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Today’s (Guest) Musing: More or Les

August 14, 2009

Today marks a very special day…the first guest blog for Austin Girl Music Guide.  I decided to hand this one over to my husband, a very talented media producer (check out his work at seanningham.com) and hobbyist musician.  I asked him to give his ruminations on the passing of Les Paul, innovator of the electric guitar and multi-track recording devices, and therefore, innovator of modern rock music.  Without further ado, here is Sean’s blog.

My fascination with electric guitars predates my ability to play. When I was a kid, my older brothers played in their school’s orchestra, and we’d make trips to the local music shop to pick up bow rosin and violin strings and other such necessities. The shop we patronized mostly specialized in orchestra and band instruments for students, but on one of our visits, there hanging on the wall was a cherry red electric guitar. It wasn’t anything fancy or particularly good, but it was the first time I realized that “regular people” could own the wild, tantalizing instrument featured so prominently on the MTV. It was around this point when I decided I wanted to play.

I learned on a cheap acoustic guitar that my parents bought on the Mexico side of Laredo. Its harsh steel strings cut my fingers, and at 10 years old, I could barely wrap my hands around its broad neck, but I loved it, and learning to play on that beast only fueled my desire to go Dylan and switch to electric. And when I started coveting different models of electrics, Les Paul was always at the top of the list.

There are a lot of really nice electrics out there, and though Les Pauls are not as a sleek or flashy as some of them, there’s just something so appealing about them. They’re classy and sexy without being showy. They have a dignity about them that you don’t find in the gaudy axes of the metal world or the tacky numbers popular among hipsters. Les Paul guitars represent refined taste and elegance, and a player that dons one means business.

Les Paul as a person, however, represents something much bigger than his contributions to music and culture. He represents the drive of the American Spirit – the mixed bag that is the unruly and untamed spark common among the greatest men and women of our country since its inception. He was an innovator. A big thinker. A vanguard of the advance to bigger, bolder, and better music. It takes a special type of person to carve out a unique path – a path that has since been broadened and pounded flat by so many that came after him – and that makes Les Paul as big as America, and as big as rock n’ roll itself.

Playing guitar is my hobby – something I do in the spare moments of a Saturday afternoon – and so I’ve never realized my dream of owning and playing a Les Paul (Squier Strats are a lot cheaper!). But that has no effect on my admiration for them and for the man behind them, nor has it lessened my desire to spend entirely too much money on one. Losing legends and pioneers always makes for a sad day, but I feel it safe to say that Les Paul will live on, bigger now than ever before.

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