Les Paul, The Musician And His Music

Les Paul as a musician has made many contributions to modern music including the introduction of the solid-body electric guitar and many recording innovations.

Les Paul may have had more influence upon the sound of modern rock and roll music than any other person in history. It was he who released the solid-body electric guitar that bears his name in 1952. It was built and marketed by Gibson, and, along with constant refinements and innovations from Les Paul himself, it has gone on to become one of the most widely used and respected electric guitars in history. Such noteworthy artists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page are all associated with the Gibson Les Paul, but this is not Les Paul's sole contribution to the world of music.

Les Paul was born Lester William Polfus in 1916 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His lifelong interest in electronic innovation began as far back as the age of nine when he built his first crystal radio. He began playing guitar at the same age and was playing semi-professionally by the age of 13. The production of a solid-body electric guitar had been a long time dream of Paul's. He began waorking in early 1941 on his design by putting guitar strings on railroad ties in order to test his ideas. He approached Gibson for the first time in the "˜40's with his ideas. He was met with reluctance because Gibson did not often align with artists. They only agreed to market the product in 1952 when the idea became a viable option commercially. Les Paul was approached to help with the design and production because of his familiarity with the characteristics of solid-body electric guitars and his popularity as a musician. The result was a beautifully streamlined and attractive version of the plank of wood that Paul had worked with.

By that time, Les Paul was already known as an accomplished country and jazz musician. He recorded two number one hits combining his talents with the vocals of his wife Mary Ford in 1951 and had also become known as the father of multi-track recording due to 1948's "Brazil", a dazzling arrangement of six different guitar tracks. Sadly, Les Paul's musical career almost came to a startling halt when his right arm and elbow was shattered in a near fatal car collision. But being the dedicated musician that he was, Paul insisted that his arm be set in such a way that he could still cradle and pick a guitar.

In addition to his work on the solid-body electric guitar, Les Paul also marketed the first eight-track tape recorder in 1952 with the aid of Ampeg and has contributed greatly to the field of recording. He is credited with the pioneering uses of close miking, echo delay, and overdubbing. Paul has remained active throughout the decades, releasing a Grammy winning collection of instrumental collaborations in 1977 and playing in clubs throughout New York and elsewhere, but he will always be known for his help on releasing the guitar that went on to revolutionize modern music. The Gibson Les Paul has not changed much since its first release in 1952. Besides an updated bridge and humbucking pickups, the standard Les Paul is still the same guitar that both Gibson and Paul had envisioned nearly fifty years before. Les Paul currently resides in Mahwah, NJ and continues his musical innovation and work in his basement workshop. He is a member of the rock and roll Hall of Fame.

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