Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Les Paul and John
I've been in DC for a couple of months now taking care of John following hip replacement surgery. Johns recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He's up and walking with zero pain. I give the guy credit, he's no whiner.
Sunday night we were talking about Les Paul and decided to just go. So we got online to make reservations, called the Iridium Jazz Club for tickets and before you knew it we had the day planned out. Caught a cab to the bus station as 1) I'm scared to drive in NYC and 2)trains and buses were too expensive. So off we went. I rode for 4 hours, John about 15 minutes. I say that cause he slept the whole way waking only at my urging while in the Lincoln tunnel. My records intact. I simply cannot sleep on planes, trains, auto's any kind of moving conveyance.
We got there around 6pm, cabbed it to the hotel and checked in. There are reported to be 20,000 cabbies in NYC and I'm convinced they are all Middle Eastern, have a secret death wish and learned to drive at the CIA. We weaved in and out of traffic, slid sideways through intersections and in general had a great time. Our driver did us proud by rolling down his window to shout at other drivers and flip off a few of them.
We checked in then walked down the street and there was "Manny's Music Store". It's a well known shop and so we went in. At first they didn't pay much attention to us. I asked the worker if he had an Anderson Hollow T atlas something or other. That raised some eyebrows and they took him into this interior room where their expensive guitars are. Hooked John up and let him rip. The guy was impressed. He went over and opened the door so the people outside could hear it too. That was pretty exciting. John played a few more guitars and we left for Times Square to watch the people and lights. We found the Iridium so we'd know where to go later. We ate a burger at McDonald's and were entertained by 2 women having a loud, vulgar, disgusting conversation. The details of which I shall leave to your imagination but I assure you if there were a sale of cuss words these women bought them all.
We got to the Iridium 2 hours early so we could be first in line. We were second. The couple in front of us were from Florida and the girl was wearing a skirt, hose and high heels. I was more than impressed. The building across from us had a marquee showing time and temperature and I watched it like the snake charmer watches his basket. It was 26F most of the time. The doorman told us he'd let us in at 9. The closer it got to 9 the more Wendy, my frozen friend, and I began plotting our strategy for getting in the doors fast. It was painfully cold. Unfortunately the early show ran over and we had to wait it out. That last half hour was a lifetime. When we did finally get in there were already people seated around the room. I was not feeling especially magnanimous at their warm happy faces. I snarled at the waiter and Wendy rallied to the call. We were itching for a fight. By the time the concert started we were back in our happy shoes. It was incredible. Les Paul is 92 years old now but he can still tweak some pretty crazy sounds out of a guitar. We were sitting reasonably close to the front. After a few songs, he invited a singer to join him for a song; then a fellow who had one arm amputated just below the elbow. It was his strumming hand. He had been experimenting with sound and played some riffs for us. It was great. Then he pulled an elastic sock on his stump that had a pick fixed to the end. You'd be amazed at the range this guy could get. He was fun to watch. A saxophonist joined him for a song and then Les started to go back into the scheduled set. The rhytum guitarist, Lou Pollo, spoke up and said well Les we have a guitarist in the audience we'd like to bring up. He's an old friend of ours. So I get John out of his seat and drag him around the club and up on stage. A stagehand takes him to the front where they get him a stool to sit on and a guitar to play. Les asked him what he wanted to play and John said "Honeysuckle Rose" so they launched into it. You could have heard a pin drop. The audience froze. The other musicians were looking at each other and seemed startled. John was oblivious. He was playing guitar and having a blast. His face was radiant, huge grin stretching his mouth. I was so happy for him. When the song ended John started to take off the strap on the guitar and people in the audience started shouting Encore, More More More, they stood up, they clapped and cheered, they wanted John to play. The guys played one more song and then Les wanted to go back to his set. It was late and pretty much the end of his show. He did a few more songs and the evening ended way too soon. Les is gracious and signs autographs so John and I sat around waiting for the line to go down. People were coming over to him and shaking his hand, patting his back and telling him how good he is. John was ecstatic just to be playing with Les Paul, but to get so much praise made him super happy. One fellow even gave me his business card and asked me to email him anytime John was playing cause he wanted to come to every show. The whole night was a kodak moment. Every time I think about it I get goosebumps. John played with Les Paul and it was fabulous.
Lots of people asked me for my email as they had taken great photo's of him. It will be fun to see if anyone remembers to send. One guy is going to mail his on CD cause they're high resolution and we don't want to lose that.
The heater in the hotel gave us fits so I never did really get warm. But the next day we went to Rockefeller Center and walked all around it. I took pictures. We walked around in Central Park then took a carriage ride around part of it. We went to Ray's for some authentic NYC pizza and called it a day. Rode the bus back to DC and got in time to spare. It doesn't get much better than this. Sometimes, he's very romantic. I love it that he's spontaneous. He has to be to live with me. Les Paul. I saw Les Paul play. I saw John play and crack jokes with the audience. He had them eating out of his hand. Les Paul. I am blessed.