Tag: Les Paul

A Guitarist’s Worst Nightmare

Me and Les Doing What We Do Best

Even if you’ve never played guitar before you will cringe when you hear the tale I’m about to tell. It’s something you might read right out of a Steven King novel. I’m warning you now that it’s not for the weak of heart.

I started playing guitar in the early 1980’s and struggled for years learning chord progressions and scales. Having to learn how to play on a cheap imitation Fender Stratocaster wasn’t of much help either. If you’re a guitar player you know what I’m talking about. The better the guitar, the easier it is to learn on. And although I played with what my parents could afford to get me, I still dreamed of one day getting a Gibson Les Paul. The guitar that players like Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and Ace Frehley from Kiss played. A guitar that at the time I wasn’t worthy enough to play or financially responsible to own.

Someday.

My hard work eventually started paying off. By paying my dues as a working musician over the next few years I was able to purchase a used Gibson Explorer and genuine Fender Stratocaster. But the elusive Les Paul was always slightly out of my reach.

Fast forward now to 2004 and the local band I was in is at the top of our game. We had just successfully completed a long string of summer shows including one as the opening act for American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken.

Now, before you laugh consider this: Clay was almost God-Like at this time. His first album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was, with 613,000 copies sold in its first week, the highest-selling debut for a solo artist in over ten years and an album that was eventually certified multi-platinum.

To help celebrate my hard work and musical devotion I FINALLY purchased my Les Paul just in time for the Clay gig. Much like being a car enthusiast who for years has driven nothing but clunkers until eventually getting their dream car, getting the Les Paul and the chance to play it at the ultimate show in front of 6,000 fans was a dream come true.

Needless to say, the euphoria of this combination of events had me feeling pretty good when the band rolled into the Franklin Township Fair a few weeks later.

The Franklin Township Fair is an annual event held in the wide-open boon docks of Northern Pennsylvania. With sponsorships from a variety of local businesses all supporting the volunteer fire company, the event raises a lot of money to help continue to fight the good fight.

I spent the early portion of the day setting up my gear on the big concrete stage we would be performing on. I had my polished Les Paul, strung with new strings, all tuned and ready to go and gently placed it on the guitar stand.

To make this day even more special, I had just finished recording a brand new song I had written and this was the perfect opportunity to listen to it on the big PA system for the first time. I placed the CD into the drive and pressed play. I then jumped off the stage and made my way out onto the midway.

I was able to completely ignore the smell of funnel cake and the sound of spinning wheels as people tried to match numbers and win gigantic stuffed animals. I just stood there and let the perfect balance of music seep into my soul. Not just any music mind you. This was my music and nothing beats the first time you hear the final mix of a song that you wrote.

Paging Steven King.

As I’m listening to the sound of guitar and lyric in blissful perfection another sound begins to fill my ears. It’s the sound of an approaching helicopter. You see, one of the “benefits” fair goers get to see as part of the festivities is a demonstration of a Med-Evac helicopter landing.

People nearby begin to get excited and cheer as the copter slowly descends and lands onto a small clearing next to the fairgrounds. I myself begin to get a little worried when the breeze coming off of the still spinning helicopter blades continues to pick up. I know the copter has already landed safely but the high wind on my face is definitely a cause for concern.

It’s at this point that everything turns into slow motion.

My attention is quickly drawn back to front and I now see set lists and cables blowing around on the concrete stage. A stage I am standing at least fifty or sixty yards away from. My heart goes into my throat as I now fear the worst. And sure enough, the worst happens.

My beloved Les Paul, the one I had spent twenty years of my life trying to obtain, the one that is now sitting on a guitar stand in what feels like a mile away begins to teeter and totter in the wind. There is nothing I can do as I watch it fall forward and land face down on the concrete stage.

I run as fast as I can to assess the damage. The guitar now has a two-inch crack near the head stock. And the nut, or portion where the strings attach near the tuning pegs, is broken off right where the sixth string passes making that string completely useless.

So here I am, pissed off beyond belief that my beloved guitar, and the only guitar I brought to the gig, has suffered damage and also knowing that I still had to perform for ninety minutes. How I was able to hold it together remains a mystery. The show must go on I suppose.

Not surprisingly, even with the damage sustained I was still able to play the guitar (minus the sixth string) for the entire show and it not once went out of tune. After all, it’s a Les Paul.

Insurance was able to cover the damages and to this day my beloved Les Paul is still rocking. Only now, it has its own identity.

And the dream continues.

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Musician Available

I haven’t been performing live on the music scene for about five years now and am beginning to get the itch to get back into it. I’m pretty versatile when it comes to my music. I’ll play guitar, bass, keyboards. I’ve done modern country, oldies, classic and modern rock and even my own original music. The problem I’m having is trying to find the right situation.

I don’t think I’m asking for much. I just want to get into a band to perform, have fun and get paid for it. I also don’t believe my requirements are anything out of the ordinary. In fact, outside of everyone in the band obviously getting along, for me there are only two things that must exist in any band I would consider joining. So with this in mind, here’s what I’m looking for in a cover band:

Number one:  A band that will do classic to modern rock from 1970’s through today.

Number two and even more highly important: A band that under no circumstances will play Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

I am so sick of big wheels turning that at this point I refuse to even play it. Quite frankly it gets me upset that I even have to tag this blog with the title. And by that I mean I will not perform it. If we’re at a bar and a beautiful drunk woman comes up at the end of the night and requests it, well we call her a cab. I’ve even abruptly ended my tenure in bands before it even began when the song is suggested. Here’s a classic example:

I once auditioned to be in a classic rock band with a bunch of cool guys I knew from school. I lugged all of my equipment into the rehearsal space and slowly but methodically unloaded it from my car and pieced it together.

I configured my amps, my guitars, unwound cables, ran effects pedals out the wazoo. I tuned up my Les Paul, turned the Marshall stack on ten and stood at the ready. Ready for the first song of what was surely to become the next Aerosmith or Def Leppard. And that’s when it happened.

The singer looks at me and says, “Uh, I dunno, wanna start with Sweet Home Alabama?”

Without saying another word I un-did everything I mentioned two paragraphs ago and hastily made a twenty-three skidoo. They never heard from me again.

True Story. Well, maybe.

Anyway, it seems as though finding the right fit for me is proving to be almost impossible. I’ve been searching but so far haven’t been able to find anything.

Quite honestly, the more I scour the “musicians wanted” listings the more and more depressed I become. Please tell me if you see anything of value that looks appealing in the following legitimate listings:

1) I am 20, been playing lead guitar since i was 13. I want to start a band with musicians that have chops, good improv skills and creativity. Age range-17-35. The originals I have at this point revolve around progressive funk and hard rock, think chilli peppers meets STP meets Slash. Please only serious inquiries only. No pay. Band is a serious project but for the music foremost. Email me if you’re interested

Interesting combination. But seriously, no pay?…Dude, you CRAY-ZEE

2) CLUTCH tribute band I’m a drummer looking to start a CLUTCH tribute band. If your interested, and have the chops, then hit me up. Looking for people who love CLUTCH and have their own equipment and NO DRAMA, Otherwise don’t waste my time.

I did not even know who CLUTCH was and had to look them up.  They definitely don’t seem to be the kind of band that would warrant a tribute.

3) Guitar led trio needs drums and bass for Satriani influenced cover band playing mostly instrumental music from others as well like Jeff Beck, Frank Marino and Stevie Ray Vaughn as well as a lot of Satriani material including surfing cd the crystal planet and most of stuff from the live at Anaheim dvd. serious players need only apply.

If you can name one venue that will pay money to have you perform this type of music at then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

4) Hey whats up everyone! We’re looking for an experienced rock drummer from ages 17- 25. Check out our facebook page and listen to our music if you might be interested. We just started recently but is number 5 on the phillipsburg Alternative Charts. We just released our first demo and are writing for our first EP. We’re good dudes just enjoying the life of music. So if you’re interested just let us know!

I didn’t even know that the small town of Phillipsburg, NJ had an Alternative Chart. Man, I wish I played drums.

This one was more of a musician’s available listing but it gave me a chuckle anyway:

New Orleans and Classic Jazz, Swing, Dances, Parties, Festivals, Weddings, Funerals, Dixieland Strolling (yes with the whole band)ANY Type of Event We own our own parade floats (we have 2) and we specalize in Parade Performances. Ask about our combined Parade and Concert or Strolling Specials!

Parade floats and funerals? Hmmm, these guys just might be onto something.

This can’t be all that’s out there for me. What do you think? Let’s start a discussion. Otherwise, I’m going to have to sing songs about the Southland again. And I won’t be a happy camper.