The Les Paul
Well today we all found out that at age 94 Les Paul had died. The Les Paul, The guy. I like to put a “The” at the front of stuff for extra respect from time to time so when I say today “The Les Paul” I’m not talking about that fine ’54 historic gold top reissue over there. You know where to go to get all the official info so I wont repeat most of it. Les Paul gets credited for the first electric solidbody guitar. That one is a bit hard to prove. Other guys, Paul Bigsby for one, were doing it at around the same time. Les Paul did bring a presence to the Electric Guitar that hadn’t really been there before. The Les Paul model guitar built by Gibson was probably the first signature model guitar. It’s still around with rich guys who don’t play ’em enough paying over $250,000 for ones in great shape from the 50’s. I always wonder why they are in such great shape? Maybe ’cause that particular one wasn’t so hot?
Anyway, to The Les Paul. A pal of mine who has also left the building named Rick Rosen interviewed Les Paul around 10 years ago for Stereophile Magazine. I couldn’t find it on the internets but it was a fun read. Mostly about Les’s home playback equipment including his favorite top loader cassette clock radio. At the end of the long audiogeek centric interview Rick thanks Les for his time and asks one more question.
Les, if you had one tip for guitar players out there what would it be?
“Don’t keep your guitar in the case”
“You can’t play the guitar in the case”
A few years back I went to a recording conference down in Tucson that was associated with Tape Op Magazine. One of the guys, Mark Rubel, had recently interviewed Les Paul at his home. During the largest panel of the conference full of recording geeks both young and not so young Mark called Les at home and put him on speakerphone and we all sang happy birthday to Les Paul on his 90th Birthday. Everybody sang.
Now this is the guy who after a near fatal car accident in 1948 was being told by doctors that after they reset his broken arm he’d never be able to bend his right elbow again. Les Paul told them to set his arm at a 40 degree angle so he could keep playing the guitar.
I never got to see The Les Paul play but a friend of mine did go and get The Les Paul to sign a pickguard for me one time. I just had an Andy Rooney moment while I was looking for the pickgaurd. I know it’s here somewhere. I did find a couple other things I had been looking for while I was looking so thanks again Les Paul.
Les Paul was a dreamer and a tinkerer for sure. He kept messing with the guitar and other electronics. He dreamt about recording himself then being able to record himself again. A practice now referred to as overdubbing. Les did invent the first multitrack recording machine that most assuredly changed the lives of all those geeks that were at the Tape Op Convention with me in Tucson and music as we all know it today. A big part of that machine was the dream.
Like the song he recorded with his wife Mary Ford in their garage “How High The Moon”. The moon was just a dream then.
The song is a still a dream now.
Hard to imagine music like that without a dream.
RIP to The Les Paul.