Earl Klugh was born in Detroit, Michigan on September 16, 1953. He first studied the piano and after that began to play the guitar when he was ten years old. His very first interest was in folk guitar songs. When Klugh was thirteen he heard some records by Chet Atkins and suddenly realized the full harmonic and melodic potential of the guitar. This discovery was even more enhanced when he heard the jazz guitar recordings of George Van Eps, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Charlie Byrd, and Laurindo Almeida.
While teaching the guitar in a music store in Detroit, Earl was heard by saxophonist Yusef Lateef. Yusef was so taken by the sixteen year old playing jazz on a nylon string concert classical guitar that he invited him to sit in with his group at the local Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. He then showcased Klugh on his Atlantic Records album “Suite 16”.
The following year Earl Klugh was introduced to George Benson in Baker’s Lounge. Like Lateef, Benson was amazed by Klugh’s jazz approach on the classical guitar. They worked out some duets together and in 1973 Klugh joined Benson’s new quartet. This was the beginning of a close and long friendship between the two guitarists. They recorded two albums together on the CTI record label.
Earl was then approached by Chick Corea to join his popular “Return to Forever” group – this time on electric guitar. He accepted and toured for 2 months with this popular jazz rock group which included bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. Following this, Klugh went on to perform with singer Flora Purim and pianist George Shearing. This gave him important experience working with a wide range of leading jazz artists.
Ever since that time Earl Klugh has gone on to become one of the most successful fingerstyle jazz guitarists of the day. Some of his recordings are in a commercial vein but his current trio recordings with acoustic bass and drums reveal that he is a seriously talented and imaginative jazz musician with a unique approach to playing instrumental arrangements of jazz and pop standards on guitar.
His music has been called everything from pop/jazz and crossover to fusion and smooth, but in reality Earl Klugh is a melodic acoustic guitarist with a pretty tone who has decided to use a nylon string concert classical guitar. He has regularly said that he does not view himself as a jazz guitar player and he feels that his primary influence on guitar is Chet Atkins. Having discovered his own style and sound early, Earl has continued to be excellent throughout his career earning the respect of other guitarists and music critics alike and still performs regularly at jazz clubs and upscale restaurants.
Source by Steve M Herron