Back in the 1980's, there was a certain class of musician who considered a slot in the Late Show with David Letterman band as the ultimate gig. Of course, that lineup hasn't changed since 1983, but dare to dream.
From the very beginning, there was Paul Shaffer. The quirky Canadian keyboardist and sidekick to the often ornery Letterman not only wrote the theme song that has opened the show since its inception, but he has overseen one of the most challenging musical jobs in the business: Learning hundreds of songs and massaging countless egos from stars who have appeared on the show over the years.
But, there are a few things you might not know about Shaffer, things which may make the guy that still says "cat" in reference to talented musicians seem far less dorky than he seems on TV. In honor of his 63rd birthday, here are five reasons why Shaffer is cool.
5. You have seen the Letterman band, right?
The members of the "Most Dangerous Band in Late Night" are the best late night has ever produced. Yes, The Roots kill it on Jimmy Fallon, but they were great before they walked onto the set. There has never been a band assembled as respected as the one Shaffer leads nightly. And bassist Will Lee is from Huntsville, Texas. 'Nuff said.
4. He was the original music director for the Blues Brothers.
Shaffer was supposed to appear in the film after helping coordinate all the music for the SNL spinoff, but he and John Belushi had a falling out and it never materialized. But, he was responsible for many of the musical choices and arrangements by the outfit as well as rounding up the incredible musicians that played in the band.
3. He backed up Bill Murray's Nick the Lounge Singer character on Saturday Night Live.
If for no other reason than the classic Star Wars theme song rendition, Shaffer's back up pianist to Murray's lounge singer was one of the more brilliant skits of the original Not Ready for Primetime Players.
2. He was the first guy to say the "F" word on SNL.
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Lots of people have dropped the f-bomb on SNL over the years, but probably the most unlikely and, as it turns out, the first, was Shaffer in a skit where he mistook the word "flogging" for "fucking" and history was made. Fuck yeah, Paul.
1. Spinal Tap
Shaffer's turn as Artie Fufkin from Polymer Records is still an all time classic. Walking around in the record store demanding the guys in the band kick him in the ass for the poor turnout is priceless and gives him more cool cred than all the other items on this list combined.