‘There’s Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Robbie McIntosh.’ – Chris Rea
‘The guitarist’s guitarist.’ – Q Magazine
Guitarist Robbie McIntosh has one of the highest musical pedigrees you’ll find anywhere on the planet and has legendary status among his fellow musicians. His career to date includes spells as guitarist with The Pretenders, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Tom Jones, John Mayer, and Norah Jones. Robbie has played many of the world’s top festivals and venues. Among his numerous TV and radio appearances, Robbie was with Sir Tom Jones on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny BBC TV show on New Year’s Eve 2015 and Zucherro in 2016. As a long-term member of The Pretenders, Robbie played at Live Aid in 1985 and on UK hits Don’t Get Me Wrong, 2000 Miles, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Middle of the Road, Hymn To Her, My Baby and US platinum selling albums Learning To Crawl and Get Close.
Robbie’s brilliance across a range of music, both on acoustic and electric guitar has made him one of the world’s most sought after session guitarists, playing on recordings by Talk Talk, Tears For Fears, Paul Young, Roger Daltrey, Mark Knopfler, Norah Jones, John Mayer, Paul McCartney, Louise Goffin, Cher, Eric Bibb, George Martin, Joe Cocker, Diane Tell, Luz Casal, Daryl Hall, Kirsty McColl, Mike and the Mechanics, Tori Amos, Zucherro and many more.
He continues to tour and record with many of the most famous names in music.
Robbie is also a very talented multi instrumentalist as well as being a singer songwriter in his own right. His band features Steve Smith keyboards and vocals, Steve Wilson bass and vocals, Pete Hope Evans harmonicas and Jew’s harps, Paul Beavis drums and Jody Linscott percussion, who between them have played with more names than it is possible to mention, but include: Medicine Head, The Waterboys, Thea Gilmore, Andy Summers, Go West, Elton John, Santana, The Who, Robert Fripp, Leo Sayer, Rory Gallagher, Lisa Stansfield, Talk Talk, Carlene Carter, The Jones Gang, Mark Knopfler, Judie Tzuke, Sandi Thom and Andy Fairweather-Lowe.
Robbie McIntosh – The story so far
Robbie McIntosh was born in Sutton, Surrey, and started playing the guitar at the age of ten, picking out things from any records listened to at the time. He had two older sisters, and their record collections became early influences: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Spencer Davis Group, Jimi Hendrix etc. His father’s love of jazz was also a factor: Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong – and his mother played the piano.
At age 13, Robbie started taking classical guitar lessons from a teacher called Michael Lewin, who later became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music. He continued through to Grade 8 (aged 18). In that time, Robbie picked up his love of the Blues. “Lightnin’ Hopkins was the first blues artist that captured my imagination; I’ve been besotted with blues music ever since.”
Robbie’s first band was called 70% Proof. They played original material and covers of Humble Pie, The Who, Free and Stevie Wonder, amongst others. “The other guys in the band (Paul Eager, Russell Ayles and Graham Mincher) had all left school, so we used to rehearse on Sunday afternoons at the local dump works canteen. We were pretty good really.”
The Foster Brothers
Robbie took A-levels at school, and had plans to study biology at university, but failed, so he joined up with older Raynes Park boys Graham and Malcolm Foster in their band The Foster Brothers. He toured and recorded with them throughout 1977; the band gradually folded in early 1978.
After the Foster Bros., Robbie worked for about six months as a lorry driver for a builder’s supply company, delivering sand, cement, bricks and the like on a three-ton lorry; he became an expert tipper. Completely out of the blue, he received a call from Chris Thompson who at the time was the singer in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. He had an outfit called Filthy McNasty who played a lot at The Bridge House, Canning Town, The Golden Lion, Fulham, etc. Thompson asked Robbie to join as lead guitarist. In November 1978 the band went to Los Angeles to record with Richard Perry for his Planet Record label. The name of the band was changed to “Night.” The band toured in America for most of 1979, supporting The Doobie Brothers.
Chris Thompson and the Islands
Night disbanded during 1980, but Thompson and Robbie stayed together to form “Chris Thompson and the Islands” with Malcolm Foster, Paul “Wix” Wickens (who would also join Robbie in Paul McCartney’s band in 1989) and Mick Clews. Despite many gigs and various bouts of recording, a deal was never secured and Robbie left at the end of 1981.
Dean Martin’s Dog
Living in Kingston at the time, Robbie formed a fun band to play local pubs called “Dean Martin’s Dog,” with Malcolm Foster, Mick Clews, Jez Wire, Rupert Black and Mike Dudley. Not surprisingly it won “band name of the year” in Time Out magazine. “Even when I’d joined The Pretenders the DMD gigs continued when I could fit them in. We played a bit of everything. Good band.”
In 1977/78, Robbie became friends with James Honeyman-Scott. It was this friendship that led Honeyman-Scott to contact Robbie in 1982 with a view to his joining The Pretenders as an extra member to help fill out the sound of the band’s live sound. Honeyman-Scott died in June ’82, and Billy Bremner took over initially; but Robbie was auditioned and joined The Pretenders in September ’82. He toured extensively and recorded Learning to Crawl and Get Close with the band before leaving in September 1987.
In 1985, Robbie was the main guitarist on Roger Daltrey’s sixth solo album Under a Raging Moon, the album was a tribute to The Who’s former drummer Keith Moon who had died in 1978, The album was Daltrey’s best charting success in the US and Robbie was featured on the music video for Let Me Down Easy aside Daltrey with Bryan Adams on the other side also playing guitar.
The Paul McCartney Years
In 1988, Robbie resumed doing studio work, doing sessions with Paul McCartney. McCartney was preparing a band for his 1989-90 World Tour, and with Chrissie Hynde’s endorsement, Robbie was chosen as the lead guitarist in the new Paul McCartney Band. He appears on all McCartney’s albums from 1989 through 1993, and also can be seen in the concert films Get Back and Paul Is Live.
The Robbie McIntosh Band
Robbie went back to doing sessions until about 1998; he started to realise a dream by putting together a band of his own. “I decided to pick some of my favourite players and mates for a band that I thought would give a particular sound and edge to my songs; so I grabbed Paul Beavis, Pino Palladino, Mark Feltham and Melvin Duffy and “The Robbie McIntosh Band” was born. We did some gigs and recorded Emotional Bends, the debut album.”
Prior to this, at his friend Douglas ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ Adams’ insistence, Robbie had recorded all his instrumental tunes. “This was a collection of compositions and arrangements that I just played for fun at home to amuse myself. Douglas insisted that I record them. This collection became the album ‘Unsung,’ which was to be my second album, even though it was recorded before ‘Emotional Bends.'”
The Robbie McIntosh Band released their second album, “Wide Screen,” in June 2001. “We did a bunch of gigs after the release of Wide Screen, but owing to a certain amount of domestic upheaval (a house fire in July 2001, had to move out for seven months), the band activity kind of fizzled out. Mark still plays with Nine Below Zero who I go and sit in with now and then. Melvin plays with Los Pacaminos as well as working with Robbie Williams, and I still do sessions and gigs with Paul and Pino so I still see a lot of the guys.”
In 2004, Robbie joined Norah Jones’ touring band staying in the band a year for the “Feels Like Home” world tour playing slide, acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin and backing vocals.
Robbie toured with John Mayer from 2006-2010, providing both rhythm and lead guitar, dobro, and mandolin. He performed all of Mayer’s slide guitar work.
2010 – 2013
Robbie worked periodically with Sinead O’Connor, Sir Tom Jones, Bluesclub and Los Pacaminos in a live capacity but is mainly concentrating on a solo career again having released “Turn Up For The Books” his 5th album, at the beginning of September 2013. Collaborators on the new album include Paul Beavis, Stephen Darrell Smith, Mark Feltham, Pino Palladino, Steve Wilson, Jess Upton, Peter Hope-Evans and McIntosh’s own sons and daughters. For fun he has a jamming band called “The Steamer Ducks”, a seven piece blues band who perform in the Dorset area of the UK.
Sir Tom Jones
In August 2014, Robbie was the lead guitarist for Sir Tom Jones in a concert at Haydock Park, part of Sir Tom Jones’ European Tour. He continued touring with Sir Tom Jones into 2016.
2016 and beyond
With a new album on the way, in 2016 Robbie has clocked up appearances with Carlene Carter, John Illsley, and Louise Goffin, and collaborated (once more) with Mark Knopfler. He also paired up with Zucchero for an appearance on TV’s Later… with Jools Holland.
Robbie has done session guitar work for many artists throughout his career including: Aynsley Lister, Kevin Ayers, Boyzone, Cher, Diane Tell, Eric Bibb, George Martin, Gordon Haskell, Heather Small, Chuck Berry, Joe Cocker, Daryl Hall, John Mayer, Kirsty McColl, Luz Casal, Mike + The Mechanics, Nine Below Zero, Paul Carrack, Paul Young, Mark Knopfler, Roger Daltrey, Russell Watson, Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, Tasmin Archer, Tears for Fears, Eros Ramazzotti, Thea Gilmore, Tina Arena, Tori Amos, Vin Garbutt, and Norah Jones.