Posted on August 13th, 2009 1 comment
By now you’ve probably heard that Les Paul has passed away at the age of 94. You can google him to find out all about his life, his accomplishments, and his death. Here, I’ll talk about who he was to me.
As I pull up a stool at the Tiki Bar and make myself comfortable with a Chivas-Regal on the rocks, I begin to remember the first time I ever heard the name “Les Paul”.
I was around 12. I had just started playing clarinet, learning by listening to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw records and trying to mimic them. I had gotten into big band music and jazz just about a year or so before, and had discovered an “oldies” station on the radio, WRDR FM-105 out of Egg Harbor City, NJ. They played everything from Glenn Miller to Stan Getz, Bing Crosby to Julie London. Occasionally they’d play a tune from a husband & wife country-sounding duo, Les Paul and Mary Ford.
“The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” and “How High The Moon” are the two tunes that they played most often, and that still stand out in my mind. The announcer, I believe his name was Dan Morrow, would add a little trivia when he played his records. It was from him I learned that Les Paul played all the guitar tracks on those tunes, and did something that most people had never even thought of…he recorded on magnetic tape, each instrument separately, then layered the sounds together. He basically developed (possibly invented) audio multi-tracking.
Along the line I heard more about this musician/engineer…first that he invented the electric guitar (he didn’t, but he invented pick-ups that made the electrified guitar sound much better and clearer), then that he played all the guitar sounds on one instrument at the same time (no, he tracked them!). I heard Eddie Van Halen idolized him. That I believe.
That crazy picking sound he developed was different than most guitarists were doing in the 30’s and 40’s, so he developed his own style to go with the instruments. That’s pretty damned impressive in my book.
When I got to high school and started playing in the band, friends of mine who were guitarists would always talk about Les Paul, and having a Les Paul Gibson guitar. Most of my friends couldn’t afford them, but they always wanted them. Those conversations led to my learning things like the difference between a hollow body and a solid body, how the pickups worked, and how different sounds could be obtained by using different combinations of pickups, amp settings, and effects boxes like flangers (I learned most of this from my buddy Tom McGinty who still plays guitar now). I never learned to play guitar, but the info came in handy on a lot of occasions.
I have a couple of Les Paul 78’s. When I think that this guy was recording and experimenting with electronics in the 1930s, and that he just passed away now in 2009, I’m amazed. What an incredible life, to pioneer something that has become so integral in the world’s society, so much a part of history, pop culture and technology. Without Les Paul and others like him, the guitar would have remained a background rhythm instrument in 20th century pop music, and may have never taken its place as a lead instrument. Rock n Roll would never have developed as it did. Bill Haley may never have become a star. Paul Simon, Jimmy Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Brian Setzer may never have played an instrument at all, or if they did they may never have become famous. Or worse. Could you imagine Jimmy Hendrix on Tuba?
All this because 70 years ago a guy decided he wanted to make his guitar louder. The world thanks you, Les. And we’ll miss you.
Posted on August 12th, 2009 No comments
Ok, so I put up the sign “temporarily” to take some pix for anyone interested!
Outlined the letters with ultra-violet orange and dry brushed the Tikis with UV red; it really stands out under the black light (and looks very 60’s) but is invisible in daylight so the natural wood still looks great!
The flash lit up the UV paint but trust me, w/o the black light it’s natural wood. This weekend I’ll take down the old sign and hang this one permanently.
Tiki Oasis This Weekend
Don’t forget if you’re in the San Diego area this weekend to stop by Tiki Oasis, the biggest Tiki lovers’ event on the West Coast! (For a full listing of Swingin’ Entertainment on the TO-9 Site click here)
There will be lots of entertainment, Tiki and retro vendors, art, exoctic cocktails and kool 50’s chicks in leopard and zebra print leotards. Wish I were going but someone has to make Mai Tais here at the Tiki Bar in Sunrise Florida! I’ll be there in spirit though…and to all my new Tiki lovin’ friends that are going, have a blast, and drink a couple of Zombies for me!
CLICK HERE for my previous post on Tiki Oasis.
Posted on August 10th, 2009 No comments
Today I decided to take a ride down to the beach. It was such an incredibly beautiful day, I just had to split the office for a while. It was pretty damned hot, as South Florida will get in the summer, but still beautiful.
I motorvated down to Hollywood Beach (I work in downtown Hollywood, about five minutes away from the Ocean) and parked near the Hollywood Broadwalk. (It’s like a Boardwalk except no boards). I took a short walk and got some ice cream, then headed back. The car was parked at a souvenir shop, so I decided to go in and take a gander at what kind of goodies they had inside.
Well, much to my surprise, they had a whole section of “old Florida” stuff. I thought I was a kid again on vacation…Coconut Squares, treasure boxes, stuffed alligators, hermit crabs, plastic snow globes with flamingoes in them…just like 30 years ago. And above them on the wall was a section of hand-carved Tiki stuff, and pretty decent quality.
So I spotted a Tiki Bar sign, about 3 feet long and carved out of some light but hard wood. It’s perfect for my bar, and only ran me 25 bucks! I’d call that one hell of a find. They had some very kookie totems and tiki masks too…but I’m going to save my pennies and get the real ones hand-carved by some of my fellow Tiki lovers next year at the Hukilau. Gotta support the artists. They deserve it.
Posted on August 8th, 2009 No comments
I bopped across this website when someone Twittered it a few weeks ago. “Groove Notes” by Kevin Kniestedt proclaims itself as delving “into all things jazz, including the muscians’ personalities, trends, recordings, history, and news about live jazz events”. It’s a kool site with a lot of info on the jazz scene past and present.
The writer is the Grooveyard host on the NPR jazz station KPLU, and the host on Jazz24, their online only jazz stream. He decided to put together a list of 1,000 jazz albums, a Herculean task, for jazz buffs to consider. So far he’s up to 40, in no particular order. Some of them are great albums I am already hip to, some are albums I’ve never heard of but will certainly try to listen to.
Dig that: 1,000 albums to listen to. I have a pretty extensive collection of vinyl, CDs and MP3s, and I don’t come anywhere near that. I have about 400 vinyl albums and 45s, probably 50 78’s, around 200 CDs and 1200 songs in iTunes. (Yes, I know some people have a lot more than I, but I like to spend my money on Scotch and women, too). So that’s a couple of thousand songs I have. Now think about 1,000 albums…averaging 20 songs per album (some have only 4 songs, some are double and triple record sets with 40-50 songs) you’re talking 20,000 songs. At an average of 4 minutes each (taking into account standard 3 minute 78’s against 8 minute solo pieces and Coltrane all-nighters) that’s 80,000 minutes of music, or well over 1,300 hours. Laying your ears on one album a day could take over 3 years!
But it’s worth it. Music like this is to good to miss, kids. Check out the list. For a shorter list, check out my Jazz 101 tab at the top of the blog. And feel free to leave a comment or two with your favorite tracks.
Posted on August 6th, 2009 No comments
When I needed to buy an inexpensive grass skirt for my wife, the first place I though of was Party City. I know a lot of die-hard Tikiphiles look down on their plastic Hawaiian flowers and Tiki Mugs, but as one of the largest distributors of Luau party items, they’ve got a lot of kookie stuff that’s hard to find anywhere else.
The grass skirt (which ran me $8.99) had a tag that said Made in the Philippines. Well, you can’t get any more authentic than that. But what’s really interesting is the little instruction pamphlet that they give you with the skirt: “The Simple Hula Instructions”. Printed on thin, goldenrod-colored paper and including 1930’s style line art drawings of feet (for dance steps) and Hula girls (to illustrate the proper way to sway the hips), this piece is a fantastic example of something created a 70+ years ago that is still in circulation. Granted, the paper itself is probably not too old, and it was probably printed recently. But I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in the Philippines sits a 100 year old factory with a turn of the century printing press churning out these little Hula dance leaflets while in the next room a couple of dozens people make those wonderful grass skirts by hand.
The Simple Hula Instructions start out with “In the American Fox Trot an other American Dances, keeping time, making fancy steps and other movements are practically all done by the feet. The Hawaiian Hula includes the feet, knees, hips, arms, wrists, fingers and – very important-the eyes and facial expressions this combination of graceful movement and expression makes the Hula the most pleasing and entertaining of all dances. That is why the Hula is called beautiful.”
The pamphlet goes on to explain how to Hula, including the fact that “…the Hula is an interpretive dance. The Dancer is telling the story in pantomime.”
Click on the image to enlarge
Finding this litte gem just goes to show there’s still some very old, very fun retro-vintage stuff floating around in stores and online. Sometimes people don’t even realize what they’ve got. Once I bought four metal signs (from the 1950’s) at a hardware store that was going out of business. The hand-written price tag on them was 10¢ each, and that’s how much I paid for them. Another time I bought a couple of boxes of Legos from a department store in Northfield, NJ. They had cleaned out their back room, and found them sitting behind some other stuff. The price tags had the date on them, 10-82. I bought them in 2000 for the 1982 price!
So if you like retro fun stuff, antiques, or anything quirky…keep you eyes open, kats and kittens, you never know where something might turn up!