In 1945 Les Paul had been performing jazz on NBC radio with his trio, but he
thought it might be a kick to do a few hillbilly shows just for old time's
Problem was, Les needed a singer, and when he ran into his childhood idol Gene
Autry one day in Hollywood, Gene offered a solution - a singer who had worked
Gene said, "I know just the gal you're looking for. She sings good, and she's
He told Les her name, Colleen Summers, and gave him her phone number. But when
he called her, she didn't believe it was Les Paul.
Mary said, "I know you're pulling my leg because I'm a Les Paul nut".
Les said, "Well, whatever you are, I am Les Paul, and I'm asking you over to my
She said, "Well, I'll go that far anyway."
That night, she drove from El Monte all the way over to Les' place in
Hollywood. When she got there, Les was mowing the front lawn by flashlight,
wearing army shoes and a flannel shirt.
Mary said, "Can you tell me where the Les Paul studios are?
Les said, "Yeah - right behind the house. Go down the driveway and you'll run
right into the garage. Just holler, and they'll lift you through the window".
The door was sealed up so there was just the window.
So Colleen went back there, and the guys lifted her in. Now the guys in the
jazz trio were good players - they could also play country just for kicks, and
they began to rehearse Mary.
She started singing with them, then said, "Where's Les?"
"He'll be here any minute now", they reassured her.
Then when Les climbed in through the window, and she said, "Well, I see the
gardener, but where's Les? [laughs]
"That's not the gardener", the guys told her. "He's Les".
She said, "You're putting me on. this must be a gag."
So Les asked her to wait a moment, then picked up his guitar and played a
couple of runs.
"Satisfied?" he asked.
Mary said, "Well I'll be darned - you a-r-e Les Paul! [laughs]
That's how Mary met Les Paul, and then she did this series of hillbilly shows
with him. For those, Les named her Mary Lou - that's where Mary eventually
came from. After those gigs, Mary didn't work with Les professionally for
another four years. She was country, and he was doing jazz and increasingly,
popular music. But their romance took off immediately. Mary and Les started
going together right after that rehearsal. She was such a groupie - to her,
there was no other guitar player in the world. The only thing on her mind was
Les Paul. So from the time they met, it was right on.
Les said, "We were just meant for each other. That's all there is to it."