Now, we all know why Les Paul is a legend. He’s the father of the solidbody electric, he pioneered multitrack recording, he developed time-based effects such as echo, and, as we like to affectionately joke in the GP office, he invented just about everything else to do with music, guitarcraft, audio production, live performance, and breathing. He’s one of those cats who you simply can’t envision not being in the world, and you shudder at the prospect of a modern musician’s life had he not been born.
But, all that important stuff aside, what trips me out about this magnificent gentleman is that he is one tough son-of-a-6-string. I’m thoroughly awed that Mr. Les Paul still holds down a weekly gig (at NYC’s Iridium), still records and tinkers around, and can party harder than half the kids profiled on MTV’s Cribs. I have witnessed him holding court at various award-show after parties into the wee hours, and he’s still fresh and animated when most of the crowd has lumbered off to bed, or has fallen asleep on their feet. (I recently asked Les when I could call him for an interview, and he said, “Do you stay up late?” He talked to me from 11:30pm to past 1:30am!) Sadly—at least for me—I can’t wish to be just like Les because God only gave us one, but I sincerely hope I can emulate his love of the guitar, his lust for life, his sense of joy and wonder, and even his roguishly hip demeanor. Thanks for giving guitarists everywhere such a blueprint of cool, Les. Happy Birthday!
On a more somber, the GP family lost someone very dear when photo editor Aaron Caplan—who was afflicted with multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome—took his life on May 17. Since the Beatles special issues in August 2004, your eyes have been treated to his wonderful photographic sense. Each month, as soon as the GP staff confirmed the issue contents, Aaron would swing into action, calling photographers, pouring over photo libraries, and setting up photo shoots. He possessed an uncanny ability to find evocative shots that reached beyond documentary photography to reveal the vibe, depth, and sexiness of guitarists in action—a sensibility that was forged by his own musical life as an accomplished guitarist, producer, and songwriter. He was also an empathetic sounding board for GP art director Alexandra Zeigler, and a fearless problem solver whenever things went wrong. Aaron was one of those “people with an inner glow” that you don’t let go of easily, and his presence will hover over the GP staff for a long time to come.