It seems like there are more guitars in Milwaukee this week than ever before, what with the opening of Distinctive Guitar is Bay View, the new Beyond Eleven location in the Third Ward and the addition of a slew of cool axes at Discovery World.
Local ad man and guitar collector Bill Eisner has lent a slew of guitars to Discovery World for inclusion in its "Les Paul's House of Sound" exhibit. The guitars help fill in the details on a specific period in the development of the electric guitar.
A recording nut, Paul wanted guitars that he could plug directly into his recording gear, bypassing the extra noise and sonic changes added by an amplifier. So he developed low impedance electronics that sent a less powerful signal through the cable.
The imposing, yet soft-spoken Eisner has an impressive collection – and knowledge – of these late '60s, early '70s guitars that were really ahead of their time.
Paul's innovation was out of step with what guitarists wanted during that era of stacks of Marshall amplifiers and loud, over-driven guitars and sales were less than impressive.
But, now that home recording is almost becoming the norm – and many musicians plug straight into their recording gear – these low impedance guitars seem like a major innovation. It's almost surprising that Gibson hasn't brought them back into production.
Eisner has also lent an old Framus acoustic guitar with Paul's autograph scratched into the back. It is a rare document in that it also includes Mary Ford's etched signature, too.
There's also a range of new memorabilia freshening up the four-year-old exhibition that remains one of the most popular at Discovery World. Eisner has chipped in some memorabilia, too.
Also recently added are two guitars from the Les Paul Foundation: a rare gold top Gibson Les Paul model and the guitar that Paul himself dubbed "The Bible."
This black solid body electric guitar shows signs not only of wear and tear from Paul's playing, but the scars of his constant tinkering to create the perfect guitar to suit his performing and recording needs.
Never on display publicly before, "The Bible" is perhaps the single most interesting object in the show now because it is a testament to Paul's never-ending curiosity, never-ending tinkering, never-ending attempt to keep improving the electric guitar. And that's what "Les Paul's House of Sound" is really all about.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.