Uli Jon Roth: Master of the Sky Guitar

By Andrew Catania

Master guitarist, and an excellent keyboardist, a refined vocalist, and a virtuosic composer: Ulrich Roth aka Uli Jon Roth is an acclaimed German musician, whose name emerged and gained prominence in the early 1970s. Having tested his mettle on a variety of instruments, Roth finally landed on playing the guitar, which turned out to be just the right decision on his part. After that, it didn’t take him much to reach the stature of global fame and repute.

Uli Roth was brought up by his father, who instilled in him a love for aesthetic arts since a very young age. Uli grew up reading classic literature, writing poetry, painting, and learning about visual arts. It wasn’t until 1968 that he realized, his true potential lay in music. Electric guitars, in particular, caught his attention, and having realized what he was going to do in his life, he embarked in pursuit of his passion. Uli staged his first concert later that same year, with Blue Infinity, his first band. Progressing with his high school studies, and after-school music lessons in tandem, Uli partnered with a number of bands during that time, and also cofounded Dawn Road in the early 1970s.

While Dawn Road was still in its incubation phase, Michael Schenker of the famous ‘Scorpions’, was offered a permanent position in UFO. This might have been the end of the Scorpions, but, before leaving for England, Michael invited Uli to join the Scorpions in his place. The end of the year marked the merger of the Scorpions, and Dawn Road, and naming the joint feat after the Scorpions since they held a sounder name in the music sphere.

Uli Roth continued to play as the lead guitarist for the Scorpions. Along with the other members including Achim Kirsching, Jurgen Rosenthal, Francis Buchholz, Klaus Meine, and Rudolf Schenker. The Scorpions released four studio albums until 1977, and a live record titled ‘Tokyo Tapes’, which was recorded during their Taken by Force Tour to Japan. Tokyo Tapes was an ultimate hit and bagged an overwhelming response from across the globe. However, Uli decided to take the high road, and bid farewell to the Scorpions in 1978, before the Tokyo Tapes release.

Electric Sun turned out to be the next milestone in Uli’s career. Cofounded by Uli Roth, Ule Rigen and Clive Edwards, the band’s original lineup was changed after the departure of Clive Edwards. The band released 3 full albums titled ‘Earthquake’ in 1979 which was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, ‘Fire Wind’ (dedicated to Anwar Sadat) in 1981, ‘Beyond the Astral Skies’ in 1985 and a tribute number titled ‘Enola Gay’ dedicated to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incidents.

Aside from his band associations, Uli has also established an impressive solo profile over time, in multiple genres including the hard rock, neoclassical, progressive rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic. Some of his highly acclaimed solo feats include two Volumes of Transcendental Sky Guitar (2000), Sky of Avalon in 2008, A Metamorphosis of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (2003), Scorpions Revisited in 2015, and Aquilla Suite – 12 Arpeggio Concert Etudes for Solo Piano (1991).


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