Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul Dead at 94

Guitar lovers everywhere mourn the passing of a man whose improvisation transformed the instrument forever. The guitar he invented, introduced in 1952, became a mainstay among rockstars worlwide. Gibson produced the solid-body electric, which bore Paul's name.

Les Paul also invented a multi-track recording machine, which along with his experimental over-dubbing transformed the recording industry. His growing legend says he was experimenting with electric guitars as early as 1929, when he was still a teenager. After moving to Hollywood in 1943, he turned his garage into a recording studio, and was soon making a name for himself.

Greater fame came after his marriage to Mary Ford, in 1949. His inventions and techniques allowed him to record her singing harmony with herself. Les Paul and Mary Ford produced 36 gold records and had more than one television show, before divorcing in 1962. How High the Moon was probably their best known title.

(note to self: dig out Les Paul and Mary Ford tapes for another listen)

Les Paul's influence can't be overstated, as he played with so many greats of all musical pursuasions, and many more considered him a hero. He and Chet Atkins did an album, which won a grammy in 1976. In 2005, aged 90, he recorded an album, Les Paul and Friends, which featured Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. That album earned two grammies. Earlier in his career, he played with Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Art Tatum, among hosts of others, many long gone.

There's much more to the story, but I must find some tapes.

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