The gig never happened, but Shrapnel executives were impressed enough with Gilbert’s demo that it landed him a major record deal three years later.
His band, Racer X, went on to record nine studio and live albums — and Gilbert was firmly on the map as one of rock’s greatest shredders.
Gilbert grew up idolizing — and mimicking — rock’s greatest metal gurus, legendary guitarists like Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads. But Gilbert fused it into his own style, adding an element of jazz fusion that gave him a unique voice and landed him at No. 4 on GuitarOne magazine’s top guitar players list.
Gilbert left Racer X in 1988, three years after starting the band. They would regroup years later and would continue to record and tour. But during the break Gilbert found more mainstream success with Mr. Big, whose hit, “To Be With You,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mr. Big was formed in 1988, shortly after Gilbert left Racer X and Billy Sheehan parted ways with former Van Halen front man David Lee Roth. The band recorded 11 live and studio albums over the years, until Gilbert left in 1997.
But as he did with Racer X, Gilbert would reunite with his old Mr. Big bandmates. They launched a world tour in 2008 and are reportedly currently in the studio.
However, Gilbert’s portfolio extends beyond his trenure in the two bands. He has put out 16 solo albums, including his most recent, his 2010 release Fuzz Universe. He also joined guitar wiz Joe Satriani in the 2007 G3 tour. Ever the guitar teacher, Gilbert regularly contributes guitar instruction articles to Total Guitar, Guitar Player and other magazines, and has released several tutorial videos.
Let’s just hope he never gets too busy to strap on that guitar.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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