Go and do

WHAT: Concert in honor of Lenny Breau

WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 16

WHERE: Festival Plaza, Auburn

ADMISSION: free

To volunteer or for more info, call Ken Goodman at 784-5779 or Pete Bushway at 333-6601, ext. 2100.

 

AUBURN — Denny Breau figures the difference between himself and his older brother, late guitar legend Lenny Breau, is simple: “He was a genius and I’m not.”

The elder Breau, born in Auburn in 1941, avoided popular music, achieved his biggest fame in Canada and played in an unorthodox piano-like style that he created himself, plucking out melodies with one hand while playing chords with his other.

“It makes sense that he’s not better remembered in Maine,” Denny Breau said. “He should be, though. He was one of the most famous guitarists in the world, and he was one of our own.”

That’s at the heart of a six-hour concert fundraiser planned for Sunday, Aug. 16, at Festival Plaza.

Musicians from around the area — including several who shared the stage with Lenny Breau — plan to perform. Proceeds will go to a scholarship to be created in his honor. A plaque commemorating Breau’s work will also be unveiled. Local musicans performing in the Tuesday night concert series put on by Auburn Parks and Recreation begininng July 7 have either reduced their fees or donated payment to also help fund the scholarship.

The show is scheduled to begin at noon with performers including Breau, Brad Terry, Kevin Kimball, Arlo West, Frank Coffin, Mark Miller, Fred Aberle, members of the LA Harley Band and The Distributors.

The concert will be free. However, people will be encouraged to make donations and there will be a raffle for a new guitar package, including a Peavy guitar, amp, accessories and lessons. The complete package has a retail value of about $1,000. The guitar is on display at Main Street Music Lessons. Tickets may be purchased there for $3 or two for $5.

Plans for the show came together in the last few weeks, as Lenny Breau’s birthday approached.  On Aug. 5, he would have been 68 years old.

“He was ours,” Denny Breau said.

Lenny Breau grew up here in Auburn, the son of country musicians Hal “Lone Pine” Breau and Betty Cody. The pair were well-known around Maine and the region.

By the time Lenny was 4 years old, he was singing harmony with his parents and plucking out basic melodies on a guitar. At 12, he became his parents’ lead guitarist.

“Lenny ate and slept guitar,” said Denny Breau.  By his late teens, Lenny had begun experimenting with different music forms.

Soon, he found himself playing with greats. By the early 1960s, he was playing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with common trips to Toronto and New York. He began working on Canadian TV, releasing albums and building a reputation.

Master guitarist Chet Atkins famously called Breau “the greatest guitarist in the world.”

“He was a musician’s musician,” said Denny Breau, himself a veteran guitarist and songwriter. Lenny could overwhelm other players, sometimes seeming to play two guitars at once or wandering into rarely used chords and methods, he said.

Brad Terry, a longtime jazz clarinetist who performed with Lenny several times, agrees.

“Playing with Lenny was like going to 10 years of music school,” said Terry. Recordings of the pair playing together have been released over the years. A new DVD put together by Lenny’s daughter uses footage from a 1980 Maine Festival appearance of their pair together on stage.

“He was one of the true musical geniuses I’ve had the chance to meet,” said Terry, 72.

His muse led him away from popular success.

“Lenny abhorred commercial music,” Denny said.  “He was always pushing the envelope. Who knows what kind of music he would have created if he were still alive.

Lenny Breau was murdered at his Los Angeles home in 1984. His death was never solved.

The loss was never acutely felt in his hometown, Denny said.

“He wasn’t really a fixture in Maine,” he said. “If you go to Winnipeg or Toronto, he’s still really famous.”

His guitar playing should give him a spot in music history, Denny said.

Denny also wants his brother to be remembered as a kind man, rather than by the demon of substance abuse that sometimes haunted Lenny and so many musicians of his generation.

“He was a gentle, gentle, gentle soul,” Denny said. “I’d like him to be known that way.”

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