Back when but a lad, I committed what was one of the biggest errors of my life: I passed up buying a really inexpensive Harmony Sovereign Archtop guitar that possessed the sweetest sound I've still ever heard in my life. I already had a plain ol' Sovereign which sounded great, but that archtop was like honey, ice cream, and Drambuie all in one. What had attracted me to the very small one-man music shop vending it, though, was the owner one day sitting on the front steps and playing. I was passing by and got ear-stunned. This guy swung like crazy. As he informed me, his style was taken from Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, and Les Paul. For someone, like me, into King Crimson, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, and the usual rock and roll suspects, the only Les Paul I knew of was the axe Robert Fripp played, so this revelation was something entirely new……and that's how I was snagged into digging swing music, from Les to Benny to Dan Hicks to anyone who could frame the enticing style.
Steve Miller's godfather was the one and only Les Paul, and he received his first lessons from him. It was in fact Paul's very first introduction of an electric guitar to the world, a gig Tal Farlow stopped by to witness and was invited by Les to participate in, that roped Miller into the music biz. We know what a provident happenstance that was. Steve liked everything about what he saw and heard and made music his life. He wasn't alone, as this unbelievable assemblage of top-drawer sit-ins well demonstrates. No less a roster than Keith Richards, Miller, Billy Gibbons, Jose Feliciano, Buck Pizarelli, Arlen Roth, and far too many to list provide abundant accompaniment in a generous 21 cuts that sing, dance, swing, and wax blue in knock-out cut after knock-out cut.
Pallo, whom Les chose as rhythm guitarist from a galaxy of potential sidemen, sings duet with Richards in It's been a Long Long Time, one of the blues appearing in the menu, then Feliciano encants Besame Mucho right after a pinging and spirited Mr. Sandman with Roth. Billy Gibbons sounds like Jeff Beck on September Song before Johnny A knocks the pins out from under Sweet Georgia Brown in a hillbilly/rock/jazzy stutter step. All the while, Pallo's pickin' 'n strummin', sometimes measured and metronomic, other times conjuring up a gale force. As the CD proceeds, it's easy to see why Les picked him up for such perfect accompaniment.
For a long and entrancing 75 minutes, Thank You, Les trots out a treasure trove. There's also a DVD, I haven't seen it yet and so can't comment, tracing the friendship between Pallo and Paul as well as a number of illustrations of Paul's sense of humor. Here's an instance Miller writes of in the CD's liner notes:
When Paul held that unveiling of the electric guitar, fellow ace player Tal Farlow showed up as Les was going to it. Noting his presence, Les, without missing a beat, retrieved a kerchief from his pocket and laid it over his chording hand, then grinned to the audience "That's so Tal can't steal any more of my licks!" Everyone laughed, Les invited Tal onstage, and the two set the joint on fire. That's the kind of memorial you're in for here.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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