Les Paul played his ass off, Django too

Sometimes I think: There are musicians and there are people who play instruments.

I don’t like to be harsh about it but it seems like, somebody – an adult I’m talking about now, not a teenager – playing guitar in a rock band or a country band, who doesn’t play – or even like – any other kind of music and who never heard of Charlie Christian or Andres Segovia, is not really a musician. They’re just somebody playing a guitar.

Really, how can you play guitar and not know who those guys are? Or Django. Shoot.

I’d say the same about a classical guitarist who doesn’t know who Eric Clapton is.

Thing is, there are no classical guitarists who don’t know who Eric Clapton is.

It’s not that classical guitarists are better people, it’s just that they’re all good musicians. I don’t mean inherently or anything, it’s a practical thing. If you play classical guitar and you’re not that good, you give it up. There really isn’t any choice. But if you’re playing rock guitar and you’re not that good, you might still be doing Friday nights at Hot Dog Annie’s and getting paid for it.

So, there are no bad classical guitarists, only good ones. And the good ones know who Eric Clapton is. And Django too. Because they are musicians, not just somebody playing a guitar.

I was playing in a band once with a guy who played a Les Paul, one of the Reissue models, the 1959 Bourbon Burst. Supreme instrument. Must have paid five-thousand dollars for that axe. We were doing a gig at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, the one at Canada Place. We were in the lounge during a break – here we are, two guitarists, and the house music system starts playing an old Les Paul & Mary Ford classic, “How High the Moon.”

Whatever we were talking about, I just stopped it. I put one hand on his chest and pointed to the ceiling with the other.

“What?” he says.


“What?” he says again.

“Les and Mary,” I said.


“Les Paul and Mary Ford.”

“Mary who?” he says.

“You playing with me, man?”


“You don’t know that’s Les Paul playing?”

“It is?”

“Les Paul didn’t just design guitars, ya know. He played them too. Played his ass off.”

“Oh,” he says. Then he continued talking about whatever we’d been talking about.



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