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Lenny Breau was born August 5, 1941 and died August 12, 1984. Lenny was
born in Auburn, Maine, USA to Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody.
Lone Pine and Betty were country and western performers who were
active together as a live and recording act from the mid 1940's to the
Lenny took up the guitar at age 7 in Maine and by the age of 12 performed
regularly as part of Lone Pine and Betty's travelling band. Billed as "
Lone Pine Jr. - The Guitar Wizard", he was lead guitarist for the band, and
was featured doing primarily Merle Travis and Chet Atkins instrumentals.
Lenny usually sang a couple of songs per show as well.
In 1957, Lone Pine and Betty moved their family to Winnipeg, Manitoba
in Canada and formed a band to perform regularly on CKY Radio's live
broadcast of the show "Caravan".
Lenny left Lone Pine's band around 1959 and began to perform with local
Winnipeg Jazz musicians at such venues as "Rando Manor"; and the "Stage
Door". It was during this period that Lenny came under the musical guidance
of pianist Bob Erlandson and began to receive a jazz education that he developed on
In 1962 Lenny made a move to Toronto, Canada where he joined with singer/
actor Don Francks and acoustic bassist Ian Henstridge to form the group
"Three". The group performed in Toronto, Ottawa and New York and was
featured in the National Film Board documentary "Toronto Jazz" (1962).
An album was recorded at a live club date in New York city and the trio
subsequently appeared on both the "Jackie Gleason" and "Joey Bishop" -
American network television shows.
Lenny then returned to Winnipeg and became the main guitarist for many CBC
Radio and Television sessions, "Teenbeat","Music Hop" and his own "Lenny
Breau Show"- were broadcasted on CBC Winnipeg television.
In 1968 & 69 Lenny recorded two albums for RCA with his Winnipeg trio
featuring Ron Halldorson (electric bass) and Reg Kelln (drums). The
first album was a studio session produced in Nashville by Chet Atkins, and
the second a live session recorded in Hollywood at the jazz club,
"Shelly's Manne Hole"; which was produced by Danny Davis.
From late 1969 through 1973 Lenny played primarily in Toronto and Ottawa
and worked as a sideman for Moe Koffman, Jimmy Dale, Beverly Glenn Copeland
and Anne Murray, to name a few. He also led his own trio with various
sidemen and performed at such venues as "The Riverboat" and "George's
Spagetti House" in Toronto.
After doing a national tour with Anne Murray, Lenny returned to Winnipeg
late in 1973 and continued performing solo, in trios and as a sideman.
Reunited with Kelln and Halldorson, they appeared at Manitoba's "Festival
of Life and Learning". Lenny also played solo regularly at the "Ting",
a Winnipeg coffeehouse.
From 1974 until his death Lenny travelled extensively between Edmonton,
Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Nashville, New York, Maine and Los Angeles.
During this period Lenny recorded for many small record labels as both
leader and sideman. Some of the musicians he worked with included pedal
steel great Buddy Emmons, guitarists Chet Atkins and Phil Upchurch and
country fiddler Buddy Spicher.
The last period of Lenny's life (1981-84) was spent primarily in Los Angeles
where he taught guitar at the "Musicians Institute" and performed at several
jazz clubs, most notably "Donte's.
Lenny was found dead in the swimming pool of his apartment complex on August
12th, 1984. Although his death was originally thought to be an accidental
drowning, it was soon discovered that he had actually been murdered. The
Los Angeles Coroner report determined that Lenny had been strangled;
the case remains unsolved to this date.
The guitar community from around the world was shocked at the circumstances
of Lenny's death. There were many tributes to his life published including a
feature in Guitar Player magazine plus stories in several major newspapers.
At in Los Angeles many guitarists gathered for a night in rememberance of
Lenny's life. The place was packed with friends and guitar luminaries to
hear a performance by Joe Pass, Ron Eschete, Joe Diorio and others playing
in tribute to Lenny.
Maybe I'll go down in history as the guy who started this one style.
All the guitarists who come up and ask how I do it, maybe one day they can
say, Hey, man, I learned this from Lenn...you know, as long as I get some
kind of credit, that's all. I might not end up making a million bucks, but
I'd like to be known as the guy who started this movement. Lenny Breau.
Courtesy: Honkanen Jorma - Jorma.Honkanen@icl.fi
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