Friday, August 21: 5:40 p.m.
Terry Stewart, the president and CEO of the Rock Hall, and I just returned from New York City, where we attended a funeral service and memorial reception for the late, great Les Paul. The service, which was held at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on Madison Avenue, was very moving. Various family members reminisced about Les, as did Lou Pallo, Les’ longtime guitar sidekick and friend; Ron Sturm, who runs the Iridium Jazz Club, where Les played two shows every Monday night; and Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar. There were several common themes: how sweet and loving Les was and how quick-witted he was, always ready to take a jab at someone. Les’ trio – Pallo, bass player Nicki Parrott and piano player John Colianni – performed between the reminiscences, closing the funeral with the very apt “Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You).” As Les’s son Russ told me, “Les had a very big plate and through his life he filled it with many great things. It’s our job to make sure we continue to share that plate with everyone.” Tony Bennett, Slash, Richie Sambora, Jose Feliciano, Neal Schon, Brad Whitford and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter were among those who attended the funeral.
After the funeral, a reception was held at Gibson’s New York headquarters in the former Hit Factory recording studio. For several hours, music filled the space as guitarists and other musicians paid tribute to Les. Joan Jett, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marky Ramone, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Richard Barone of the Bongos, Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady and Frank Vignola were among the many musicians who came to pay respect to Les.