Kid Charlemagne

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Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne has one of my favorite guitar solo’s performed by the great Larry Carlton. My performance is the familiar middle solo section using my Fractal AX-8 and Jay Turser JT220D-Serpent Gold Top guitar. In my Music 4 A Minute video series, I’m sharing a mixture of original songs, guitar lessons, covers, and improvisations using various ideas and textures to hopefully inspire other musicians on their musical journey. Here’s a little background around this song:

Kid Charlemagne was released on Steely Dan’s 1976 album “The Royal Scam” and reached #82 in the Billboard Charts. The solo by Larry Carlton was ranked #80 in the list of the 100 greatest guitar songs by Rolling Stone. The lyrics tell the story of the rise and fall of a drug dealer in the context of the psychedelic scene of the 1960s on the West Coast. When speaking about Larry Carlton, Donald Fagen said: “He’s a real virtuoso. In my opinion he can get around his instrument better than any studio guitarist. He’s also quite a good blues player. He did the solos on ‘Kid Charlemagne.’ The middle solo he did in two takes and we used parts of both. The last solo was straight improvisation.”

In a Rolling Stone interview during Steely Dan’s 2009 tour, Becker said that this was their most-requested song, with the line, “Is there gas in the car, yes there’s gas in the car” providing a sing-along moment. Said Becker, “A cab driver once told me that that was the stupidest line he’s ever heard.”

The Kanye West song “Champion” from his 2007 album Graduation samples this track.

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So, what’s your favorite Larry Carlton solo? And for you guitar players out there, what’s the most challenging guitar solo you ever learned? I’d love to hear your comments below.

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