The old adage of you can do anything if you ‘really’ want to (can’t you just see your parents/sports coach/teacher’s neck sinews strain slightly as they place sincere emphasis on reeeeaaaaalllyyy?) is absolute nonsense.
After hearing my fathers recordings, particularly on our annual ten hour journeys to Cornwall in the late seventies (for those not from the UK, this is the only place in our ‘sceptred isle’ that affords holidaymakers the remote possibility of a glimmer of sunshine) there was no one I ‘really’ wanted to be other than Les Fradkin (or a bat catcher…another story altogether).
So when I got my first paid job, my initial purchase was a guitar and lessons. In true Bryan Adams style I played ‘until my fingers bled’ for approximately seven years. At this point mutual teacher/pupil consensus concluded that I was to the guitar, what Donald Trump is to race relations. It was a constant battle of opposites.
From spending so much time as a fan of Les Fradkin, I can only imagine that his guitar playing journey was somewhat more instinctively natural than mine. From the noises he can beguile from his various axes I can only conclude that he was shipped to earth on the wings of jangle-pop angels, majestic aloft some sort of celestial plectrum. Not for him the struggle with the instrument that I and many have endured.
Of course no. Mr Fradkin, can plainly just look at the guitar Joey Tribiani (‘Friends’) style, say ‘how you doin’ and the thing leaps up into his arms, rendering itself totally compliant, to play the most beautiful music imaginable. Of course to some extent I jest, however when the realization that Les Fradkin is self taught is added to the conundrum of his success, it is easy to conclude that there must have been some sort of benevolent forces at play to gift the man such immense talent.
Of course that is not the only facts of the matter. The amount of work that Les Fradkin has undertaken to perfect his art must have been immense and obviously paid immense dividends considering his continued relevance in a notoriously difficult and fickle industry for nearly 6 decades, during which time he ha amassed a whole litany of notable achievements that include (among others):
*Becoming the first artist to be signed for the Sunflower Records label as a teenager
*Playing for the legendary The Left Banke (1972-73)
*Two mid spells in the mid 70’s and mid 80’s as songwriter and producer for Laurie Records for whom he produced 22 separate albums
*Production, writing and performance credits pertaining to the inimitable band, California
*Widespread critical acclaim with Thornton, Fradkin and Unger who toured with the likes of Roger McGuinn and Livingston Taylor (among many others) in the mid 70’s.
*Winning the role of George Harrison in the original Beatleman playing over 1000 times in the hugely successful Broadway show.
*World renowned pioneer and vituoso for both the MIDI guitar and Starr Labs Ztar
However probably Les Fradkin’s most notable achievement is the fact that unlike many artists of his generation he has managed to remain relevant in the new digital era not only by moving with the times musically but also embracing the possibilities of all thins FLAC and beyond. As such he has continued to amass digital successes and accolades that include the following that I have shamelessly plagiarized from his excellent website (see artist links at the bottom of the page)
*Winner 2016 Indie Music Channel Awards Best Instrumental Recording (Sabre Dance)
*500,000 Internet downloads of his work
*16 #1 hits at mp3.com
*22 Solo CD’s
*The Akademia November 2015 Award Winner for “God Bless California (Oooh L.A.)
*2004 New Gandy Dancer Album Of The Year (“A Day At The Beach”)
*Featured in 20th Century Guitar, Pipeline and NGD Mags
*Featured in Time, Newsweek, Us, People and Rolling Stone
However beyond all of the above achievements the primary aspect about Les Fradkin that keeps him relevant within the industry is his sheer love for his profession and all forms of the guitar. I have had the pleasure over the last few weeks to be part of his Facebook group which emphasizes this passion with his new Guitar Showcase series in which he provides pictures, history and insight into many of his numerous guitars. He is then always willing to engage with fans and other musicians to discuss their usage and the variety of sound each one is capable of.
I have found this fascinating and thought that many on janglepophub might as well, especially if we could post all of them in one series/blog article. Mr Fradkin was approached for permission to do this and readily agreed, such is the nature of the man.
So without further ado and with immense thanks to the artist we are proud to present the Les Fradkin Guitar Showcase series from his Facebook page (see artist links below).
Obviously all copyright for this series is retained by Les Fradkin and no duplication of the contents of this article should be published elsewhere without his express permission.
Guitar Showcase 2 & 3
Guitar Showcase 4
Guitar Showcase 5
Guitar Showcase 6
Guitar Showcase 7
Guitar Showcase 8
Guitar Showcase 9
Guitar Showcase 10
Guitar Showcase 11
Guitar Showcase 12
Guitar Showcase 5