Guitar player Elliott Randall always looks forward to session gigs, but as he walked into a Santa Monica, Calif., studio in June 1972, he had no idea he was about to make history.
Randall, then 25, had been asked by two of his favorite musical buddies, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, to help them record their first album as Steely Dan.
They had completed most of the work on a new song that they really liked, but weren't really happy with the guitar sounds they had recorded. They asked Randall to lay down some lead guitar on it.
The song, "Reelin' In The Years," worked out quite well, thank you. The song was a huge hit for the band, one that still gets frequent radio airplay 40 years after its release.
Randall's rollicking, high-energy solos on the song drew plenty of notice. Many rock fans consider it one of their favorite pieces of guitar work in rock music history. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has called it his favorite guitar solo ever.
On a list of the 100 greatest rock guitar songs ever, Guitar World magazine listed it as the 40th best of all time. Page's "Stairway To Heaven" was No. 1 on the list.
Randall doesn't get tired of people asking about "Reelin' In The Years," and he's looking forward to playing it in a rare Buffalo appearance at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.).
"I'm delighted that folks have, over all these years, responded so positively," Randall said, talking about "Reelin' " in a recent interview with The Buffalo News. "Its success has had a large bearing on my own personal success. I'm very grateful."
Randall, 65, is a New York City native now living in London, England. He's had a highly successful and varied career as a live performer and session guitarist.
He recorded several albums with Steely Dan, and years before that, he worked with Fagen and Becker in Jay & the Americans, a band that had some big hits in the 1960s.
As a teenager, he performed in Greenwich Village with future Woodstock star Richie Havens. His early work also included stints with the Capris and the Ronnettes, two popular 1960's bands.
Probably best known for his Steely Dan songs, Randall has also performed or recorded with dozens of popular acts of all kinds. Kate Bush, Joan Baez, Chuck Berry, Art Garfunkel, Peter Frampton, the Doobie Brothers, Bobby Darin, Gladys Knight, Laura Nyro, Nils Lofgren, Don McLean, Boz Scaggs, Rod Stewart, the Village People, John Belushi's Blues Brothers, Roberta Flack and Harry Chapin are just a small sampling of the people he has worked with.
Although he never got to meet John Lennon, Yoko Ono hired Randall for some of the guitar work on "Milk and Honey," one of Lennon's posthumous albums.
In addition to that, he's played on dozens of stage shows and movies, including "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Fame." He's worked as a music teacher and has produced countless advertising jingles for Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Wendy's, Burger King, the ESPN sports network and other corporate customers.
He said he's never settled down with one band for long because "I really love keeping my musical experiences in many different places."
What Randall also loves is traveling to a city like Buffalo and performing on stage. He'll sing and play guitar at the Sportsmen's show, with a backing band headed by Willie Schoellkopf, a member of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
"We're working up a bunch of Steely Dan numbers for this show, and I can't wait," Schoellkopf said. "Elliott Randall is an amazing player a legend."
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Sportsmen's Tavern, 326 Amherst St.