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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Good Bye, Lester

Unfortunately today is a very sad day in the music world. Lester William Polsfuss, know to most of us as Les Paul, has left the stage for the final time, and he will be missed.

Four years ago I posted about his Grammy award winning album, Les Paul and Friends, American Made, World Played. It's still one of the five or so CD's I keep on hand all of the time, just in case I need a little screaming guitar to pick me up. (Clapton, The Who, Johnny Cash and Larry Carlton are always on hand also).

I've known about Les Paul for years. You couldn't help hearing about him if you grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The main bypass around the city is named for him.

But in my youth music was huge in our house. I'm not sure how many needles Dad wore out on the stereo playing "Chester and Lester", Paul's collaboration with Chet Atkins from 1976, but it was a bunch. That album may have been the one to get me interested in listening to jazz guitarists, not just rock and country. If you look at the song list on that album, that seems strange, it's mostly older classics, not modern jazz arrangements. It was Paul's playing that lead me to explore that end of music, it was the only place where his sound seemed to come through regularly.

Everyone from B.B. King to the Beatles to Frank Zappa was influenced by Paul's music, and his inventions. Would the White Album be what it is without Paul's multi-track recording set up? Would the thunder in Jimmy Page's guitar be the same on the crescendo of Stairway to Heaven with a hollow body guitar? The guitar opening of Hell's Bells wouldn't, couldn't sound right though a single coil pickup.

Rest in peace, Les. I'm sure tonight there is a huge crowd for the big gig in the sky, waiting to hear a quick rendition of Caravan.

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