Recently I walked into one of Nashville’s libraries of culture, a honky tonk, and saw a young man playing the fire out of his guitar, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
Along with his playing, what caught my attention was written on the guitar. It said “Gibson.” This kid looked young enough that his mother might still be packing his lunch, and I wondered if he had any idea of the history behind that make of guitar and much of its sound.
So much of the current day rock sound owes a lot to a guy named Les Paul. His credits are too numerous to mention. In essence, he invented the Gibson solid body guitar. He was the first to record (invent) sound on sound recording, the first multiple track recording, and on and on.
From 1979 until late 2002 my family and I lived about thirty miles west of New York City. During Les Paul’s later years he played every Monday night at a very small basement jazz club in New York City, a place called Fat Tuesday’s. My cousin often visited us from Indiana and the two of us would go there to see and listen to Paul. At that time Paul was well into his eighties, and he was still amazing.
The first time my cousin and I went we walked into the club and sat down, and sitting at the table next to us was Les Paul. Shortly after we sat he walked by our table, stopped and introduced himself and asked, “Where you fellas from?” My cousin said, “Terre Haute, Indiana.” Immediately Paul lite up, “Terre Haute, oh yeah, The Apple Club.” Many years ago Mary and I used to play there all the time when comin’through Indiana.” He went on to name the owner and even the location of the club at that time. He could not have been nicer or more gracious to the two of us. Later in the evening he paused after playing a piece and said, “Tonight we have two fellas with us from Indiana and I would like to play this song for them.” The song, as you might have guessed, was “Back Home Again in Indiana.” It topped off a very special evening for the two of us.
Back to the kid on the guitar that evening in the honky tonk. Later I was able to talk to him and I asked him, “You ever heard of Les Paul?” The kid looked at me like I was nuts. “Yeah, you see that guitar I’m playin’?”
It’s often been said we drink from wells we do not dig. In this case it was refreshing to see that this young man knew from whence this “water” came.
July 14, 2016