Les Paul: Savior of ‘Flash Punks’ everywhere
By Hunter Ford
The brilliant guitarist and inventor Les Paul died this week and his passing reminded me of another lifetime of mine.
I’ve loved music since I can remember. I love it all, country, blues, rock and roll, classical, folk… whatever. But it’s blues and classic rock (60s and 70s) that really gets me stirred.
The TV news reminded me that Paul was an innovator of solid body electric guitars, and that his recording inventions (multi track recording) set the stage for our modern music scene. Without Paul, the Beatles, Beachboys, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, you name it, would hardly have sounded the same. It’s kind of appropriate Paul passed near the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones had a great quote about Paul. “All of us flash punks everywhere have to own up to the fact that without him we’d be in jail or scrubbing toilets,” Keef said.
Still I doubt that Paul will have a special edition of People or Rolling Stone magazine issued in his honor as they did for Jackson earlier this month. Paul was one of those guys, like Walt Disney, whose name becomes so connected to something that you forget there was actually a man to go along with the name.
About that other lifetime of mine. Years ago I lived in Gulf Shores and worked at a restaurant there. I met a lovely sandy blonde-haired girl with green eyes the color of the Gulf on a clear morning. Her daddy was a rich guy and had a house on the beach. One glorious afternoon I found myself sitting on the back porch of said beach house with said girl (without said daddy around), doing things that young people do in those situations.
“Sandy” went into the house and put one of daddy’s records on the stereo. The gorgeous tone that came through the speakers was of Les Paul’s guitar and Mary Ford’s voice delivering a stellar version of “The Girl from Ipanema.” Ah those were different days.
If Les Paul had not constucted a masterpiece electric guitar or mastered the art of multi track recording, others probably would have. But they didn’t.
Les Paul played and recorded into his 90s and was loved by Bing Crosby and by Slash and The Edge. I hope I can rock on that long and that happily.
Thanks for the music Les and for the memory.