Al McKay

Al McKay Biography

Guitarist, Music Producer, Songwriter (1948–)
Al McKay was the guitar player for Earth, Wind & Fire when the band topped the charts in the 1970s. He has also performed with the Al McKay Allstars.


Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1948, Al McKay grew up to be a successful guitarist. In 1972, he joined Earth, Wind & Fire, becoming a core member of the band as its mix of pop and R&B melodies started to reach audiences. After years of success, he left the group in 1980. A five-time Grammy Award winner, McKay has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Early Life

Al McKay was born on February 2, 1948, in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a skilled guitar player, he landed a number of gigs in California—including joining Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm, a group known for the popular classic "Express Yourself" (1970)—before he became a member of Earth, Wind & Fire in 1972.

Experience With Earth, Wind & Fire

McKay was in Earth, Wind & Fire when the group first tasted success with the 1973 album Head to the Sky. He continued to be a key contributor on the gold and platinum releases that followed, playing the guitar, percussion and even the sitar. He also worked as a producer and songwriter, and helped compose some of the band's best-loved songs, such as "September," "Sing a Song" and "Saturday Nite."

In addition to experiencing the popularity of Earth, Wind & Fire's combination of R&B, pop, funk, soul and other musical influences, McKay won five Grammy Awards with the group. He left the band after the album Faces (1980), which meant he didn't take part in their sixth win for "Wanna Be With You" (1982). In recognition of his accomplishments with the band, McKay was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. A decade later, he also entered the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Later Years

The other members of Earth, Wind & Fire took a break in 1983; McKay did not rejoin those who started working together again in 1987. However, in 1990, he put together his own group, the LA Allstars, which later became the Al McKay Allstars. McKay's new band continues to perform around the world.

In an interview he gave in 2013 to Tahiti's Radio 1, McKay said that his performances with the Allstars were opportunities to revisit the Earth, Wind & Fire songs he liked best. In the same interview, he also noted that being a part of the group and its creativity had been "a real joy," and said he still considers his former bandmates as brothers.

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