Skip to main content

Lindley, David

David Lindley


For the Record

Selected discography


With his curly black hair flowing well below his shoulders, a wardrobe dedicated to color-clashing polyesters and an arsenal of mutant-pawnshop instruments, David Lindley has become probably the most anti-fashionable guitar hero ever. But looks can be deceiving; once he plugs in, Lindley can hold his own against any of the six-string slingers who rule the MTV airwaves. He may not look it, but David Lindley is the picture of good taste, stated Dan Forte in Guitar Player. He doesnt play whats expected; he plays whats needed. His playing has graced countless albums, going way beyond the standard cliches of rock guitar and entering a category of its own.

Lindleys first instrument was a baritone ukelele that he picked up at age fourteen. Although he was exposed to various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern records through his fathers collection, the youngsters first interest was in flamenco guitar. Like his cohort, Ry Cooder, Lindley spent many hours absorbing the folk music at the Ash Grove, a popular Los Angeles club during the 1960s. He became extremely proficient, drawing from the styles of Sandy Bull, Dick Rosmini, the Pioneers, and especially Stu Jameson. By the time he was just eighteen, he had won his first Topanga Canyon Bluegrass Banjo and Fiddle Contest. After taking the trophy home five years in a row, contest officials graciously asked Lindley to become a judge and give others a chance to win.

His first group was the Mad Mountain Ramblers, an acoustic ensemble that played at the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California. He played bluegrass with the Scat Band before forming Kaleidoscope in 1966. It was an experiment to see what he could come up with, to see what would fit into what, and to eventually come up with original things, Lindley told Guitar Player. The group released four albums as Lindley began incorporating various instruments into his repetoire. He moved to England three years later, collaborating with singer/guitarist Terry Reid. It was during this period that Lindley was introduced to the sounds of reggae and ska, styles that dominate his current solo work.

Upon his return to the States in 1971, Lindley teamed up with songwriter Jackson Browne, beginning a nine-year association. When David plays, it really means a lot to mejust pure meaning, Browne told Guitar Player. It always has, from the first time he ever played music on one of my songs. Hes my hero. Appearing on five LPs together, Lindley added stinging lap steel licks to Brownes finest efforts, including That Girl Could Sing, Redneck Friend, and Running On Empty. Primarily a country music instrument previously,

For the Record

Born in San Marino, Calif. Lived in England, 1969-71. Won Topanga Canyon Bluegrass Banjo and Fiddle Contest at age 18; played at Disneyland with the Mad Mountain Ramblers and the Scat Band during early 1960s; formed Kaleidoscope, 1966; studio and tour guitarist for Jackson Browne, 1971-80; studio and tour guitarist for numerous performers, including Leonard Cohen, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Maria Muldaur, America, Ry Cooder, Rod Stewart, Eddie Money, Karla Bonoff, Lonnie Mack, Jesse Colin Young, Joe Walsh, Duane Eddy, and Andreas Vollenweider, 1971; has done guitar work for television, including The Rockford Files Theme.

Awards: Won Topanga Canyon Bluegrass Banjo and Fiddle Contest five years in a row.

Addresses: Record company Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records, 962 N. La Ciénega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Lindley began to master the sound in a rock setting after hearing the great Freddy Roulette perform one night in a San Francisco nightclub. Thats what I want to do, Lindley told Guitar Player. I want to sound like that guy!

When he was on break from his duties with Browne, others began to call on Lindley for their own sessions. Artists like Leonard Cohen, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, and John Hiatt are just a few who have relied on Lindleys sound to transform their songs into something special. His ability to move from one genre to another (Andreas Vollenweider to The Rockford Files theme) is truly amazing. I do stuff like an antcombination of taste and feel and sight and hearing. Like this all-encompassing feeler, Lindley stated in Guitar Player. You dont play everything you know; you play whatevers appropriate to the song.

Part of what makes Lindleys sound so unique is his use of off-brand guitars and exotic instruments like the bouzouki, kora, slack-key guitar and the more conventional mandolin and violin. He is not locked in by the standard conception of each instrument either, using such radical techniques as bowing a banjo to obtain unheard of sounds. I approach them as one instrument, Guitar Player reported Lindley as saying, which I call the resident noise in the head, and a feeling from way down deep. In reaction to the exorbitant prices for vintage instruments, Lindley has also made a career out of utilizing cheaper guitars, including Danelectros, Nationals, Teiscos, Goyas, and Supros (he has over 70 of these off-brand instruments). Lindley has also worked closely with inventor/designer Doc Kauffman in trying to achieve different sounds and studying the sustaining properties of musical equipment set-ups.

A year after his departure from Browne, Lindley released his first solo album, 1981 s El Rayo-X a rare and tasty treat that is offbeat, fun, and instructive, according to Gene Santoro in The Guitar. With roaring slide guitar on Mercury Blues and Your Old Lady, and an overall reggae flavor, Lindley made the transition from sideman to leader look simple. On his next two LPs, Win This Record and Mr. Dave, he continued to transpose most of the tunes into a reggae tempo which may have appeared, falsely, as if he were jumping on the Third World bandwagon as the style became popular in the mainstream. Lindley hasnt changed very much, wrote Richard Grula in Guitar World, its just a classic case of the world finally catching up.

Lindley continued to do session work, literally redefining the role. He enjoyed a remarkable musical exchange with Ry Cooder on Bop Til You Drop and on various soundtrack LPs. The similarity between the two guitarists is astonishing and often very eerie. Of their joint tour of Japan, Cooder told Steve Fishell in Guitar Player, he plays, and the thing gets sadder and sadder and more and more depressing in the most poetic way, and the audience recedes to some nether place. On The Long Riders and Alamo Bay it is nearly impossible to tell Cooder and Lindley apart.

In the mid-1980s, record companies, including the label Lindley was on, Asylum, began to trim down their rosters and Lindley found himself without a recording contract during one of his most popular phases. It was a very strange period, he told Guitar World. I didnt have a record, but I was going out on the road with El Rayo-X (also the groups name) and the audiences were getting bigger and bigger. Lindley had played on Trio with Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt when the latter heard about his problem. Ronstadt secured Lindley a deal with Elektra in exchange for the opportunity to produce his LP, Very Greasy. Her vision of Lindleys sound was perfectly suited to the guitarist as he breathed new life into Bobby Freemans Do Ya Wanna Dance, the Temptations Papa Was A Rolling Stone, and Warren Zevons Werewolves of London. The album, as Richard Grula observed in Guitar World, demonstrates how the worlds various musical styles are irrevocably intertwined. And David Lindley knows exactly how to interpret them.

Selected discography

El Rayo-X, Asylum, 1981.

Win This Record, Asylum, 1982.

Mr. Dave, WE A International, 1985.
Very Greasy
, Elektra, 1988.

With Jackson Browne

For Everyman, Asylum, 1973.

Late For The Sky, Asylum, 1974.

The Pretender, Asylum, 1976.

Running On Empty, Asylum, 1978.

Hold Out, Asylum, 1980.

With Linda Ronstadt

Heart Like A Wheel, Capitol, 1974.

Prisoner in Disguise, Asylum, 1975.

With Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon, Asylum, 1976.

Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, Asylum, 1980.

With Ry Cooder

Jazz, Warner Bros., 1978.

Bop Till You Drop, Warner Bros., 1979.

The Long Riders, Warner Bros., 1980.

Alamo Bay, Slash, 1985.

Paris, Warner Bros., 1985.

With Graham Nash

Songs For Beginners, Atlantic, 1971.

Wild Tales, Atlantic, 1973.

With [David] Crosby and Nash

Wind On The Water, ABC, 1975.

Whistle Down the Wire, ABC, 1976.

Live, ABC, 1977.

With Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur, Reprise, 1974.

Waitress In A Donutshop, Reprise, 1974.

With Danny OKeefe

So Long Harry Truman, Atlantic, 1975.

American Roulette, Warner Bros., 1977.

With Terry Reid

River, Atlantic, 1973.

Seed Of Memory, ABC, 1976.

Rogues Waves, Capitol, 1979.

With Kaleidoscope

Side Trips, Epic, 1967.

A Beacon From Mars, Epic, 1968.

Kaleidoscope, Epic, 1969.

Bernice, Epic, 1970.

When Scopes Collide, Pacific Arts Recording Co., 1976.

With America

America, Warner Bros., 1971.

With Karla Bonoff

Restless Nights, CBS, 1979.

With Lonnie Mack

Lonnie Mack And Pismo, Capitol, 1977.

Road Houses and Dance Halls, Epic, 1988.

With Eddie Money

Life Is For The Taking, CBS, 1978.

With Jesse Colin Young

American Dreams, Elektra, 1978.

With Rod Stewart

Atlantic Crossing, Warner Bros., 1975.

With James Taylor

In The Pocket, Warner Bros., 1976.

With Joe Walsh

There Goes The Neighborhood, Asylum, 1981.

With Duane Eddy

Duane Eddy, Capitol, 1987.



Kozinn, Allan, Pete Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar: The History, The Music, The Players, Quill, 1984.


Guitar Player, July, 1977; March, 1980; August, 1981; April,1982; October, 1988; March, 1989.

Guitar World, December, 1988.

Calen D. Stone

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lindley, David." Contemporary Musicians. . 23 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Lindley, David." Contemporary Musicians. . (January 23, 2019).

"Lindley, David." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.