For several months I have patiently waited for the day that the home and resting place of Les Paul was officially branded as one of the Gibson Guitar Towns by execution of the world renowned status. Last night was that once in a lifetime moment and I would have been hard pressed to miss it.
I navigated my way downtown and ended up parking near the public library as there didn’t appear to be viable parking anywhere closer to the five points where the main stage was set up. From there I took the brisk walk towards the epicenter of the GuitarTown Project.
I approached the main stage along W. Main Street at approximately 6pm, and I could hear music playing as the audience that surrounded the stage slowly came into focus. The GuitarTown banner hung proudly above the street, and I snapped a photo as I passed. Just as the image instantaneously loaded into my Smartphone, artist Lynn Gaffey, with her exuberant smile stated, “Isn’t that a beautiful banner.” I turned and exclaimed that it is a beautiful banner indeed.
The Giant Guitars!
As I neared the Waukesha GuitarTown main stage I noticed smaller groups of people huddling around the large, 10’ tall guitars that were displayed around the Five Points in Waukesha. I stopped by one of the first one’s, snapped a few photos, and talked with Tom Noll, the artist who painted the beautiful piece. Tom was very cordial as I shook his hand and gave him a brief hug. Although I have never met Tom Noll before, I did write a rather extensive biography about his part in the Guitar Town Project and to me the hug represented my extension of the friendship and brotherly love that he shares with the world through his amazing pieces of art. Tom’s “Art That Rocks” series is an awesome collection of pieces that feature various musicians, and he has numerous prints for sale at his website.
After briefly talking with Tom I visited the other nine guitars, but was only able to get pictures of some of them which I have displayed below.
The Main Stage
On stage was the Les Paul Trio. Their soothing music was the perfect backdrop of sound for this fine event.
Amazingly, as I made my way through the crowd I heard one of the band members introduce Russ Les Paul Jr., and I looked to see Russ standing on the stage. Russ explained how nice the people here in the Midwest are in comparison to California where he spends a great deal of time, and New Jersey where he lives. He went on to explain how grateful he is of the Waukesha GuitarTown Project, and that his father would be very pleased if he were with us today.
Meeting Russ Les Paul, Jr.
After Russ Les Paul Jr., left the stage, I proceeded to move to the side stage to see if I could get a picture of him from a closer view.
To my surprise the gentleman walking with Russ asked if I would like a picture with him, which I humbly accepted with a sincere thank you. After having our picture taken I had a few moments to speak with Russ and ask him some questions. We chatted for 5 minutes or so before other people who had their own questions tickled his memories of his father. I shook his hand and bid him a farewell, and I walked away with the honor of knowing I personally met and had my picture taken with him.
Aside from meeting Russ Les Paul Jr., the most vivid memory that I have from the launch of the Waukesha GuitarTown Project is the people who were in attendance, including the artists and musicians. You could see the passion in their eyes as hundred and thousands of people congregated along Waukesha’s downtown streets, admiring the fine art and listening to classical music from some of the best of the best. It was very peaceful and people seemed to mesh despite the variations in race, economic status, and musical interests. Everyone was here for one purpose, and that purpose was the living legacy of a man known as Les Paul.
I truly feel honored to have been a member of this event, and to meet all the many, many people along the way. Thank you to the Gibson Guitar Corporation and the numerous individuals who made this all possible. I especially wish to extend a very special thanks to our Mayor, Jeff Scrima, for initiating the Waukesha GuitarTown Project despite the many hurdles and criticism from those whose opinions mean very little to our great city of Waukesha!