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Many Notes, Chords To Musical Sidekick Shaffer's Life

Oct 7, 2009 (Morning Edition)

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Bandleader Paul Shaffer is used to being overshadowed by the man who introduces him on TV. Shaffer plays comic foil for late-night talk show host David Letterman. He's the sidekick, the musical director — the guy who imitates Cher.

Shaffer's new memoir, We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Showbiz Saga, follows his colorful transition from topless bar pianist to bandleader of a late-night staple show.

In past years Shaffer appeared on Saturday Night Live and was a member of the Blues Brothers. But in the book, he recounts how he started his career playing piano in a Canadian topless bar.

"I was right out of school," Shaffer tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "I went to University of Toronto. Really wanted to go into music, barely had the nerve to do it so I said to my parents, 'I'll take a year and see what happens.'

"Well, first thing that happened in the year was I got that job at the Brass Rail Tavern on Young Street in Toronto. Man, that was a bizarre job," he says. "Sort of exciting, of course — girls get up on the stage and take off their top. And all my friends showed up."

At the end of the night, Shaffer says, his friends were still there, albeit a little drunk, and he's embarrassed.

"I'm saying, 'Please come back and see us, we're happy to have entertained you this evening, and we will be here' — and it really felt like it — 'for the rest of our lives.' "

And that last line became the title of his book.

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