Monday, August 17, 2009

Les Paul

Les Paul and the Night Before the World Changed

Les Paul will be forever linked in my mind with life before the world changed. My friend Peter Frishauf invited me to see Les Paul perform with his trio at one of his weekly gigs at the Iridium. I had to go uptown from 42nd street and got caught in an flash downpour that made every cab in Manhattan vanish, leaving me to walk about 10 blocks. My umbrella was no match. But it gave me an excuse to trade my sopping wet dress shirt for a Les Paul t-shirt.

The show was remarkable in so many ways - Les' obviously arthritic hands couldn't play some of the furious riffs of his former years, but his gift for music was still undeniable. Even more, the field of musical gravity that pulled talent from the furthest reaches into his orbit. More than one famous rocker was in the audience that night, there to pay him homage, which he repaid by handing over his guitar and letting them sit in. Suddenly this big, bearded rock star turns into a little boy who has just been handed Superman's cape by the Man of Steel himself and told to try it on for size. I thought he might cry. Instead, he played it like the little drummer boy - repaying a gift he had been given with every ounce of his being.

It was a magical night. It was September 10th, 2001. One last evening of innocence before nothing would ever be the same.

Thank you, Les. I hold onto that memory like a priceless treasure.