For many years, Lou Pallo played with Les Paul during the legendary musician, guitar inventor and recording pioneer’s regular Monday-night gigs in New York City.
On the new tribute album Thank You Les (Showplace Music Productions), guitarist/singer Pallo plays with some of the late Paul’s famous fans and disciples, among them Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons and Jose Feliciano.
“All I had to do was call my friends, one at a time, and they were there,” Pallo explains. “So it wasn’t planned for years, it was just through the years, [many musicians said to me], ‘When you do something, please let us know. We want to be on it.’ And then I let them know. Some were out of town, but we seemed to do pretty good with what we do have.”
Pallo was especially pleased with Gibbons’ contribution.
“Here’s a guy, a friend of mine for many years, who plays three-chord blues [with ZZ Top],” Pallo says. “And when he picked ‘September Song,’ I said, ‘Oh, man, that’s going to be nice,’ and he did such a great job on it — more than what I expected.”
Richards arrived “all prepared” to record “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” a song with a deep Les Paul connection. Paul’s guitar work is featured prominently on smooth-singing Bing Crosby‘s hit version from the mid-1940s; Paul and fellow guitar great Chet Atkins teamed up to do an instrumental take for their 1976 album, Chester & Lester.
Pallo and Richards split guitar and vocal duties on their rendition.
“It was easy,” Pallo says of the session. “He came right in, and his guitar tech tuned his guitar. Keith stood next to me, and we looked at each other and I said, ‘Are you ready?’ Anton Fig from David Letterman’s show is on drums, and Paul Nowinski is on bass. They started playing while [Keith and I] were talking, and we kept the talking in there. The rapport was so great.”
The New Jersey-based Pallo began his rapport with Paul when they first met in 1963. Pallo and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi joined forces with Paul to become the Les Paul Trio in 1984, the year when the group began its regular run of Monday-night shows in New York — first at Fat Tuesday’s, then at the Iridium. (Paul, a longtime northern New Jersey resident, died Aug. 13, 2009, at age 94.)
Along the way, Pallo learned many lessons from the master about how to read a crowd and pace a show, plus Paul’s approach to studio multitracking using analog equipment, technology that’s synonymous with Paul’s legacy.
Of course, Pallo used analog to record the 21-song Thank You Les.
“Digital is the biggest thing today, and Pro Tools,” Pallo acknowledges, “but the sound is just a little bit too harsh for me.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Lou Pallo (and surprise guests) will celebrate the release of his Les Paul tribute album with two shows Sept. 10 at the Iridium, 1650 Broadway in Manhattan.
Pallo can be found most Monday nights at the Iridium leading Les Paul’s Trio, whose current members include bassist Nicki Parrot and pianist John Colianni.
Above photo of Lou Pallo by Arnie Goodman
Les Paul (center) is all smiles as he’s surrounded by fellow guitarist Lou Pallo and other musicians at the end of a June 2001 show at the Iridium in New York. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)