Pete Carr

Pete Carr with the Fender Telecaster guitar he loaned to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. He was the lead guitarist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section for a time in the 1970s. One of his signature guitar solos was in Bob Seger's "Mainstreet." COURTESY PHOTO

FLORENCE — Pete Carr played on so many sessions at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio he had to continually create new guitar riffs, hooks and solos.

And according to bassist David Hood, he always came through, much to the benefit of whoever they were working with.

Shoals guitarist/songwriter/producer Jesse Willard "Pete" Carr died Saturday at the age of 70 after a brief illness.

"He was so creative," Hood said. "He loved to come up with ideas for different things."

His distinctive guitar notes grace rock classics like Bob Seger's "Mainstreet," Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night" and "Sailing." He also played on Paul Simon's Grammy nominated "There Goes Rhymin' Simon."

He recorded with Barbara Streisand, Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Art Garfunkle, Candi Staton, Johnny Rivers, Boz Scaggs, Paul Anka, Levon Helm and others.

Hood said Carr replaced guitarist Eddie Hinton as a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals Sound in 1972.

"Some of the best stuff we ever cut was with Pete Carr," Hood said. "He was a great guitar player."

Because they were so busy with sessions, being the guitar player was the most difficult role because he had to come up with different riffs and solos for a variety of artists.

"He was really good about that," Hood said.

He said Simon and Garfunkle invited Carr to play guitar at a show in Central Park in New York City that drew 100,000 fans.

Carr was born in Daytona, Florida, in 1950. After high school, he hooked up with another future Shoals musician, Lenny LeBlanc, who was also living in Daytona.

"We were all kind of living in the shadows of Duane and Gregg Allman," LeBlanc said.

According to a 2000 interview on the entertainment website "Swampland," Carr said he came to Muscle Shoals in 1966 to play in a band called the Five Minutes, sometimes known as the Five Men-Its, after guitarist Eddie Hinton embarked on a solo career.

He left that band and hooked up with the two Allman Brothers as the bassist in a band called the Hour Glass that featured drummer Johnny Sandlin

They recorded "The Power Of Love" album at FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, but their manager in California didn't hear any hit singles. The Hour Glass disbanded shortly after, Carr recalled in the interview. 

Once the the Hour Glass split up, Carr told "Swampland" he moved to Miami to work with Sandlin, then left for Macon, Georgia, to work with Phil Walden and the new Capricorn Records label.

Carr said at the age of 20, he moved to Muscle Shoals.

After working on the Sailcat album with John Wyker and Court Pickett, Carr went to work at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios as a session guitarist. 

LeBlanc said he was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, and called his old friend and asked if there was any work for him in Muscle Shoals. Carr said there was, and LeBlanc spent a week in Muscle Shoals before moving his family here.

"We lived with Pete and his first wife for about a month," LeBlanc said. "They fed us until I could get work in the studios. He was really instrumental in securing my first record deal with Atlantic Records and Jerry Wexler."

He said Wexler and Atlantic Records wanted to pair them as a duo and the LeBlanc and Carr Band was formed.

"He just loved music and he loved to produce," LeBlanc said. "He just had an ear for melody and everything."

He described Carr's guitar solos as "if guitars had a voice, that's what they would sound like."

Shoals songwriter/bassist/producer Gary Baker said he credits Carr for helping him get his feet in the musical door in the Shoals.

"Pete moved me here and I slept in a closet in one of his bedrooms for two months, waiting for my family to come here," Baker said. "He put me up, took me under his wing. I would not have been in this business without Pete."

Baker said he and Carr were in a band called Boatz that released an album on Capricorn Records. 

"I hate to think where I'd be if I hadn't met Pete Carr," Baker said. "He was a special guy. I remember him telling me five or six years ago he was proud of me. I can't tell you how much that meant to me because it came from Pete."

Shoals Music Historian Dick Cooper said Carr gave him his "first real road gig," serving as road manager for the LeBlanc and Carr Band.

"My involvement was primarily on the front end of things," Cooper said.

Cooper said he convinced LeBlanc and Carr to pay to fly music executives to the Shoals to see them perform.

"We wined and dined them at Dales, took them to the show, put them back on the plane, and the next morning we had a record deal," Cooper said.

Cooper said LeBlanc and Carr were supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd at select dates of the "Street Survivors" tour. He said LeBlanc and Carr had been invited to fly with the band for their supporting shows, but turned down the offer. Cooper said the band and crew traveled in three rental cars and a truck.

"It was not uncommon for the big artists to fly and the rest of his band drive," Cooper said. "This is before the era of tour buses."

They did not play the Greenville, South Carolina, show with Skynyrd, opting instead to play a homecoming show in Daytona. They were driving from Daytona to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to meet the band for another show. The band carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd and their crew crashed just outside Gillsburg, Mississippi.

Cooper said none of them heard anything about the crash until they arrived at the hotel.

"I was in line and I find out when I got to the register," he said. "The woman at the desk said the show has been cancelled. I asked why and she said, because of the plane crash, of course. And that's how I found out about it."

"He (Pete) was really crushed about the Skynyrd crash, as we all were," Cooper said.

Cooper said Carr would be nervous before a show, especially if it was a really big show. He said Carr was more comfortable in the studio environment.

"Pete was a really interesting guy to be around," Cooper said. "He could come up with the most interesting part for a song, He had a great imagination. He fell right in with the whole Muscle Shoals 'less is more' thing. Some of his solos are unbelievably incredible."

Carr was recognized in 2005 as an Alabama Music Hall of Fame Achiever and is a 2008 inductee to the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

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