Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94

Posted by: Piano World

Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 12:38 PM

I know it's not piano, but anybody who has been in the music business for a while knows and respects Les Paul...

© CNN

CNN) -- Les Paul, whose innovations with the electric guitar and studio technology made him one of the most important figures in recorded music, has died, according to a statement from his publicists. Paul was 94.


Paul died in White Plains, New York, from complications of severe pneumonia, according to the statement.

Paul was a guitar and electronics mastermind whose creations -- such as multitrack recording, tape delay and the solid-body guitar that bears his name, the Gibson Les Paul -- helped give rise to modern popular music, including rock 'n' roll. No slouch on the guitar himself, he continued playing at clubs into his 90s despite being hampered by arthritis.

"If you only have two fingers [to work with], you have to think, how will you play that chord?" he told CNN.com in a 2002 phone interview. "So you think of how to replace that chord with several notes, and it gives the illusion of sounding like a chord."

Lester William Polfuss was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on June 9, 1915. Even as a child he showed an aptitude for tinkering, taking apart electric appliances to see what made them tick.

"I had to build it, make it and perfect it," Paul said in 2002. He was nicknamed the "Wizard of Waukesha."

In the 1930s and '40s, he played with several big band singers, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and the Andrews Sisters, as well as with his own Les Paul Trio. In the early 1950s, he had a handful of huge hits with his then-wife, Mary Ford, such as "How High the Moon" and "Vaya Con Dios."

His guitar style, heavily influenced by jazzman Django Reinhardt, featured lightning-quick runs and double-time rhythms. In 1948, after being involved in a severe car accident, he asked the doctor to set his arm permanently in a guitar-playing position.

Paul also credited Crosby for teaching him about timing, phrasing and preparation.

Crosby "didn't say it, he did it -- one time only. Unless he blew the lyrics, he did one take."

Paul never stopped tinkering with electronics, and after Crosby gave him an early audiotape recorder, Paul went to work changing it. It eventually led to multitrack recording; on Paul and Ford's hits, he plays many of the guitar parts, and Ford harmonizes with herself. Multitrack recording is now the industry standard.

But Paul likely will be best remembered for the Gibson Les Paul, a variation on the solid-body guitar he built in the late 1930s and offered to the guitar company.

"For 10 years, I was a laugh," he told CNN in an interview. "[But] kept pounding at them and pounding at them saying hey, here's where it's at. Here's where tomorrow, this is it. You can drown out anybody with it. And you can make all these different sounds that you can't do with a regular guitar."

Gibson, spurred by rival Fender, finally took Paul up on his offer and introduced the model in 1952. It has since become the go-to guitar for such performers as Eric Clapton.

Paul is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Inventors Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

He admired the places guitarists and engineers took his inventions, but he said there was nothing to replace good, old-fashioned elbow grease and soul.

"I learned a long time ago that one note can go a long way if it's the right one," he said in 2002, "and it will probably whip the guy with 20 notes."
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 12:44 PM

So sad. One of my favorite guitarists. frown RIP.



But I loves me my Gibson Les Paul, though. cool Here's one similar to mine:

Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 09:05 PM

Rest in peace Les. Thank you for everything.
Posted by: DavidKitazono

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 10:57 PM

He was one of the greatest innovators of our time. I was fortunate to see him perform at a NYC club many years ago. He was a class act and very humble. He will be sorely missed.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 11:01 PM

I was just reading the article on Time.com about him.

I knew he was talented and had done many things in the music business, but I didn't realize just how much. Amazing guy!

This is a good article, worth taking a few minutes to read.

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1916363,00.html



Posted by: eweiss

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/13/09 11:21 PM

Well, I had a Les Paul copy guitar made by Ibanez. Couldn't afford the Gibson. But I was happy as a hamster in new shavings!
Posted by: Stevester

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/15/09 09:20 AM

An important man who made numerous major contributions to music.

May he rest in Peace.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/15/09 11:12 AM

I suspect that none of us would have our computer hard disks if he had not shown what can be done with multitrack magnetic recording.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/15/09 05:23 PM

Yeah, we'd still be booting off floppies, or perhaps optical discs. crazy
Posted by: BDB

Re: Guitar, studio wizard Les Paul dies at 94 - 08/15/09 06:41 PM

Those would not have been used, either.