Paul Gilbert

Paul Brandon Gilbert (born November 6, 1966), is an American hard rock/heavy metal guitarist. He is best known for being the co-founder of the band Mr. Big. He was also a member of Racer X, with whom he released several albums. Following Mr. Big's disbandment in 1996, Gilbert launched a solo career, for which he has released numerous solo albums, and featured in numerous collaborations and guest appearances on other musicians' albums.


Gilbert has been voted fourth-best on GuitarOne magazine's "Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time". He has also ranked in Guitar World's "50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time" list.

Gilbert was raised mostly in the small Pittsburgh suburb of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He began playing music at age five; by age 15, he was touring local clubs with his band (Tau Zero), and had been featured in Guitar Player magazine (alongside fellow up-and-comer Yngwie Malmsteen). Around 1981, Gilbert first contacted Mike Varney (founder of Shrapnel Records), asking for a gig with metal mega-star Ozzy Osbourne. At the time, Varney couldn't think why Osbourne would want a 15-year-old guitarist; but, after listening to Gilbert's demo tape, he changed his mind. They continued talking over the next 3 years, culminating in Gilbert's 1984 cross-country move to Los Angeles to attend the GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology). Even at the young age of 17, Gilbert quickly became a local legend due to his advanced alternate picking technique, record-breaking speed, his young age, and his massive repertoire of cover material. He was hired as a GIT instructor in 1985, and recorded Racer X's debut album Street Lethal soon after.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Racer X was originally composed of Paul Gilbert (lead guitar), Juan Alderete (bass guitar), Harry Gschoesser (drums), and Jeff Martin (vocals). They were heavily influenced by Judas Priest, and Gilbert's playing was reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen, displaying fast-driven solos with extreme-level technique. Gschoesser was replaced by Scott Travis (who would later become Judas Priest's drummer) in 1986, and Bruce Bouillet, one of Gilbert's private students at GIT, was added as a second guitarist after demonstrating an ability to harmonize Gilbert's string skipping sequences. Gilbert gained recognition as one of the world's fastest guitarists due to incredibly technical pieces like "Technical Difficulties", "Frenzy", "Scarified", "Y.R.O." and "Scit Scat Wah". Around this time, Gilbert also recorded his first instructional video, Intense Rock, in which he demonstrated a number of his famous techniques and practice regimens in detail. Throughout his career he would go on to release many more instructional videos.

Racer X toured the American southwest, primarily the state of California, and would often sell out thousand-seat venues. Despite their rigorous fan base, the band did not have prospects for a major label deal and Gilbert became increasingly disinterested. In 1987, he was approached by Talas bassist Billy Sheehan, one of his biggest influences, about forming a band that would eventually become Mr. Big.

Gilbert left Racer X in 1988, but reformed it after the 1996 breakup of Mr. Big. Paul contacted the members of Racer X, and all agreed to return with the exception of Bruce Bouillet, who could barely play guitar at the time due to a severe bout of carpal tunnel syndrome. In mid-1999, the band recorded the album Technical Difficulties which went gold in Japan. Racer X's new record label requested a follow-up; so, in late 2000, they released Superheroes, mixed by Bouillet.

To further capitalize on their new-found success in Japan, Universal Japan requested that the band perform for a live-album CD and DVD. On May 25, 2001, the band played their first live performance in thirteen years, to a sold-out crowd, at the world-famous "The Whisky" (Whisky a Go Go) in Los Angeles. The resulting CD and DVD were released in 2002 under the title Snowball of Doom.

In January 2002, in support of Superheroes and Snowball of Doom, Racer X toured Japan and Taiwan. The band performed these shows in their Superheroes costumes. The tour's final show, in Yokohama, was hastily recorded in two tracks on the sound board and later released as Snowball of Doom 2. Later that year, Universal Japan pushed for another Racer X release. In October 2002, all four members of Racer X gathered at Gilbert's house in Las Vegas to record Getting Heavier, which was sold alongside Snowball of Doom 2 in a package deal. Although the album was a successful release in Japan, some fans were disappointed with the lighter tracks, which resembled a Paul Gilbert solo album more than a conventional Racer X album.

Racer X performed at the 2009 NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Andy Timmons and his band opened the show, followed by a solo set from Paul Gilbert, and finally Racer X. The Racer X lineup consisted of Paul Gilbert, Scott Travis, Jeff Martin and John Alderete.

When bass guitarist Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's solo band in 1988, he and Gilbert co-founded Mr. Big which included Pat Torpey on drums and Eric Martin on vocals. The band was initially successful in Japan, but achieved international stardom with the 1991 release of their second studio album Lean into It. This album featured the acoustic ballad "To Be with You" which received strong play on radio stations and MTV, rising to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Mr. Big broke up in 1996, at which point Gilbert launched his solo career. When Mr. Big reformed soon after, Gilbert, who was already committed to his own record contract, was replaced by Richie Kotzen. Mr. Big disbanded again in 2002, but Gilbert reunited the original members in June 2009 for a worldwide reunion tour. The band recorded a new album with producer Kevin Shirley titled What If.... The album was released in Japan on Dec. 15th, 2010, in Europe on Jan. 21st, 2011 and in the U.S. in Feb. 2011. A tour to support the album kicked off at the Hollywood location of The House of Blues on April 2, 2011 followed by several dates in Japan. In May and June 2011, the tour continued in Taiwan, China, Korea, The Philippines, and Europe.

In September 2014, Mr. Big released ...The Stories We Could Tell, produced by Pat Regan. During the recording of the album, it was revealed that drummer Pat Torpey was dealing with the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. For the tour that followed, Mr. Big enlisted the help of drummer Matt Starr to provide assistance to Torpey, who remained onstage to play percussion and sing backup vocals for more than half the set. The band is said to be in talks to record and release a new record of original songs in 2017.
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