In 1988, guitar legend Les Paul was honored at a concert staged and filmed live in New York City. Its aim was to celebrate the guitarist's career to date. The show featured performances of the music that earned Les more than 30 gold records—not to mention some choice friends, including B.B. King, Steve Miller, Stanley Jordan and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. Les was 73 at the time, and he clearly hadn’t lost a step.
He took the stage with his Recording Model Les Paul equipped with the "Les Pulverizer," a curious black box-shaped tape echo device. The effect, which Les created (of course), allowed him to achieve his desired on-stage tones and recreate bizarre guitar parts from studio recordings. In the clip above, we get the energetic finale of “Lover," Paul’s futuristic version of a Rogers & Hart song.
He originally recorded the song in 1947 after experimenting in his home studio; the recording featured eight electric guitar parts, all played by Les. The record is now recognized in music history as the first multi-track recording. Eddie Van Halen joins Les onstage later in the clip and pays tribute in words and music, beginning his performance with echo-laced patterns and phrases as a nod to the role Paul played in the creation of the effect. Tony Levin, Jan Hammer and Rick Marotta then join EVH for an explosive instrumental version of Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," which ends with Eddie asking the crowd, “See what this guy started?”
The full show was released as Les Paul & Friends: He Changed the Music. It covers Les' accomplishments as a musical innovator, inventor and performer.
Jonathan Graham is an ACM UK graduate based in London studying under the likes of Guthrie Govan and Pete Friesen. He is the creator of the Forgotten Guitar Facebook page, a classic-guitar media website, and is completing his debut album, Protagonist, due for release in 2016. Updates also can be found at Graham's YouTube channel.