Can you name a 90-year-old electric guitarist who released two albums this year and still gigs regularly? If you answered ''Les Paul,'' swing by our office to collect a free guitar pick. Having become an official nonagenarian in June hasn't slowed the legendary musician/inventor (Gibson launched the classic guitar that bears his name in 1952). Paul still checks out live music, and he recently took in a New York Velvet Revolver show. Lead guitarist Slash agreed to share some thoughts on his fellow axman.
''It's a shame so many kids don't know about Les. He's this amazing guitar player with a brilliant mind who pioneered a lot of the electronic wizardry and gadgets, like reverb and delay, that guitarists still use. I'll admit, I didn't really know about him when I was coming up either. Even though I played a Les Paul guitar, I wasn't really aware of who he was until I heard Jeff Beck talking about him. Then I had to go back and look up his records. What I heard was really, really impressive. His version of 'Over the Rainbow' is amazing, so full of nuances and cool melodic tricks. He comes from an era way before rock & roll, when the guitar was not so much of a lead instrument. His music isn't R&B or jazz or rock, although it's somehow got all those elements in it.
''I met Les in the early '90s, and we've jammed together about six times. That first time was one of the most humbling and best learning experiences of my life. It's hard to keep up with him. He's 90 years old and he's out there playing every week [at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York]! Right now he's in the process of trying to come up with a new, improved hearing aid. That's the kind of guy he is: He never stops tinkering, thinking of ways to make something better. And that he would spend his time listening to high-decibel Velvet Revolver music for an hour and 40 minutes—man, that just floors me.''