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 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.
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 fourteen Les was already playing in bands all over Florida, like The Steppin’ Stones
, The United Sounds
, Blue Truth
. 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
The news spread quickly about this young guitar talent. Dudek was offered a guitar spot with Boz Scaggs
. He commuted back and forth from Macon, Georgia, to San Francisco, California, touring with Boz and later appeared on the Silk Degrees
album. Les also appeared in Boz’s “Low Down” and “Lido Shuffle” videos made for television. In 1974, Boz was a featured guest on the Joker
Tour with the Steve Miller Band
. Also on the bill was James Cotton. At the end of Miller’s set, Steve invited 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
, from which Les co-wrote “Sacrifice”. 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
Invited by Miller to join his band, Les moved to California. Les formed a band called Polar Bear
in the San Francisco area from members of Scaggs and Miller. Les, Gerald Johnson, Joachiem Young and Billy Meeker recorded demos for Warner Brothers, who declined. However, 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 the 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.
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 and Jim Krueger, who wrote “We Just Disagree” for Dave Mason. DFK
(Dudek, Finnigan and 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. After a few appearances, such as a concert with Hall and 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 and “Freestyle”, the title track to Les’ Freestyle
CD. Les also toured with Stevie on her 1991 Whole Lotta Trouble
Throughout the ‘90s Dudek toured the U.S. and Europe. Les also released a rock ‘n’ blues album titled Deeper Shades of Blues
and Freestyle 2002
. 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”.