Les Paul, R.I.P.

Les Paul came to be better known as the inventor of his eponymous electric guitar than as a musician, but he was, first, a superb jazzman, who became important in various forms of pop, as well. I knew him first as the instrumental half of Les Paul and Mary Ford, whose then-new overdubbed sound was ubiquitous on the radio of my youthier youth.

The piece below is now about as far out of fashion as it’s possible to be, but it was a hit at the end of the war, and it’s easy to understand why it meant so much to those finally exchanging uniforms for civvies.

Crosby’s great here—terrific phrasing as always—but listen to Paul. He’s precise, smooth, and restrained, but also inventive…and he bends and shapes just enough notes to give the song the swing it needs to avoid being merely sentimental. Gorgeous playing, perfectly at the service of the song.

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