July 4th, 2015

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Les Paul was a legendary guitarist/inventor and recording innovator. He was also a fan of gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. A friend of mine guitarist Wayne Wright from Detroit was the first person to convince Les Paul to come out of retirement and play again. Les and his wife singer Mary Ford had many hit records back in the 50s. In 2008 I got a call from Gibson Guitar to play with Les at the Playhouse Theater in Cleveland. The Playhouse Theater seats about 3000 people. The event was called the 13th Annual American Music Masters featuring “The Wizard of Waukesha” Les Paul. Internationally known guitarists were invited to play at this event to honor Les. First we each did one song. Les then wrapped up the show by playing a few songs with Les Paul Trio. We all took turns in the Finale of the show soloing with Les on “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”. Some of the guest guitarists on the show were James Burton (Ricky Nelson, Elvis), Duanne Eddy, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Steve Lukather (Toto), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Doobie Brothers), Lonnie Mack, The Ventures, Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith), Slash (Guns and Roses), and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi). After we all took turns taking solos with Les, he deadpanned the audience and said, “I think I’ll go home and slash my wrists”. It was a fantastic night of music! Here is a video on the Les Paul and Mary Ford TV Show.

Les and his trio played at the Iridium club in NYC every Monday night. I had the opportunity to play with The Les Paul Trio after Les had passed away. The members of the trio were Lou Pallo – guitar, Nicki Parrott – upright bass, and John Colianni – piano. The booking agent promised me a drummer but when I arrived at the club, the manager told me Les never used a drummer. Django Reinhardt never used a drummer either so I think that is why Les never used one. I always use a drummer so it was a challenge for me to play two sets without one. The band was great and Lou Pallo laid down solid guitar rhythms so we still did a great show!

The next time I played with the Les Paul Trio was at a yearly concert event in his hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The trio hired a drummer for that occasion. After playing two concerts with the trio, I also did one song with a rock group. We all had a great time on stage and the audience really responded to the music.

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Dennis Coffey