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A Les Paul called Lucy

14 August 2009 by Dawn

A guitar shaped cut-out in an exhibition wall

I wanted to write something in tribute to Les Paul who died yesterday at the age of 94. Les Paul was a jazz musician who persuaded guitar maker Gibson to create a solid-bodied electric guitar. He’d already cobbled together such a guitar from a railway sleeper and a couple of pick-ups, but when Gibson refined ‘The Log’, the Gibson Les Paul was born. The Gibson Les Paul is an iconic guitar played by some of the most innovative rock guitarists the world has ever seen. Pete Townsend, Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Slash to name but a few. 

I visited The Beat Goes On exhibition at World Museum to see if any trace of Les Paul’s influence could be found, and although there aren’t any Les Pauls in the exhibition I did find this rather familiar walk-through! (I should mention there are several other splendid guitars such as Will Sergeant’s customised Telecaster and one owned by Billy Fury). Perhaps I should have also looked in the recording section because Les Paul also developed revolutionary multi-tracking techniques, but that is another story.

I then popped into St George’s Hall to see ‘For George – A Tribute to George Harrison’. (That’s a lot of Georges). If you are a Beatle fan or enjoyed The Beat Goes On then make the effort to see this small but heart-warming exhibition dedicated to George. The display was created by fans for fans and features some lovely pictures, a few taken by Patti Boyd. It is like a little snapshot of all things George – his music projects, his film interests, his racing, Friar Park, The Beatles of course. There’s incense burning and a devotional feel, reflecting George’s dedication to his spiritual development, as well as his fans devotion to him.  It is only a small room but there is a lot to see if you take the time to have a proper look.

In particular I really enjoyed seeing some of the instruments that shaped George’s music, including a rare Gibson longneck banjolele (a cross between ukulele and a banjo) and a sitar. There wasn’t a Les Paul in sight – but it matters not, because here is where we find our Les Paul connection. George is associated with all manner of guitars, such Epiphone, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, and Fender , yet that mellow, rich and warm Les Paul sound will always define one song in particular – ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. The guitar solo was played on a cherry red 1957 Les Paul Standard – a gift from Eric Clapton – which he christened Lucy. (Infact it was Eric that played on the track)

Just put on the record. It’s as fitting tribute as any to Mr Les Paul – and it will explain better than my words just what all the fuss is about.

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