R.I.P. Lou Pallo, Les Paul’s Rhythm Guitarist: ‘The Man Of A Million Chords’

Guitarist Lou Pallo, “the man of a million chords” who accompanied Les Paul for decades in the Les Paul Trio, has passed away at the age of 86.

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The Les Paul Foundation’s Facebook page announced: “Lou Pallo has passed and we are with very heavy hearts. With grace and style, talent and smiles, Lou graced the stage with Les Paul for decades. He is an icon in his own right and one of the greatest musicians of our time. Lou, we shall miss you more than you will ever know. The Les Paul Foundation sends its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and fans of this great man. R.I.P. my friend…”

Bestowed with the title “the man of a million chords” for his mastery of chord inversions, often playing a different substitution on each beat in a song, Pallo was a walking encyclopedia of the Great American Songbook, effortlessly playing complex changes and re-voicing parts in the style of a pianist.

An unheralded and unassuming guitar great, Pallo was equally at home playing guitar alongside young aspiring pre-teen musicians in New Jersey’s Rockit Academy as he was with Slash, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer and other rock royalty.

Lou Pallo with Les Paul (photo credit Christopher Lentz/Les Paul Foundation)

Bruce Gallipani, founder of New Jersey’s Rockit Academy, said: “Lou Pallo was a very special and wonderful man. He always thought of others and loved to share his phenomenal talent with young artists. It has been an honor and privilege to know and work with Lou. We will always remember his generous support, love and commitment to the Rockit Academy and will be missed dearly. We are honored and proud to continue offering the Rockit Live Foundation Impact Award in Lou’s name. God Bless!”

Guitarists Lou Pallo, Steve Miller and Vinny Raniolo perform with Red Bank, NJ’s Rockit Academy at the Two River Theater in 2019 (photo credit Mark Weiss Photography/courtesy Rockit Academy)

In an interview with SST Rentals, Pallo commented on working with the younger kids in Rockit: “We did a Les Paul show in New York about four months ago. It was a great show. We did Les Paul stuff and they were perfect. 15 or 16 of them… These kids are just great. Some of them were here about two weeks ago–six of them–to sit in with me and man, can they play…and sing, too! They sing in four-part harmonies–“How High the Moon,” “The Tennessee Waltz.” Unbelievable.”

Born in Haledon, New Jersey, Pallo was 29 when he first met Les Paul in 1963, The guitar inventor, who was semi-retired from performing at the time, saw Pallo performing in a lounge, and began sitting in with him. “I would play at Molly’s Fish Market in Oakland, New Jersey,” he told NJ.com. “One year, he sat in 86 times with me. The word got around: ‘Wow, Les Paul is back again.’ People would come from as far away as Texas.”

In 1984, they joined with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi, forming the Les Paul Trio which played every Monday night at NYC’s Fat Tuesdays nightclub before moving to the Iridium Jazz Club. It became the go to spot for guitar fans, who on any given week would be guaranteed an entertaining, old school night on the town, and a chance to catch Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page or Brian May in the audience or joining the trio for a song or two.

After Paul’s passing in 2009, Pallo continued the Iridium residency, and in 2012, he released a tribute CD “Thank You, Les” which included special guests Keith Richards, Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Steve Miller, José Feliciano and others.

Lou Pallo accepts the Rockit Live Foundation Impact Award in 2019 (Photo credit: Mark Weiss/Courtesy Rockit Live Foundation)

This post was updated to include Lou Pallo’s age

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