Best-known as one of David Bowie‘s guitarists (during one of his most commercially successful periods, the mid-’70s), Earl Slick has gone on to play on a variety of other projects before returning back to Bowie in the early 21st century. Slick (then only 22 years old), came out of virtually nowhere to serve as Bowie’s first proper replacement for Mick Ronson after Bowie had spilt up the Spiders from Mars. Although Bowie supplied most of the guitar work for his hit 1974 release, Diamond Dogs, he sought the then-unknown Slick to replicate his and Ronson’s previous guitar parts on tour. Not only did Slick duplicate them, but the incredibly versatile guitarist managed to expand on them and inject his own style into the tunes, resulting in one of the greatest rock guitar albums of all time (albeit usually woefully overlooked), David Live, recorded at a stop at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. Slick remained with Bowie for his next two studio albums, which saw the singer transform into his “Thin White Duke” persona and take on the funk genre, resulting in the classic full-lengths Young Americans (1975) and the more experimental Station to Station (1976), as well as the hit singles “Fame” and “Golden Years.”
Up next for Slick was one of the high points of his entire career—working alongside John Lennon on what would become Lennon’s final all-new studio recording, 1980’s chart-topping Double Fantasy. After Lennon’s death the same year, Slick returned to the studio with Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and appeared on what would become her highest-charting solo release, 1981’s harrowing Season of Glass (Slick’s guitar work would also appear on the posthumously released compilation of Lennon leftovers, 1984’s Milk and Honey, as well as CD box sets for both Ono, 1992’s Onobox, and Lennon, 1998’s Anthology).
Slick co-founded Phantom, Rocker & Slick with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker. The band released two records, Phantom, Rocker & Slick and Cover Girl. Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards contributed a performance to the single “My Mistake”—an experience Slick cites as one of the most memorable in his career. Between the two Phantom, Rocker & Slick albums, Slick appeared with Carl Perkins and a host of other musicians including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Rosanne Cash for 1985’s Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session.
The early 2000s saw Slick return to Bowie’s roster, appearing on the studio albums Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003). Slick toured with Bowie in support of those albums as well, and performed on the Bowie DVD and double CD A Reality Tour. Working with producer Mark Plati, Slick released a solo album, Zig Zag, which featured guest performances by David Bowie, Robert Smith, Joe Elliott, Royston Langdon and Martha Davis of The Motels. Slick then contributed guitar tracks to a Mark Plati remix of The Cure‘s A Forest, which appeared on Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities in 2004.
Slick is currently touring with longtime Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler on lead vocals.