“Not to brag, but Les Paul and I go way, way back…” So begins the story of Les Paul by Jose Feliciano as he reflects on the opportunity to be a part of the Les Paul Centennial at the Iridium Jazz Club, the place Les called “Home” for 15 years.
“I was absolutely blown away as a kid in Greenwich Village when one nite, out of the blue while Playing at Gerdes Folk City, somebody told me that the Great Les Paul was in the audience. He came over to me afterwards and told me that he had heard about me (image that!) and wanted to check me out. He said that I had ‘an extraordinary talent and great potential.’ It’s something I’ll never, ever forget.
“Over the years we stayed in touch, crossing paths along the way. In 1983 Dick Clark produced a television program called “Salute!” where they would choose an artist (in this case, me) and invite others to perform with or say a few nice words to, or something funny about the honored artist. Les Paul was one of the guests and we played a duet of ‘Breezin’ together. I believe that was when he autographed my Cherry Red Les Paul Heritage guitar. We even had it refinished to protect the signature. I cherish that guitar.
“Later, after we had moved to Connecticut, we learned that Les had a regular Monday Nite gig at the Iridium, the jazz club on Broadway in Times Square. Imagine, a guy in his 80’s gigging every Monday nite. So impressive. We went to see him several times and were thrilled to meet up with him backstage. He always made me feel like I was one of his best friends. Imagine: Les Paul and me! But you know, that’s exactly the way Les was – he made everyone he liked think that they were one of his best friends. He was such a gift to so many. I miss him still so much but feel his presence every time I play my Cherry Red Les Paul Guitar.
“Then a few years later, I was invited to join Les and his trio on stage. What a thrill to be in the company of music royalty! Lou Pallo, Les’ Best Bud and rhythm guitar player, his gorgeous and even more talented upright bassist, Nicki Parrott and pianist John Colianni. It was an honor to be part of the family. I remember celebrating his 90th birthday, as well. I’m telling you, he was amazing. And again, he treated me like a son. We talked music, told jokes; he even autographed my own son’s little acoustic guitar for him.
“During the summer of 2009, I was asked to fill in for Les as he wasn’t feeling up to performing on a couple of those Monday nites at the Iridium. Those were tough shoes to fill but little did I realize that we would be losing Les Paul forever. We were all heartbroken but it was an honor to fill in for those first couple of Mondays after he passed and whenever my schedule would allow.
“I’m thrilled to be back at the Iridium Jazz Club for two Mondays during the month of February to celebrate Les’ 100th Birthday later this year. We’re even recording the shows as a memento of my personal admiration to the Great Les Paul. Lou Pallo and the band will be there with me; Anton Figg will even join in the fun. I’m really, really looking forward to it!”
“Happy Birthday, to my buddy, Les Paul.”