much the Gold Coast had grown. We love it here. The climate, the people, the quality of life. LA is too big for us. I love LA and I love going there for a visit, but as a lifestyle, this is much better.”
Louie Shelton is playing Blues on Broadbeach for the first time this year with his band called Bluesland – also the name of his most recent album.
“They really turn out for it,” Louie said of the music festival, that just scored Event of the Year at the Gold Coast Music Awards.
That’s what I love about the Gold Coast. They come out for stuff.
“We have a very good Chicago blues singer Big John Tony – he’ll be at Blues with us. People are really going to enjoy his performance. And a good Australian singer Damian Black who also sang on the album, he’ll be with us too.”
It’s been nearly 12 months since Louie released Bluesland and he said he’s had a great response from Australian radio, which is critical in his mind.
“That’s our only connection with the listeners,” he said. “And also sales have been good over the internet, for Australia.”
“Having said that, it’s been very wide reaching as far as responses from Tokyo on one side of the world, France, a lot of European countries and a lot of the states over in the USA. It’s been widely accepted and had great response from everybody.”
Louie’s first record deal was “way back in the late 60s”, which saw him releasing onto vinyl on Warner Brothers. I ask him how much things have changed in that time.
“Even with radio, our communication is through the internet so much and peole finding out about the album is through the internet,” Louie said.
Louie reflects on the old days of record companies doing promotion on his behalf but says that whether you’re a young band or an established musician like himself, if you’re unsigned now you have to just manage it yourself.
“Even at my old age, I’ve had to learn as much as I can about working through the internet because of the changes and the way everything works.”
With more than 50 years under his belt Louie has worked with some of the biggest names in the business. Lionel Ritchie and Boz Scaggs made him feel more appreciated than most and he remembers most fondly Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart – two young LA writers who produced The Monkees and wrote Last Train to Clarkesville.
“That was the first hit record I played on and that’s what established me as a session musician in LA. So, I remember them as being a very important part of my early career,” he said.
“They were very appreciative of my talent and that’s why they wanted me to do the Monkees thing with them and it worked out for all of us.”
Louie never set out to be an artist. He had a record deal handed to him and he made one album and at the time it just wasn’t something he thought there was a future in because he was so busy doing session work.
“But the interesting thing is, back in those days when I was playing on all of these hit records and working with all of the top artists, I wasn’t really getting any recognition,” he said. “But today, and largely because of the internet, they find out that I’m the guy that played on so many of their hit records, I get so much recognition today.”
“And I play now some of the licks I played with Lionel Ritchie or Jackson Five or Boz Scaggs or the Monkees, it’s a thrill for people who aren’t necessarily huge fans of today’s music.”
And apart from enjoying the City’s fantastic lifestyle, what is it that keeps Louie busy these days?
“My whole existence is pretty much in the studio or doing live shows to expand my profile as an artist,” he explained. “I’m getting a lot of enquiries as far as performing overseas, for example in Europe and Japan, Tokyo, all these places, so I have a feeling that that will be something that’ll be doing in the near future.”
“And working on new albums and working and producing local people – local singers and songwriters,” Louie said. “My new album is out in about six week’s time.”
“On my trips to the States, I always plan ahead and there’s a lot to do. I let people know I’m coming over and they’ll put together sessions for me,” he said.
We wrap up by talking about the guitar greats who’ve inspired Louie’s career.
“My music experience and taste is very wide, but it basically always includes guitar – whether country, jazz or rock ‘n’ roll. I’m talking about Cream and Jeff Beck and those kind of players. So I still have all the original Cream records and Wes Montgomery, and original country music like Chet Atkins – these are all of the great guitar players that I stole from,” he said.
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Louie Shelton’s Bluesland is at Blues on Broadbeach on Saturday 20 May from 5.10pm at the Broadbeach Mall Stage and on Sunday 21 May from 2.45pm at the Griffith Stage in Victoria Park.
IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography