Les Paul (born June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin
) is the man behind the modern electric guitar
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
r, five-time Grammy Award
winner and inventor of reverb
and multi-track recording
still plays a two set weekly gig at the Iridium Jazz Club
, in New York City
Les´ first gig came at the age of 13, as "Red Hot Red" as a guitarist and harmonica player . One evening while performing outdoors, Les got frustrated that people in the back couldn’t hear. So he created an electric guitar and amp
lification system out of a radio, an earpiece from a telephone and the needle from a record player
that he jammed into the fret board
as a pickup
The resulting prototype was plagued by vibration and feedback, so Les experimented with stuffing clothes in the guitar, he even went so far as filling the guitar with plaster of paris
Les finally settled on a 4x4 block of wood attached to an Epiphone
neck. Thus the solid body electric guitar
was born! Les later donated this first solid-body electric guitar (1941), to The Country Music Hall of Fame
in Nashville, Tennessee
. In 1950, Les started designing the Les Paul series of electric guitars for The Gibson Guitar Company
, which has become the world’s best selling line of electric guitars.
Les applied for his first patent
, "Combined Bridge and Tailpiece for Stringed Instruments", on July 9, 1952, a one pickup design which was granted on March 13, 1956, #2,737,842. A patent filed by Gibson president, the late Theodore M. McCarty, on Jan. 21, 1953, "Stringed Musical Instrument of the Guitar Type And Combined Bridge And Tailpiece Therefore", was granted on Aug. 2, 1955, #2,714,326. This two pick-up design appears to be the basis of the Les Paul model guitars in which Les says he had much input.
Les’ liked to play in the studio with reverb and other audio properties. The result of hundreds of multiple-disc recording experiments revolutionized the manner in which records were recorded and led to a recording contract with Capitol Records
. A string of top ten hits followed with his wife Mary Ford
, the most famous one being How High The Moon
. Soon Paul and Ford were stars on the TV show, “The Les Paul and Mary Ford at home show”, which ran from 1953 to 1960.
Les also contributed pioneering work to the development of the portable tape recorder
. This grew out a conversation with, Bing Crosby
about the need to develop a tape recorder that would give musicians the freedom of recording anywhere. When Les assured Crosby that the device would work, Bing
said he wanted 50. Les then submitted the idea to the Ampex Corporation
. Bing Crosby put up the capital and gave one recorder to Les.
On the road with the new recorder, Les thought that if he could put in one additional recording head he could do sound-on-sound recordings anywhere. So he called Ampex and said he burned out the recording head and could they send another. The additional head was installed by a machinist named Mr. Goodspeed
and it worked on first try.
Then to solve the problem of recording with other musicians who were not present, Les conceived the idea of recording on eight separate tracks then blending them together. He consulted Ampex again and they agreed to build him one at his cost.
Les was inducted into the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame
in 1996. On February 20th 2001, Les received his 5th Grammy, for his technical achievements, from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
Les Paul is celebrating 50 years of guitar building and music this May 2002.