Arlen Roth Recalls Working on the “Thank You Les” project!
This is truly an insider’s look into what it was like to work on such an amazing and lasting project. I mean, what could be more satisfying than actually playing on a tribute to Les Paul!? Is there a man who has contributed more to the world of guitar and to music in general? Could there have been a charming, charismatic and supportive person, ever? Well, with the exception of my father, the late great Al Ross, who passed this year at 100 years young, I can’t imagine a better “father figure” than Les Paul himself.
Those first conversations with Lou Pallo about working on this album were astonishing, since I had no true idea this was actually happening, and then to be asked to play my choice, “Mr. Sandman,”one of Les’ favorites on this album, it was such a true honor. But far and away, the best for me was that I could also suggest my daughter Lexie Roth, an incredible singer, as the vocalist for “Vaya Con Dios,”the great Les and Mary hit, for this album. They heard her singing “Night Life”on the Toolin’ Around Woodstock album I did with Levon Helm, and they heard her new song “Call You My Hon”in the latest Karen Black film, Maria My Love, so they were sold on the idea, and felt she was perfect for the job!
I was so happy to get Lexie on the album, and not just for the reason of being her Dad, but for her real talent! This is a singer and songwriter with a real track record, who has many accomplishments to her credit, as well as two solo albums, and of course, all the work she continues to do for film scores and on other folk’s albums as well. That cold, arctic “tundra” kind of day when we went and recorded for the Thank You Les! project was certainly and quickly warmed by the friendliness and hospitality we felt there at Ben Elliot’s Showcase Studios in New Jersey. Blondie Chaplin, the great vocalist was there, having just finished his incredible version of “Smile”, and the one and only LOU PALLO was there and ready to go with his rhythm section for my version of Mr. Sandman. It seemed as if the song started playing itself the moment I walked in that door and the spontaneity with which we all dug into that song was truly something I’ll never soon forget! I still can’t believe how fast I played it…must’ve been the sheer adrenaline!
This is a project that truly uses the “best of the best” players to pour out the love they have for the man who definitely was and always will be “the best”, and we know that Les Paul would surely be proud of our accomplishments on this record, and in these performances. It has been so wonderful how Les has really brought all of these fine people and players together thanks to our love and appreciation of him, and how the wonderful Lou Pallo has been really able to make a tribute worthy of the name Thank You Les! Stay tuned for more on this project, and stay tuned to your TVs also, since the documentary on the “making of” this wonderful album and all of its sessions will be on PBS as a special. In the meantime, please be sure to give the album a listen, and see for yourselves why this is truly an “album for the ages!”
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.