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Testament Guitarist Bonds With Dad Through Les Paul

For Testament lead guitarist Alex Skolnick, Les Paul wasn’t just a guitar hero, he was a well-needed bridge between an eclectic, expressive musician and his intellectual, music-deficient father.

“Les Paul was actually one of the rare links that I had with my dad,” Skolnick tells Noisecreep. “I come from a family of Ph.D. academics, which is a little strange for a guitarist. But when I got my first Les Paul, which I consider my first real guitar, he said, ‘You know, Les Paul is a person. I remember Les Paul.’ And that kind of created a bond between us. At the time, it just never occurred to me that Les Paul was a person, because I heard the words used to describe this instrument so many times.”

Intrigued, Skolnick located an article on Paul in Guitar Player and read about how he invented the sold-body electric guitar, multi-track recording, tape delay, reverb and numerous other music tools and techniques that have become standards of the industry. And he found out about Les Paul’s radio show ‘The Les Paul Show,’ and TV program ‘The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show,’ which his dad had enjoyed in the 1950s. Finally, Skolnick delved into Paul’s catalog and discovered a treasure trove of jazz, pop and country music that transcended genre.

In the early ’90s, Testament‘s guitarist caught one of Paul’s shows at Fat Tuesday, the venue where he regularly played before he began his weekly gig at the Iridium — which lasted up until the time of his death last week at age 94. But Skolnick’s fondest memory of Paul was taking his dad to two of Paul’s New York concerts, one in the mid ’90s and the other in 2007.

“We had a great time,” he recalls. “You didn’t have to know the music to see that he was having fun onstage. He had already accomplished so much in his life and had so much greatness behind him, but he didn’t rest on his laurels. And you could tell he just loved to do it. So many people in the music business are onstage and on the road and can’t wait to get off. He was doing the music because he loved it. Clearly, he was having a great time and not taking stuff too seriously.”

While Skolnick never performed with Paul or met him as a fellow musician, his brief interaction with the legend gave him as much insight as he needed. “I was just meeting him after the show like everybody else, and he gave everybody individual attention, even though there were a lot of people lined up to meet him and he was not a young man,” Skolnick says. “And he was really funny. He would gently pick on everybody and make fun of their names or where they were from. He was almost vaudevillian.”

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