As so many guitarists know, one of the ultimate weapons in any true guitarist’s arsenal is a Gibson Les Paul guitar. Whether it is a Les Paul Standard edition with its crème colored, nothing fancy look; to a Les Paul Tribute with a sunburst top, gold machine heads and pickups and a glorious ebony fingerboard, when you strap on one of these beauties from Kalamazoo, MI, you know you have the best. Yup, this is one beautiful piece of work. But who is this Les Paul guy anyway? You’ve heard his name associated with some of the best players in music: Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Chet Atkins, George Benson, the Edge, Slash, Jimi Page, Peter Townsend and hundreds; nay, thousands more!
Les was an American Jazz and Country guitarist born in Waukesha, WI on June 9th, 1915. His parents were divorced when he was very young. His mother was related to the founders of Milwaukee’s Valentin Blatz Brewing Company and the makers of the Stutz automobile. He was named Lester Polsfuss and later changed his name to Les Paul. Les was also known as Red Hot Red and Rhubarb Red.
At the age of eight, he started playing the harmonica. He then tried playing the banjo and eventually picked up the guitar. At 13, Les started playing country tunes at fairgrounds and roadhouses performing some of his own music as well as standard hits. Les quit High School in 1932 to become a semi-professional radio performer and then migrated to Chicago in 1934.
He continued to perform on radio in Chicago where he soon gained national notoriety. His Jazz style was strongly influenced by Django Reinhardt, a self proclaimed “Gypsy Swing” guitarist of extraordinary ability. Les was also an inventor. In his spare time, he dabbled with recording multiple tracks and then merging them together, designing electronic sound amplifiers for his guitar and creating unique recordings in his home. With the help of a friend, he created some multitrack recordings that were to be the forerunner to all recording techniques to follow. His reverberation and echo techniques are the foundations for all present day music enhancements! He built his own disc cutter using parts from an old Cadillac!
Les is the father of the electric guitar, reverb and multitrack recording. His almost 20 year marriage to legendary country singer Colleen Summers better known as Mary Ford, spawned such hits as How High the Moon?, The World is Waiting on the Sunset, Bye Bye Blues and Vaya Con Dios. Les Paul passed away in 2009 but will be remembered for centuries to come and his legendary guitar will continue to be played by discriminating guitarists all over the world!
Thank you Les Paul!