Hundreds of millions of people have heard him play without having heard of him. A veteran session guitarist, Louie Shelton played on a slew of million-selling records during his three decades in Los Angeles. His credits include female vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, and Whitney Houston; soul stars James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson Five; blues legends Otis Spann, Solomon Burke, and T-Bone Walker; male vocalists Joe Cocker, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, and Michael McDonald.
He’s responsible for the instantly recognizable guitar riff on the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” and the virtuoso runs on “Valleri.” He played on Boz Scaggs’ career-defining album Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976) with the Grammy-winning song “Lowdown.” He knew Elvis Presley and was in the studio with Phil Spector and John Lennon. He also produced a string of gold and platinum albums for Seals & Crofts, including Summer Breeze (Warner Bros., 1972), an exquisitely produced classic that remained on the charts for 100 weeks.
After decades spent making others sound good, in 1995 he finally put his production expertise to use on a solo instrumental album. Thanks to his funky groove, his mastery of an extraordinarily wide range of styles and techniques, and his producer’s ear, this jazz guitar album has a great groove, lots of energy and considerable commercial appeal. His crisp and highly rhythmic adaptation of Wes Montgomery’s octave style is noteworthy, and makes all his solo releases easy to enjoy.
His induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame provided the perfect backdrop for this conversation about his remarkable musical career.