Aug 17, 2009 2:51 PM
My most vivid memory of Les concerns what a wickedly funny guy he was.
Saw him in the late 80'sperforming in a trio performance at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
Les was clearly using pickup musicians for this gig, which he probably did everywhere outside of New York city.
I heard he frequently introduced fresh musicians to his band with some variation of this onstage hazing.
During a break after a few tunes Les asks the bass player if he knows "how to play Texas style." The young bassist looked embarrassed and responded "no." Les feigned outrage and then said "You HAVE to know how to play Texas style; and in mock disgust, added "Let me show you how."
At this point he tells the guy to start playing a walking bass pattern then tells him "lower the neck." As the drummer starts grooving, the bassist lowers his standup acoustic bass neck about 5 degrees and Les says "no, further." This repeats 6 or 7 times times with the neck going lower and lower until he's whacking his strings with the side of the bass resting horizontally on the stage and standing over the bass's body instead of behind it.
The audience is shrieking with laughter by now at the bassist trying to follow the iconic bandleader's instructions. At that point Les congratulates the guy for being such a good learner with "Hey kid, you did it! You learned how to play Texas style!" and then asked the audience to give the guy a round of applause . . . which he got . . big time!
Like everyone else I was deeply saddened by the news of Les Paul's passing. I always thought of Les in the same light as Thomas Edison. Pure genius. He was the kindest, generous and most thoughtful man I knew. He left a huge impression on everyone he came in contact with and will be missed more than any words can say.
My relationship with Les Paul is so magical that describing it sounds like a dream, and in a way it is:
Les Paul was one of those icons whom I had known about since I was a kid. You can't imagine how surreal and wonderful it felt to be honored as the first recipient of the new Les Paul Award the Mix Foundation added to the show in 1990. Les personally presented the award to me on stage. I'm still bowled over by the thought of it.
Years later at the TEC Awards show when Bruce Springsteen was being awarded the Les Paul Award. Bruce was on tour and couldn't be at the ceremony and he had asked me to accept it for him that in itself was an honor for which I am truly grateful and still can't believe happened. At the show, I was at the same table with Les and his son. Les was 88, I remember by the end of the TEC Awards show his son, like me, was dragging while Les was perky and looking for the next conversation! It was thrilling to be able to spend some time with him.
I remember him mostly for his music and his playing. As he said, he looked at all his inventions as merely things he put together because HE had a need to have them to make his music. What a guy!
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