Elysa Gardner and Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Rock icon Pete Townshend picked up an award named after another legendary guitarist Friday night at the 28th annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards, presented at the Anaheim Hilton in California.
The singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of The Who was given the Les Paul Award at the TEC Awards, which recognize achievement in audio technology and production, acknowledging sound engineers, editors and producers as well as professionals who work in recording, sound and live music.
John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful served as emcee of the show. Slash and Eric Burdon of The Animals were among those toasting the '60s legend. Producer and humorist Martin Lewis, a longtime friend who recruited Townshend for Amnesty International's first Secret Policeman's Ball in 1979, presented the award. Lewis arranged surprises for the honoree: two messages from old pals unable to attend.
Mick Jagger wrote in part, "I can't think of anyone better to receive this wonderful award than Pete Townshend. Pete has been an innovative guitarist and songwriter for as long as I can remember, which is indeed, a very, very long time."
In a video greeting, Paul McCartney said, "We all know you deserve it, because man, we go back. I have so many great memoriess of you and the band and the music ... to this day, you're just great.
"Isn't it funny. I've never had a chance to stand opposite of you and tell you. I'd probably be too embarrassed. Here's a chance to say what everyone in the room is bound to be thinking, which is that you are just a great monster, man, the way you play that guitar, the way you write. It's fantastic. Congratulations. Getting the Les Paul Award. How cool is that?"
Paul McCartney is a former recipient of the award, established in 1991. Townshend is the 22nd recipient. Past winners include Peter Gabriel, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Sting, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen, David Byrne, Steve Miller, Al Kooper, Lindsay Buckingham and Steve Vai.
The evening ended with a five-song salute produced by Lewis and musical director Larry Batiste that culminated in Townshend's unplanned participation in a grand finale. The 2Cold Chilibone TEC Band performed I Can't Explain (with Phil Chen, former bassist for Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart), Won't Get Fooled Again (featuring guitarist Laurence Juber), The Seeker (with Burdon and Beck's bassist Tal Wilkenfeld) and Lifehouse Medley (showcasing singer Julia Fordham).
All the musicians gathered for closer Let My Love Open the Door, led by former Ambrosia singer/guitarist David Pack. Townshend left his table to join in mid-song, bringing the industry crowd of 1,000 to its feet.
The Who launch a U.S. tour Monday in Anaheim at the Honda Center.
Jan. 30, Los Angeles, Staples Center
Feb. 1, Oakland, Oracle Arena
Feb. 2, Reno, Reno Events Center
Feb. 5, San Diego, Valley View Casino Center
Feb. 6, Glendale, Ariz., Jobing.Com Arena
Feb. 8 and 10, Las Vegas, The Joint at the Hard Rock
Feb. 12, Denver, Pepsi Center
Feb. 14, Tulsa, Bok Center
Feb. 16, Louisville, Ky., KFC Yum! Center,
Feb. 17, Columbus, Ohio, Schottenstein Center
Feb. 19, Hamilton, Ontario, Copps Coliseum
Feb. 21, Uniondale, N.Y., Nassau Coliseum
Feb. 22, Atlantic City, N.J., Boardwalk Hall
Feb. 24, Manchester, N.H., Verizon Wireless Arena
Feb. 26, Providence, R.I., Dunkin' Donuts Center