Above, L-R: Townshend’s longtime friend, producer and humorist Martin Lewis; Pete Townshend; Jeff Salmon of the Les Paul Foundation
The Who’s Pete Townshend was honored at this year’s 28th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity (TEC) Awards, where he was presented with the Les Paul Award. The evening, which took place inside the Pacific Ballroom of the Anaheim, California Hilton, brought out industry icons like Slash, Eric Burdon (The Animals), and John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoon), as well as family and friends of the iconic guitarist. Festivities kicked off around 7pm as guests filed in from the show’s pre-cocktail hour in the lobby and took a seat at their designated tables.
Sebastian served as the Master of Ceremonies, calling up special guests such as Orianthi (guitarist, Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper), Steven Slate (CEO, Slate Digital), and producer Niko Bolas to walk attendees through the 2013 TEC Award winners. Jeff Salmon (Les Paul Foundation Trustee) and humorist/producer Martin Lewis then took the stage to introduce Townshend. A letter was read from Mick Jagger who praised Townshend on his accomplishment: “Congratulations Pete on this honor, long may you play the Les Paul.” Sir Paul McCartney appeared via video and said, “I’ve never had a chance to really stand across from you and tell you — I’d probably be too embarrassed — but this is the ideal occasion for me to just say what I think everybody in the room is bound to be thinking, which is just that you are a great monster man,” he exclaimed, adding a touch of goofy air guitar. “The way you play that guitar, the way you write, it’s fantastic — always has been, always will be!”
Townshend delivered a heartfelt speech, thanking the group of audio and sound production professionals in the crowd for all of their research and development over the years:
“When I was 17 or 18, I got a couple of tape machines at home and, in the great tradition of Les Paul, I took them into my home and I started to use these machines to write music. From that moment on, I waited and waited and waited and every single idea that I ever had, every hope that I ever had for a device that would do something that I wanted it to do, you fabulous people made it for me and I want to thank you for that.”
From L-R: Eric Burden, Pete Townshend, David Pack
The evening wrapped with a five song musical salute to Townshend as the 2Cold ChiliBone TEC Band performed alongside a slew of guest musicians to perform renditions of “I Can’t Explain,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “The Seeker,” and “Lifehouse Medley.” A very appreciative Townshend left his table to join his colleagues on stage to sing “Let My Love Open The Door.”
Following the ceremony Townshend gushed about Les Paul, telling Billboard that he considered Les to be a “fabulous personality.”
“He was a kind man. He gave me one of his guitars once – one of his own guitars you know. I’ve only met him 4 or 5 times but I miss him terribly. He was such a fabulous man and really a great genius and innovator.”
He also shared an anecdote about smashing Les Paul guitars on stage, which he admits he failed to mention to the famed guitar designer.
“I don’t know that I did discuss that. The only person that’s told me off properly for smashing guitars was Ravi Shankar. He was doing a concert at George Harrison’s house and George introduced me to him and he said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you since I saw you at Monterey Pop Festival. This is very bad.” And George said, “He doesn’t do it anymore,” which, of course, I did do it whenever I fancied. I’ve always thought there seems to be a difference between the electric guitar – which seems to me like a weapon, a machine. The fact that you can play it is almost a sidebar. I’ve never smashed an acoustic guitar unless it’s for charity. I hope it redeems me.”
“He would have loved to be here [tonight],” Townshend added in an interview conducted by longtime friend, producer/humorist, Martin Lewis. “He always attended these things. He always put incredible energy into these events.”