My Afternoon with Les Paul and to My Surprise…

By Sammy Ash

Les and my Family have gone way back, for decades. He has always been a friend of the family and we were luck to say that. In fact one of his favorite quotes was “If I can’t find what I need at a Sam Ash store I try to build it” (Newsday). I was very fortunate to call him and Rusty friends.

Several years back we decided to do a giveaway of a Les Paul 1957 customer shop reissue for our monthly flyer. Since this was a promotion with Gibson I asked if there was anything in particular they wanted. They said that a pic showing Les signing the guitar would make it that much cooler and they were right on the money. I called Rusty and he set the whole thing up. Not to make this anymore of deal than he needed to go for we decided to have it on his regular Monday at the Iridium just several hours earlier.

I got there with my guys and the guitar and soon Les and his people came by. After he settled down and we had a chance to play catch-up we both headed up to the stage. As always it was very good to see him and he looked even better than the last time I saw him. When we both sat down I was holding the goldtop and he was holding his go to LP Custom in Ebony. This was one of his LP Customs but with the LP Low-z pickups he loved so much. I could see this was going to be fun.

We both got on the stage and started to talk about my Grandmother and my Dad and Uncle. How he was the very first person to do a clinic in our brand new store in Paramus NJ. A little about the people at Gibson…a lot of water under those bridges. So I take out the guitar and we go back to yakking. What started to be a 15 minute shoot lasted over 3 hours. He was so gracious and indulgent to my requests. Who you sing the guitar, would you give a kiss for the camera, and can I have a shot of you playing the goldtop and me playing your Custom? Both sitting on the stools he always has on the stage, and then I almost fell off of mine. Upon inspecting Les Paul’s Les Paul I see in the back of the headstock were the words hammered deeply into the wood, “Second”. I had to ask, you are Les Paul and this is your favorite Les Paul and you play a factory second (they haven’t made them since the Norlin years) every Monday? “What’s wrong with that just because some guy on the finish line screwed the finish? It’s still a nice guitar!!!

When a man is right, a man is right, it did play marvelously. We talked about his all Boss effects board and what amps he liked to use and time just went on from there. He took a shot with the Sam Ash hat I brought him and then I asked him for a shot that at the time I wasn’t able to publish. The Father of Multi-track recording, the man with devices that took up a whole room to get Mono, a technology based in tubes…I gave him a Zoom H2 as a gift. I thought he would get a kick out of it and he did. The capabilities of this unit took him years to create and 10’s of thousands of dollars and it was sting in the palm of his hand and only cost a few hundred. When his guitar player Lou Pallo saw it he asked for it. I said this is Les’s I’ll send you one, and I did.

Editor's note: I had a Les Paul 57 reissue Gold Top with pictures of him signing it from many angles, kissing it, playing it, documenting it, discussing its origin, examining it. The guy who won the guitar put it up on EBay the very next day. When he heard I had pictures of the whole event he said that if I would give him the pics of that day, he could get a lot more for the guitar. I said “B**W ME”. What a fool this kid was, what a fool.

Sammy Ash is a freelance writer and COO of Sam Ash Music, Ic.




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