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Staff Picks: Remembering Les Paul

Leslie West joins PG staff in sharing our favorite memories of the guitar godfather.

This year marks the centennial of Les Paul’s birth. Most guitarists have a Les Paul story, be it meeting the man, hearing him play, or falling in love his records or the guitar model that bears his name. Leslie West joins PG staff in sharing our personal memories of the man.

Q: What’s your favorite song or memory of Les Paul?

Leslie WestGuest Picker, Mountain

A:It was at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and he was playing with Van Halen and I was playing with Bachman-Turner. I did the tour for free as Bachman just released “Mississippi Queen” and I wanted to hang with Edward. I had him sign my Les Paul Jr. There was a load of “Les” —Leslie’s Les Paul Jr. signed by Les Paul. I was nervous so this is as much as I got.

My current obsession is: learning to use my pinky. Never used it! As for my pinky, if I learned to use it when I started playing it would’ve been a whole other ballgame! Although I had to use the other fingers more, it pushed me to maximize the first and third digits. The pinky is arthritic and looks disgusting but that’s it.

Jorge Landeira -- Reader of the Month

A: Perhaps “How High the Moon.” And I’ll never forget seeing him at Fat Tuesday’s playing and having fun, and at the end of the show I shook his hand and had a minute of talking. It was magical! I have his autograph too!

My current obsession is: I wouldn’t say it’s an obsession, but my dream is to meet Eric Clapton and have a chat about guitars and who knows... perhaps exchange a couple of licks.

Ted DrozdowskiSenior Editor

A: Les was holding down his Monday night comeback gig at Fat Tuesday’s in lower Manhattan during the mid-’80s. I worked up the guts to introduce myself to Les and to ask if I could interview him. He welcomed me warmly and gave me his contact info. Then he said, “Ted, there’s someone here I want you to meet. Ted, this is Leo. Leo, meet Ted.” I was speechless… sitting at a table with Les Paul and Leo Fender!

My current obsession is: my new handwired Sandora amp, built inside the skeleton of a dead Epiphone Valve Standard. It’s like a supercharged Marshall 1x12—simple, but with frills: fat boost, 3 tone stacks, treble boost… Taking it to every gig and I’m in love!

Tessa JeffersManaging Editor

A: I never met Les Paul unfortunately, but I was overcome with real tears while interviewing those who knew him for the Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience feature in this issue. He was a remarkable, musical soul who touched a lot of people—now I’m one of them.

My current obsession is: the funk bass line and drums in Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” His simple acoustic rhythm strumming locks right in with that groove and just like he says, I can’t get enough!

David Von Bader — PG Contributor

A: I’ve always felt that Les Paul’s personality—both as a person and a player—shined the brightest when he was collaborating with others. Between the hilarious and charming studio banter and the incredible guitar playing (especially during the song’s jaunty reprise), “Avalon” (off of the Chester & Lester album he did with Chet Atkins) truly exemplifies everything I love about Les Paul.

My current obsession is: biting pedal steel sounds and ideas while playing slide on a standard 6-string. Using a Strat loaded with a trio of P-90s and the right volume pot helps immensely!