Al Perkins (born January 18, 1944) is a Texas-born American guitarist known primarily for his steel guitar work. The Gibson guitar company called Perkins "the world's most influential dobro player" and began producing an "Al Perkins Signature" Dobro in 2001—designed and autographed by Perkins.
Al Perkins was born and raised in Texas and learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at the age of 9. In the 1950s Perkins was considered a child prodigy, playing with regional country and western bands, appearing on TV/radio, and winning several talent contests. In the early 1960s, Perkins began playing electric guitar with west Texas rock bands, and was discovered by Mickey Jones and Kenny Rogers of The First Edition. By 1966, he enlisted into the Army National Guard and was discharged from the US Army Reserves in 1970.
In 1970, Perkins joined the east Texas country rock band, Shiloh, and moved to California. The band included Don Henley and future producer/record executive Jim Ed Norman. Perkins was then hired to play in the new incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers and recorded the live album The Last of the Red Hot Burritos in 1972. Perkins, along with Chris Hillman, formerly of The Byrds, went on to join Stephen Stills' Manassas, whose material fused Latin, rock, blues, country, folk, and bluegrass influences. He also played steel guitar on the Rolling Stones' song, "Torn and Frayed" on Exile on Main St.
With Stills working with Crosby Stills and Nash, Perkins and Hillman joined Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield and Poco founding member) and J.D. Souther in the Souther–Hillman–Furay Band. Perkins moved into record production in the mid-1970s, but did tour again with Michael Nesmith and McGuinn & Hillman. As a session player, Perkins contributed to many notable albums, including the Eagles' On the Border.
Continuing his production work into the 1980s, Perkins also toured with Chris Hillman as a duo before joining Dolly Parton in 1986, touring and recording with her for several years before moving to Nashville.
In Nashville Perkins formed a new project called The Nash Ramblers with Emmylou Harris, with whom he had worked previously on the two solo albums recorded by Gram Parsons. (It was his association with Parsons that led to Perkins being called in to play on the sessions for the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street). The Live at the Ryman album was to win Perkins his first Grammy award in 1992.
Perkins is listed playing pedal steel guitar on two albums by Christian singer Don Francisco: Holiness and One Heart at a Time.
Al Perkins continues to tour and record. To date, other artists Al Perkins has played for are: James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Tori Amos, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, Mike Love, Solomon Burke, Patty Loveless, Cher, Rita Coolidge, Iris DeMent, Michael Martin Murphey, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.
In 2002 Perkins released a collection of studio outtakes and rare recordings. Snapshots features recordings by the Nash Ramblers and the Flying Burrito Brothers among others. This was followed in 2003 by Triple Play, Perkins' first solo album, revealing blues, country, bluegrass, gospel and Cajun influences.
Throughout the 2000s Perkins toured periodically with the Road Trippers, a band led by Kevin Montgomery and occasionally included Mike McAdam and Mavericks Paul Deakin and Robert Reynolds.
In 2009, Perkins formed Big Dog 3, a trio with bassist Chris Donohue and drummer Brady Blade. Big Dog 3's self-titled debut album features guests such as Jim Lauderdale and Emmylou Harris. Today Al Perkins performs with The HiPower Band, which includes vocalist Kristine Arnold (Sweethearts of the Rodeo).