It seems the library has taken the backseat in many peoples’ hypothetical entertainment car, but for what reason? The library has plenty of stuff to occupy time and serve up fresh information. It has computers, books, magazines, DVDs, CD’s, and Concerts. Yes that’s correct concerts. At least the Hunterdon County Library did tonight.
I was a little shocked my self. I went in to check out a scary movie to watch while my girlfriend chipped away at a PhD. paper. She doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for horror flicks as I do, so I get my scare on while she is occupied with other things. So, as I was saying I walked into the library to check out a movie, but before I could get to the shelves holding a DVD collection Paramount would be jealous of, I noticed that in the conference hall there was a series of guitars, microphones, bongos, and pictures of Les Paul and Mary Ford facing about ten rows of chairs. I grew curious and decided to take a look around. There was a handsome couple dressed in black sitting up front with a bunch of paper in their laps, looking very informed and important, so I asked them what the skivvy was. They let me know that they were putting on a tribute show for Les and Mary in about 30 minutes.
I got a little excited and thought about sticking around to, at the very least, check it out. I’m not a huge Les Paul fan by any means, but I know a little about his past, and I enjoy a few songs, and respect him as a valuable force in the creation of Rock and Roll. After toying with the idea of not sticking around, and wandering the rows of DVD’s too distracted to actually look for anything to watch, I decided to stay.
As it drew closer to show time I wanted to make sure I had a good seat for the show, so I sat down in the second row and waited. Within minutes the dingy room was brought to life by blue hair and the reflection of bifocals glittering like a geriatric disco ball on the pale walls. I’m not sure why I didn’t expect to be 20 years younger than everyone’s teeth and 30 years younger than the owners of the teeth, but I was. I guess it plays back into the fact that 20 somethings have put the library in the backseat to allow the internet, the kindle, or the iPhone the shotgun position. None the less, I was there and I wasn’t about to leave at that point.
The room was full of wonderful jokes about “measuring how high the moon is,” and the smell of denture glue mixed with the tube amps burning hot with anticipation. The black clad couple, now positioned at the front of the room, introduced themselves as Tom Doyle and his wonderful wife Sandy; needless to say the show had begun.
Tom was a guitarist that from an early age loved playing Les Paul tunes on his guitar. He would play regularly at a “hot dog joint” in New Jersey. Lucky for Tom, Les Paul and Mary Ford happened to like hotdogs, and specifically the hot dogs at said “hot dog joint.” They were known to eat there if they were on tour in the area.
One fateful night in 1982, Tom was playing at the “hot dog joint” and Les was eating there. After the show, Les approached Tom to work out a business deal. Tom would run sound at Les’ shows, and even mix numerous recordings for Les over the next 40 years until Les’ death in 2009. Lucky for Tom.
The show consisted of several anecdotes about Les Paul and some minor insight on recording processes and inovation. This of course happened in between a ten song set list that included hits such as, “Caravan”, “How High the Moon”, and “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise”. When they played “How High the Moon” Tom and Sandy played around with a recording device, to give us the an idea of how Les and Mary would record music (often times in hotel rooms, kitchens, or bathrooms). That was Tom and Sandy’s best portrayal of Les and Mary, and one of the few songs I actually knew.
Tom was a great guitar player and Sandy had a wonderful voice, but as you can imagine, there was a reason they were touring libraries. It lacked spunk, and for someone that mixed sound for a guitar legend for 40 years, the mix was terrible. Granted they were in a library conference room and it was free.
I feel bad about giving any complaint, but c’est la vie.
After the performance Tom answered several questions from the audience. One question that wasn’t mentioned, however, was how he went from mixing live performances, engineering recordings, and building guitars for a guitar hero to touring libraries for Grandma June and her cousin Ethel. I suppose I could have asked myself, but by the time the show was over, my pajamas were calling my name, so I darted.