Richie Sambora talks about being influenced by the guitar legend

By Richie Sambora
Updated March 26, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

I met Les in 1988. Bon Jovi were in the studio, working on our New Jersey album. I was beat up, exhausted, having a hard time getting all the guitar work done. The band took a break to celebrate my 29th birthday. Imagine my shock when Les Paul (Les Paul!) walked into my house. He handed me a white guitar with gold pickups he’d strung for me himself and told me, ”Son, here’s a sword — now go cut through that s—.”

From that moment, Les Paul became an ever-present part of my life. Les had a bit of the vampire in him: He slept during the day and stayed awake all night. At the oddest hours, he’d ring me up just to chat. There was a father-son element to our friendship, but mostly we shared a bond through music that defied age. Anyone who has ever picked up a guitar and created music has been influenced by this man.

Paul died of pneumonia in White Plains, N.Y.