Jammin’ with Les Paul

On my most recent trip to New York City, I had the honour of sharing the stage with guitar legend Les Paul at the Iridium Club.

First things first… if you don’t know who Les Paul is, click here . In short, he’s a living legend. He’s played with the likes of Nat King Cole and the Andrews Sisters. He is the father of modern recording techniques. As the guy who invented “overdubbing” he revolutionized the way the studio was used: instead of being just a live-archiving tool, artists could layer many parts, one at a time. It made it possible for groups such as the Beatles to make recordings like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The world’s best-selling electric guitar is named after him. And he’s 93 years old, and still plays in New York every week.

It all started with a friendly email: a man named Tom Doyle wrote to me, telling me how much he liked my music (always a nice thing to hear!). He signed off by telling me he was a musician himself, and a longtime friend of Les Paul. And if I ever wanted to hear Les play, and maybe even meet him, I should drop him a line. So on my next trip to NYC, I wrote to him.

Well, he went me one better: he played my music for Mr. Paul on their way in to New York for the gig. When I arrived, Tom introduced me, and said:

“So, choose a couple of pieces”
“What do you mean?”, I said
“Choose a couple of pieces to sing. You’re going up on the next set.”

Needless to say, I was shocked. After a couple of frantic phone calls to my wife to remind me what songs I knew, I was ready. Les called me up. They were mostly doing swing-style standard jazz, so I chose a standard, “What is This Thing Called Love”. I sang a little, did a short scat solo, and politely handed it over to the pianist. Les looked over and said:

“Keep going!”

This happened a couple of times. After I finally wrapped it up. Les asked me a few questions, interview-style. (I later found out this was a good sign. If Les isn’t impressed, he’ll give his guests the hook!) He then asked:

“So, you got anything else you can show us?”

“Well,” I said, “I noticed you don’t have a drummer. I can do some vocal drums.”

And so I did. The audience was wonderful, and very friendly, and had very nice things to say after the show was over.

It was definitely the experience of a lifetime. Thanks again, Tom, for making it all happen. And Les, Here’s hoping we’ll do it again!

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