Chet Atkins, Mr. Sandman, Mrs. Robinson

Posted in Chet Atkins, Youtube Favs on November 13th, 2011 by Willie

So one day, on a crummy radio in the 1940s, Chet Atkins was listening to Merle Travis play guitar.  He thought for sure that what Merle was doing was picking with his thumb and two fingers, because if he was just using his thumb and index finger, it would have been impossible.  It turned out Merle was just using his thumb and index finger, so what Chet accidentally did was invent his own style of guitar playing known as the “Atkins Style.”  Chet was a massively influential and beautiful guitar player who did everything from jazz, folk, country, rock, blues, and even classical.   I have two gorgeous clips of Chet.  One is from 1954, in color no less, of a TV performance he did of “Mr. Sandman,” the song that defines 50s dreaminess.  The other is probably 25 years later or so of him doing Simon and Garfunkel’s immortal “Mrs. Robinson,” all as a stunning guitar solo.  To appreciate Chet, is to appreciate the artistry of the true guitar virtuoso.  His timing, feel, and fluidity are second to none, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the work of a master.

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Les Paul and Mary Ford, The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise

Posted in Les Paul, Youtube Favs on November 12th, 2011 by Willie

I thought it appropriate to segue from one guitar god to another, this time to Les Paul.  For those who don’t know, old Les was one of the pioneers of electric guitar rock, inventing his own solid body guitar in 1940, arguably the first ever.  He tried selling the design to Gibson, but they rejected it continuously until Leo Fender made waves with his telecaster and stratocaster solid bodies that hit the market in the late 40s.  Les, mainly a brilliant jazz and country player himself, more so then a master inventor, lent his name to a series of electric guitars at the Gibson company, increasing his fame and mythic status in the rock world.  His guitars, especially his 1958 and 1959 standard models, of which only 1700 exist, are the most collectable guitars in the world.  You’d have to shell out about $750,000 for the right to claim ownership.  Everyone from Keith Richards to Jeff Beck to Paul McCartney to Slash all have strapped one on in the name of extravagant rock and roll perfection.  Like I mentioned, Les was himself an insanely amazing guitar player, a feat made more impressive after a ghastly car accident forced doctors to permanently set his right arm at an angle that would allow him to play guitar somewhat comfortably.  In the 50s, he was married to country singer Mary Ford, a voice younger readers might recognize from traveling the wastelands of Fallout 3, the awesome post-apocalyptic video game.  The marriage between Les and Mary didn’t last, but luckily the incredible clips from their TV show produced by Listerine Mouth Wash have.  The spots featured Mary singing and Les picking, and by picking I mean playing his guitar like the world was about to end, and the only way to save it is for Les it beat the devil in a guitar contest.  It’s that good.  As for Les and Mary’s marriage?  Perhaps one of them wasn’t using Listerine, as the bonus video below warns you.  Remember, the key to any marriage, is a fresh smelling breath…

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Ella Fitzgerald, Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)

Posted in Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Youtube Favs on October 11th, 2011 by Willie

You may be wondering why I’m putting up an old Cole Porter pop tune from 1928 up my website.  If you’ve seen Woody Allen’s glorious flick, “Midnight in Paris,” you know why, but if you haven’t, then a bit of explanation is needed.  In the film, a time traveling novelist played by Owen Wilson stumbles back in time somehow, ends up at a hot 20s jazz party in Paris, and finds Cole Porter himself performing the song in an intimate setting.  Not “intimate” like an orgy, though maybe one broke out later after Owen left, it’s hard to tell.  Anyway, it’s hilarious, but more importantly, the song is simply one of the best ever.  This version from Ella Fitzgerald is my favorite, which says something because this song was performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Louie Armstrong to Diana Ross and Joan Jett.  I’ve taken it upon myself to learn this song on guitar this past week, and its damn hard because of all the jazz chords that require real finger gymnastics.  However, with some real determination, and some real creative chord interpretation, I managed to plunk it down pretty well after a few days.  Here is the link I used to learn, and if you want to play along with Ella, put a capo on the 3rd fret.  Trust me, you’ll like this one guitar players….and uh…lovers of music.

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Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfeld, Freeway Jam + Blue Wind

Posted in Jeff Beck, Tal Wikenfeld, Youtube Favs on April 21st, 2011 by Willie

In part 41 of my youtube countdown, we take a look at some prodigies. One is an old prodigy by the name of Jeff Beck, the guitar virtuoso of the guitar virtuoso factory known as the Yardbirds (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page.) The other is the opposite of old, a sexy 24 year old bass whiz by the name of Tal Wilkenfeld. Here, the two team up for a killer jazzy jam with the highlight being a 4 handed bass solo which looks as weird as it is cool. While its an amazing feet that I’m sure was staged, it still looks like Jeff just can’t keep his hands to himself, and that Tal was doing just fine without him. Anyway, its still awesome, and yes we’re all jealous of Tal’s already legendary life on the road.  Enjoy.

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