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Friday, June 20, 2008

Les Paul Live

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Aside from his appearance last May at the Downer Theatre for the opening of Chasing Sound, a documentary on his life and music, Les Paul has seldom visited Wisconsin in recent years. In fact, his trips home have been few since he hit the road with jazz bands in the 1930s.

His 8 p.m. concert June 21 at the Pabst Theater with the Les Paul Trio and a cast of Milwaukee musicians marks a triumphant return for a man who never forgot his roots, despite his long absence. Recalling his 1949 marriage to Mary Ford in Milwaukee, Paul says, “Mary said when she came to Milwaukee, ‘The Midwest is comfortable, polite.’” He agrees, adding, “When I left the Midwest, I never really liked all the people [he met elsewhere].”

The song list for his Pabst show doesn’t exist and won’t—until the final second before his fingers caress the strings of his guitar. He has always preferred gauging the crowd without preconceptions. The songs will depend “upon those people in the audience at the Pabst,” he explains. “It’ll take me less than a minute. Then I will know my set list, once I know who they are.”

He will be playing a Les Paul Gibson guitar, but not a model available in stores. Paul continues to modify his own instruments as he chases his Platonic ideal of sound. Of his performance at the Pabst and the Discovery World exhibit, he concludes, “This is my dream. I’m going to be buried in Waukesha. I want to come home.”

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