Happy 91st Birthday - Les Paul
By: Paul J. Youngman Jazz Advocate
Tundra Music and owner Ed McDonald (www.tundramusic.com) played host to a guitar extravaganza this weekend June 3rd & 4th at the Thornhill Community Centre. A town just north of Toronto, my hometown actually and a nice place to have a birthday party.
My curiosity was peaked when I saw a press release that mentioned a tribute to Les Paul in honour of his contribution to the electric guitar and the recording industry. The press release read, World Renowned Guitar Genius Les Paul to be honoured with Guinness World Record Attempt at Canada’s 14th Annual Vintage Guitar Collectors Show and Sale.
The idea was to invite all Les Paul guitar owners to come out with their guitars for a photo, the photo will be sent to Les Paul as a happy birthday wish and get well. "I have met 100’s of Les Paul guitar owners over the years whose love for this guitar is profound. This is a unique opportunity to direct some of that love back at the legend that is Les Paul," said McDonald. It was reported that Paul was not doing well. My sources indicate he is still going strong, battling arthritis an and old injury to his arm but you may still catch him performing in New York most Mondays. This is still a nice gesture and certainly one that comes from the heart, these Les Paul guitar players are truly mad about this particular instrument. If you were fortunate to have a 1952 Gibson Les Paul, you would be sitting on a mid six-figure investment.
I attended the show on the Saturday; it was a bad day for an outside photo as had been intended. It rained all day, a great day to browse some classic instruments in a warm, dry, community centre. The photo shoot happened prior to my arrival and was taken indoors, I was informed there were a lot of Les Paul owners in attendance, I don’t know if any world records were broken, but it seemed to have gone over well. I hope that Les Paul will host the photo on his web site. (www.lespaulonline.com)
The show featured guitars and attractions for everyone. The Roots of Rock Collection was on display. The collection valued at four million dollars U.S was donated to POGO (Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, www.pogo.ca) a children’s cancer charity by Toronto businessman Tony Melman. The guitars that I saw in this collection, mostly arch tops, would make jazz guitarist’s cry with envy. A 1960 Gibson ES355TDSV that appeared to be brand new for the asking price of $45K, or a much more affordable 1993 Gibson L5, Wes Montgomery model for a mere $4,750. How about something in between, try a 1962 Gibson Johnny Smith model for $16K.
There were quite a few booths set up that featured information on recording studio’s, there were book sellers, selling music books, books on collecting guitars and amplifiers and even how to safely perform stage rigging. A cornucopia of items relating to vintage guitars, guitarists, collectors and investors. There was also some fine guitar playing by Ed McDonald and Thomas Van Hoose, guitarist, collector and author of The Gibson Super 400 Art Of The Fine Guitar.
Les Paul will be turning 91, June 9, 2006. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 9, 1915 and named Lester William Polfus. He became Les Paul in 1933 and achieved success playing country music as well as jazz and blues. Les Paul has won five Grammy’s, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1996, he is credited as being the inventor of the first Gibson solid body electric guitar, multi track recording, as well as numerous electronic effects devices. In 1950, Les Paul started to work with Gibson on the design of an electric guitar that could highlight his style and sound. The first commercially available Gibson solid body electric guitar bearing the name Les Paul was produced in 1952. The Gibson Les Paul in all its various series and models has gone on to become the most popular selling guitar in the world.
Les Paul has influenced his share of jazz folk including, Bucky Pizzarelli, George Benson, Al DiMeola, Stanley Jordan and Pat Martino just to name a few. Checkout Paul’ playing on DiMeola’, Spendido Hotel released in 1980 Columbia/Legacy. The tune, "Spanish Eyes" features a duet with Les Paul and Al DiMeola with fantastic playing.