Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Remembering Les Paul June 9, 1915 - August 13, 2009

Following the death of Les Paul on August 13, 2009, the legendary blues musician B.B. King said of him, "Les Paul was truly one of a kind.  We owe many of his inventions that made the rock 'n roll sound of today to him, and he was the founding father of modern music."

Born Lester William Polsfuss in the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin of German ancestry.  His mother was a descendent of the Blatz Brewing Company and maker of the Stutz automobile.  He became interested in music at the age of 8 having played the harmonica and then the guitar.  During that time, he began to invent.  He wanted to figure out how to play the harmonica at the same time as his guitar and so he invented the "neck worn harmonica holder" still used today.  At the age of 13, he began playing semi-professionally as a country music singer, guitarist and harmonica player.  He played in drive-ins and roadhouses and that is when he began experimenting with sounds. He wanted to figure out how to boost the sound volume out of his acoustic guitar.  Initially, he wired a record player needle to a radio speaker in order to amplify it.  During that time, he dropped out of high school and played music with various bands.

He would eventually move to Chicago in 1934 where he continued to perform on the radio and continued to play with bands.  He still was not happy with the sound of his acoustic guitar.  During that time, he played with Chet Atkin's brother.  He moved to New York and continued to experiment with sounds and was nearly electrocuted.  He then moved to Hollywood.  He entered the US Army at the beginning of World War II having served in the Armed Forces network.  He supported himself
by backing such artists as Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and others.

The Log
He eventually built "The Log" in the Epiphone Guitar Factory in
1940 that combined pine wood with strings and it would go down in history as the first solid body electric guitar.  At first the Gibson Guitar Company was not interested in it but soon realized it's importance.  Paul was not impressed with Gibson's first version of the guitar but eventually Gibson manufactured the "Gibson SG" that stood for solid guitar.

Les Paul is recognized as the "Father of the Modern Guitar" but is also credited with a number of other inventions including other recording devices that are still used today.  These include "tap delay" and "multitrack recording."

His inventions earned him one of a handful of artists with a permanent stand alone exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Just as importantly, he is recognized as an outstanding musician having recorded some major hits including "How High the Moon" "Bye Bye Blues" and "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" with Mary Ford.  He also hosted a radio program called "The Les Paul Show" He continued to perform into the early 90's.

The Rock and Roll legend died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 94.  Time Magazine named Les Paul one of the ten best electric guitar players of all time and Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Les Paul's funeral program
Les Paul's funeral was held on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 in the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York City (program pictured).  Songs were performed by his trio (Les Paul Trio) that included "It's Been A Long, Long Time" "Nature Boy" and "Vaya Con Dios" (May God Be With You).  Among those who

Les Paul memorial card
eulogized Paul were Ron Sturm from the Iridum Jazz Club and Henry Juszkiewicz (CEO of the Gibson Guitar Company) and a reception was held in the Gibson Showroom in New York.  He was then taken to his hometown near Milwaukee and visitation was held at Discovery World (memorial card pictured).

Les Paul was laid to rest on August 21, 2009 in the Prairie Home Cemetery in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

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