Nottingham-born Alvin Lee teamed up with Leo Lyons and a drummer in 1964 and the trio took themselves off to Hamburg, Germany, to perform in various clubs.
Back in England the group – known then as The Jay Birds – combined their sporadic live performances (including backing The Ivy League on their live dates) with session work in the studio.
In 1967 they teamed up with Michael ‘Chick’ Churchill on keyboards and Ric Lee (no relation to Alvin) on drums and later changed their name to Ten Years After.
Finding themselves in the middle of the British blues boom of 1966-67, the band played blues and rock, relying heavily on Alvin Lee’s quick-fingered guitar playing.
They landed a top residency at a London club and within weeks had signed a record deal with Decca subsidiary, Deram.
Their first (self-titled) album was not a success, and for the next year the group worked steadily in Britain and Europe, before touring America for the first time and playing at the Woodstock Festival in 1968.
The band received such huge acclaim after their appearance at the festival that they became a regular attraction on the US tour circuit and spent most of their time away from Britain.
Their second album – the live Undead (1968) containing a six-minute blues workout called I’m Going Home – hit the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Their follow-up, Stonedhenge, hit the UK Top Ten in 1969.
Their next album, the masterpiece Ssssh (1969), reached the American Top 20, and Cricklewood Green (1970), containing the hit single Love Like a Man, reached US #14.
Watt (1970) completed the group’s Deram contract, after which the band signed with Columbia and moved in a more mainstream pop direction, typified by the gold-selling 1971 album A Space in Time and the Top 40 single I’d Love to Change the World.
Alvin Lee took leave of absence from the group in 1973, built his own studio in his Berkshire house, and concentrated on a solo recording career. He released the first of several solo albums, called On The Road To Freedom.
A year later, the band were back together again and touring Britain. In May 1975 they undertook their final tour of America and disbanded the same year.
Ric Lee formed his own record company, while Leo Lyons went into production and later worked with British group UFO.
Alvin Lee continued to rock, releasing several solo albums and forming a touring band called Alvin Lee and Co. He has also toured with a number of line-ups as Alvin Lee’s Ten Years Later.
The band reunited in 1983 to play the Reading Festival, and again in 1988 for concerts in Europe and to record their first new album in 15 years, About Time, in 1989.
Michael ‘Chick’ Churchill