10.27.21

Lenny Breau

   Jazz guitarist Lenny Breau was phenomenal, other-worldly. Chord melody and just crazy good.
     I met him at a music trade show called NAMM in Anaheim, CA. Got to speak with him. This is tall stuff. It got taller.
     Lenny asked me where I lived—anywhere near North Hollywood? Yes. Could I give him and his wife Jewell a ride to a club where he had a gig in North Hollywood?
     Could I?! Absolutely YES!
     We piled into my Honda whatever-it-was square mobile. We drove, and it didn’t take long to discern his wife was nuts. She said she had that thing you get when your blood sugar goes low and you need food. We got her some food. Then she slept, and he slept, but only briefly; then she talked—prattled, really. The scenery, the weather, the annoying crowds and traffic. And he was antsy. And hungry. And thirsty. Could I stop and get him, you know, something to drink?
     I got him something to drink.
     Soon he was buzzed. He was odd. She got odder. I lived in West Hollywood. I suggested we stop by our house for a bit—our humble bungalow. Susie was there. I introduced them, gave them some food—he had some more to drink, and before we knew it, he was ripped. Then she got offensive. She actually accused my wife of FLIRTING with Lenny. Ok, so listen: first of all, Susie’s not at all like that. Not. At. All. Second, Lenny  looked like a cross between a weasel and Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley. Not attractive. Not in looks nor in character. He played great, yes, but beyond that…no disrespect for the deceased, but this was outlandish. Insulting.
     I determined to drop them off at the gig and get them out of our hair. We could sit in the back of the club, in a corner, hear him play a bit, and sneak out.
     We got to the club—Dante’s. It was CLOSED.
      “Closed?” asked Lenny.
      “This is all your fault,” his wife snapped and kept on snapping.
     And then I snapped. And when I snap, I get quiet and firm.
      “Get in the car.”
     They bickered in the back while Susie in the front seat looked at me. I did not look back, kept gaze firmly straight ahead, —and drove straight to the Holiday Inn in Hollywood. I pulled up hard to the entrance, slammed it into Park, and said,       “Get out.”
     “Get out?”
     “Get out.”
     “What’s happening?” the wife complained.
     “What’s happening,” Susie said, “is you are seeing my husband when he gets angry.”
     “Get out.”
     They got out, and in the oddest cheerful, chirpy tones, they thanked us, smiled, said what a good time it had been, and still chatting, we drove away while they waved goodbye. We gushed with astounded laughter, sorrow, amazement, and disbelief.
      “That was the great Lenny Breau!”
      “THAT was a junkie who also happens to play great guitar.”
 
     How does a life with talent so developed go so wrong? I don’t know. Maybe it’s step by step. The little daily deeds. A smoke here, a sip there, just a bit every day—a step a day, every day, every day—and suddenly, “Where am I?”
 
   Chet Atkins was a surrogate father to Lenny. In an interview, through tear-filled eyes, Chet said, “Lenny was one of those guys…he was a genius at what he did. But that’s all he could do. Lenny could not take care of himself. And we all knew it.”

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