Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIP: Les Paul

I was once a damn good drummer. I played in my high school band by the fourth grade, and I lived to make a racket. A good rhythm will always make me keep time.
Still, one of my enduring musical memories is the feel of a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top in my hands. My teenage friend Eric had one, and he played it beautifully. I, on the other hand, flipped it over and played it left-handed and very poorly.
But I did learn how to play the opening lick of Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" (the live, "Hard Rain" version), and I remember how solid and heavy that guitar was, and will always love its meaty, rich tone.
Les Paul died today, 17 years to the day that my mother did. They'll both be on my mind all day.

Les Paul, the virtuoso guitarist, entertainer and relentless innovator whose drive to produce the sounds he wanted from his recordings and instruments helped pave the way for rock 'n' roll, died today. He was 94.
Paul died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in New York state, said a spokesperson for the Gibson Guitar Co. He had been in failing health for some time.
Paul was popularly known for a series of hit songs recorded in the 1950s with his wife, singer Mary Ford, including "How High the Moon" and "Vaya Con Dios."
One of the finest pickers on the American music scene, Paul was often cited as a major influence on other guitarists, including Chet Atkins, who called him "one of my idols."
But for many other music fans, it was Paul's innovations that will ensure his legacy. They include an early electric guitar as well as new ways to create multiple tracks and echo effects for recordings, which he used in his recordings with Ford and which were later were broadly adopted by other musicians.
"When most people think of the electric guitar, they think of Les Paul," said Dan Del Fiorentino, historian for the National Assn. of Music Merchants, a trade group for the music-products industry. "He wasn't the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, but he certainly made it famous."
"Without him, it's hard to imagine how rock 'n' roll would be played today," the late Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, said when Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 for his early influence on rock.
Read the rest here. And whatever you're listening to, turn it up...

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Anonymous said...

You were a good drummer, you always pissed Reggie off as you didn't practice with any regularity, yet outshown the devoted lad who paradiddled on a strict regiment. Eric still has old goldy in his stable. I remember you learning the intro to Maggies Farm. Did I mention that you were a good drummer?


JohnnyRussia said...

I saw Eric's pics on his website a few months back, and there was Goldie! What a beautiful guitar. And that boy can make it sing....