Elliott Randall is an American guitarist, best known for being a session musician with popular artists. Randall played the well-known guitar solos from Steely Dan’s song “Reelin’ in the Years” and Irene Cara’s song “Fame”. The solo was ranked as the 40th best guitar solo of all time by the readers of Guitar World magazine and the eighth best guitar solo by Q4 Music.
Randall began taking piano lessons at age five. At nine, in 1956, he switched to guitar. He attended New York City’s High School of Music & Art, where he was classmates with Laura Nyro and Michael Kamen. In 1963, at sixteen, Randall met Richie Havens in Greenwich Village and began gigging. Randall did some early work behind the Capris and the Ronettes, and by 1964 was recording “small-time” demos.
Between 1966 and 1967, he taught music in Ohio. Returning to New York, he began working as a staff musician for the Musicor record company. During 1968, he recorded with the Druids of Stonehenge with a brief cameo appearance on the Joe Franklin show. He began recording with friends around 1968, including Tim Rose, and made demo recordings with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker—who at the time were with Jay and the Americans. In 1969 he recorded on the album Electric Black Man, featuring Eric Mercury, and toured with the ensemble, which included Bill Lordan on drums, later to perform in the Robin Trower Band and with Sly Stone. In 1969, he joined the band Seatrain, opting for that band rather than joining Wilson Pickett in Muscle Shoals. In 1970, Randall signed with the Robert Stigwood Organization, which managed Cream, The Bee Gees, John Mayall and The Staple Singers. He formed a band called Randall’s Island, which recorded a few albums on Polydor.
In 1972, The Stigwood Organization bought the rights to Jesus Christ Superstar and produced the show on Broadway. They hired Randall’s band to perform the music. There, Randall met guitarist Vinnie Bell, who was experimenting with various electronic effects. Randall began to dabble in electronics as well, and whenever Bell couldn’t make a gig, he recommended Randall.
In 1972, Randall left New York for California. He reunited with Becker, Fagen and childhood friend Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, and recorded the first Steely Dan album, Can’t Buy a Thrill. Randall’s guitar work on “Reelin’ in the Years” became popular as the song became a chart success, and soon, as the solo gained fame and respect, Randall began getting calls from other artists.
Randall has had a history of turning down permanent gigs, instead favoring session work. He did become a touring member of Sha Na Na in 1974, exiting amicably in 1975. Becker and Fagen asked Randall to become a permanent member of Steely Dan, but Randall politely declined, as he felt that the band’s dynamics would make the band dissolve after the third album—which happened. Later, Randall played with Steely Dan on their fourth and fifth albums, Katy Lied (1975) and The Royal Scam (1976). In 1980, John Belushi asked Randall to be musical director for The Blues Brothers, a position he also turned down. Jeff Porcaro and David Paich offered Randall the chance to be a founding member of Toto, and he rejected that too.
As a session player, Randall played with artists such as The Doobie Brothers, Tom Rush, Elkie Brooks, Carly Simon, Carl Wilson, Peter Wolf, Peter Frampton, James Galway, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and The American Symphony Orchestra, among many others. He was also a music consultant for the American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show Saturday Night Live and for American film director, screenwriter and producer Oliver Stone and did projects with music producers Gary Katz, David Kershenbaum, The Tokens, Steve Lillywhite, Eddie Kramer and Jerry Wexler.
In addition to artistic projects, Elliott has also played, produced, and composed myriad advertisements (jingles) for television, radio and cinema, for clients including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Miller Beer, Budweiser, Cadillac, Ford, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, CitiBank, General Mills, Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, MTV, ESPN, CBS, ABC, BBC-TV and countless others. Since the advent of MIDI in the early 1980s, Randall has worked as independent consultant for a wide range of companies – including Akai, Roland, Korg and Yamaha – in musical instrument and amplifier development, recording and sampling technology, software design, and education.
Watch the video below to learn more about the iconic Elliott Randall!