Les Dudek was born in a Naval air station hospital on the coast of Quonset Point, just north of Wickford, Rhode Island. His father Harold, from Campbell, Nebraska, was a radioman in the Navy who served on the U.S.S. Wright and the U.S.S. UTAH before it was laid to rest at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Harold also flew missions in PBY5A’s Navy seaplanes while stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iceland and Port Lyautey, French Morocco, North Africa during World War II. Les’ mother Alma, from Brooklyn, New York, was a PBX operator and also danced for the world famous “Rockettes” at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York. Les has one older sister, Sandi, who was also born in Brooklyn, New York.
When Les’ dad retired from the Navy in 1959, he moved the family to Florida to start a new life. Les became interested in music by listening to his sister’s new records through their adjacent bedroom wall. She played stuff like; Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Connie Francis and The Beach Boys, to name a few. That was cool for a while, but then one night..that all changed. In a word, they were called…The Beatles. And Sandi played them all night long. By the end of the night – Les was “hooked”. After constant pleas, Alma and Harold gave in and ordered Les’ first guitar, an acoustic silver-tone from Sears and Roebuck. They gave it to Les for Christmas in 1964.
Sister Sandi didn’t realize it at the time, but she had created a “guitar bandito”. For the next few years all she could hear through the adjacent wall was Les practicing his guitar. It nearly drove her crazy. Les had caught the guitar bug and was determined to master it. By the age of “14” Les was already playing in bands all over Florida. Bands like; The Steppin’ Stones, The United Sounds, Blue Truth and Power. With the latter two, he went to Nashville, Tennessee and Richmond, Virginia to record demos with hopes of a record deal. Then, on October 29th, 1971, the unthinkable occurred – a fellow Florida musician, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident. At the time, Les was playing with bandmate Peter Schless, a keyboard player from Venice, Florida in their band Power. Peter knew Dickey Betts and had heard he was looking for players. So Les and Peter drove to Macon, Georgia to jam with Dickey. A few weeks after returning to Florida, Les was called back to Georgia. As a result, Les was invited to record with The Allman Brothers Band. That’s Les you hear playing guitar harmonies with Dickey Betts on “Ramblin’ Man” and the intro acoustic guitar on “Jessica”, their two biggest hits from the Brothers and Sisters album (Capricorn Records).
The news spread quickly about this young guitar talent. Dudek was offered a guitar spot with Boz Scaggs. He accepted. Les commuted back and forth from Macon, Georgia to San Francisco, California, touring with Boz and later appeared on the Silk Degrees album (Columbia Records). Les also appeared in Boz’s “Low Down” and “Lido Shuffle” videos made for television. In 1974, Boz, with Les, special guested the Joker Tour with The Steve Miller Band. Also on the bill was James Cotton. At the end of Miller’s set, Steve would invite Boz, James Cotton and Les out on stage to finish the show. At the end of this tour, Miller invited Les up to Seattle, Washington to record some tunes that turned into classic hits on Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams (Capital Records), from which Les co-wrote “Sacrifice”. Living In The 20th Century (Capital Records), Les appears on the record and in the movie of the same title and Wide River (PolyGram Label Group), Les co-wrote “Blue Eyes”. Another memorable show Les did with Miller was the second Knebworth Park outside of London, England with Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart and members from Monty Python.
Miller invited Les to join his band, so Les moved to California. After which, Les formed a band in the San Francisco area from members of Scaggs and Miller. They called it Polar Bear. The members were; Les, Gerald Johnson, Joachiem Young and Billy Meeker. Polar Bear recorded demos for Warner Brothers, who declined. Then Les was asked to record a demo for Columbia Records. At the same time, a manager called Les and asked him to come to a rehearsal hall in San Francisco to hear this new band he was nurturing. He wanted “the two guitar heroes” of the Bay area to be in the same band, “..and we’re going to call it Journey”. The same day Les was invited to the first Journey rehearsal, he was offered a solo recording deal from Columbia records. Les decided to be a solo artist for Columbia Records.
During the next six years Les released four critically acclaimed solo albums, (Les Dudek debut, Say No More, Ghost Town Parade and Gypsy Ride) scoring two FM radio hits – “City Magic” and “Old Judge Jones”. He then collaborated with two other Columbia artists, Mike Finnigan, who played organ on “Rainy Day”, a song from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric LadyLand album (Reprise Records) and Jim Krueger, who wrote “We Just Disagree” for Dave Mason. DFK (Dudek, Finnigan & Krueger) released one album on Columbia Records and toured most of 1978 with Kansas.
After a hiatus from DFK, Cher asked Dudek to participate on a recording project, which became the Black Rose album (Casablanca Records). After a few appearances, such as a concert with Hall & Oates in New York’s Central Park, “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Midnight Special” hosted by Wolfman Jack, the Rose wilted.
In 1984, Dudek made an appearance and authored a few songs in Peter Bogdanovich’s Universal Studios movie “Mask” which starred Cher, Sam Elliott, Eric Stoltz and Laura Dern. Les also appeared in Christopher Crowe’s “Streets of Justice”, a Movie Of The Week from Universal Studios in 1985.
Dudek teamed up with Stevie Nicks and co-wrote two songs; “Sister Honey”, a collaboration which appears on her Rock A Little album (Modern/Atlantic Records) and “Freestyle”, the title track to Les’ “Freestyle” cd (E Flat Productions). Les also toured with Stevie on her 1991 Whole Lotta Trouble tour.
Throughout the ’90’s Dudek toured the U.S. and Europe. Les also released a rock ‘n blues album titled Deeper Shades Of Blues and Freestyle 2002 (E Flat Productions). Additionally, Les wrote and performed instrumental library music for television. This music can be heard on NBC, ABC, ESPN, FOX SPORTS and E channel. These instrumentals are featured on such programs as “Friends”, “Extra”, “Wild On”, “Search Party”, and “Access Hollywood”.
CBS Records 1981
Ghost Town Parade
Columbia Records 1978
Say No More
Columbia Records 1977
CBS Records 1976