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Sunday, August 16, 2009

John and His Guitars

For those who live in Portland, the association between the words "beer" and "John Foyston" are nearly absolute. The guy assigned to cover the beer beat for the Oregonian now nearly a decade and a half ago (no word on how much he bribed the editors for that slot), John has been the most prominent beer writer in the state for a long, long time. But--and I mean no disprespect to John when I say this--even back then he wasn't exactly a cub reporter. His body of work predated beer.

That's why it was wonderful to see his personal history/remembrance of Les Paul in Saturday's paper. He talks about the years before beer when his passion was fired by a different art form.

I've owned maybe a dozen since, Goldtops, Les Paul Specials, mustard-yellow TV models, double- and single-cutaway Les Paul Juniors. They're always beautiful, exciting guitars -- even single-cut Juniors, which are kind of this froggy brown-and-yellow sunburst. But they're beautiful in their own honest way, in the way of a tool properly designed and well built: beautiful like a Snap-On wrench. Beautiful.

Like properly designed tools, the guitars plain worked. Onstage, Les Pauls had a throaty rumble that could impel a song; could urge it along over a whip-crack backbeat, could thunk out a chord like a maul sinking into seasoned oak. And when it was your turn to solo, you could fly with a Les Paul in your hands. The sweetly singing sustain of the pickups transfomed your fingerwork and made the notes somehow bigger and more heroic. Orchestral, you could say. A good Les Paul never let you down.

If you missed it, go have a look.

1 comment:

  1. There's a great website called pnwbands that lists a ton of bands that existed in this area in the fifties thru the seventies, couldn't find Mr. Foyston listed. Would love to know what bands he was involved with and any other stories he may have, hint hint...

    Mike Stender