“If Chopin had played guitar, he would have sounded like Lenny Breau.” Those were the words of Chet Atkins, one of America’s best known and most prolific guitar players. Once voted by readers of “Guitar Magazine” as one of the 25 greatest guitar players of all time, in the company of such greats as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Carlos Montoya, Auburn native Lenny Breau would have celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday, August 5.
To mark the occasion, the new Lenny Breau Pergola at Pettingill School Park will be dedicated on that date, when brother Denny Breau will headline a free outdoor concert. The performance will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the park, located two blocks north of the Bates College campus on College Street. Those attending are advised to bring their own chairs. In case of rain, the event will be rescheduled for a later date.
“This memorial to Lenny was possible because of the many Maine musicians who volunteered their talents at past concert fundraisers,” said Denny, who is inviting any of the musicians who participated in past shows to bring their instrument and join him in playing a tune on the new stage on Friday evening.
Among those joining Denny on stage at the event will be Lenny’s daughter, Emily Hughes, an award-winning filmmaker from Alberta, Canada who produced the documentary “The Genius of Lenny Breau.” The film featured interviews with Pat Metheny, Leonard Cohen, Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive, Liona Boyd, George Benson and many others who have acknowledged the influence of Lenny’s amazing talent.
Lenny Breau was born in 1941, the son of RCA Victor country artists Harold “Hal Lone Pine” Breau and Betty Cody. Lenny recorded two albums of his own on the Nashville label, and starred in “The Lenny Breau Show,” produced in Winnipeg by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He was known for his unique blending of jazz, country, classical and flamenco styles of music on a 7-string guitar. He died in Los Angeles under mysterious circumstances in 1984. The case remains unsolved.
In recent years, Denny has honored the memory of his brother by establishing the Lenny Breau Memorial Scholarship. Around $8,000 from that fund was donated to the Friends of Pettingill, a non-profit group overseeing improvements at Pettingill School Park in Lewiston, to construct the pergola, which was built by students from the Lewiston Regional Technical Center under the guidance of instructor Tom Fylstra.
“We have made a lot of park improvements in the past year, including the installation of benches, pathways, basketball hoops, trash receptacles, two toddler swings and a tire swing,” said Bill Maroldo of the Friends of Pettingill steering committee. “But the pergola is the crowning jewel. We are honored to have this opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Lenny Breau, and we look forward to sponsoring future park events beneath his pergola.”
For updates, see the Friends of Pettingill Facebook page. For more information, contact Bill Maroldo at 795-1376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.