As embarrassed as I am to admit it, Alvin Lee's passing earlier this week caught me completely off-guard.
The truth is - even though the widespread press coverage of his death brought it all flashing back - I had nearly forgotten about him. What makes this all particularly sad, is that I suspect that a lot of other folks from my generation - the same people who grew up listening to Alvin's work with Ten Years After, and who were as spellbound by it as I was - had much the same reaction.
"Oh, yeah...Alvin Lee. I remember him...hell of a guitar player."
The thing is, that seemed to be how Alvin Lee actually wanted it. During their prime years as big-time rock stars from roughly 1969-1974, Ten Years After were one of the biggest rock bands in the world. And Alvin Lee's reputation as a guitarist was the biggest reason why.
Those who really know and remember them, will also tell you that bassist Leo Lyons was every bit as incredible at his instrument, as TYA's much more celebrated lead guitarist was at his. But Alvin Lee, well, he was the man.
Prior to their historic appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival, Ten Years After enjoyed modest success as one of the many British bands mining the same blues-rock territory as pretty much everyone else out there.
They were just one more semi-popular band, doing the same post-Cream/Hendrix hybrid of hard rock, blues and psychedelia so prevalent at the time.
On albums like 1969's Ssshh, Alvin Lee's Ten Years After did the hard blues/rock thing as well as anybody else - from Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, to Dave Edmunds' Love Sculpture, to - for that matter - Jimmy Page's then little known post-Yardbirds band, Led Zeppelin.
Yeah, those guys.
But from the moment of that stunning performance of "I'm Going Home" at Woodstock, Ten Years After broke wide open - and Alvin Lee's name became forever etched into guitar hero legend.
The Woodstock movie was, of course, already full of incredible, star-making performances.