The Original Guitar Hero

13 Aug

Les Paul, 1915 - 2009

A real revoluntionary of the music business is gone.

Les Paul, inventor of the electric, amplified guitar and picker extraordinnaire passed away today from complications of pneumonia at the age of 94.  Born in 1915 with a love of music, Les Paul began playing harmonica and guitar on the street, while still in his childhood.  When a listener critiqued the volume of his guitar playing, Les was determined to find a way to increase the sound.  While gainfully employed as a musician throughout his teens and early adulthood, Les continued to tinker until he created “The Log” — a 4″ X 4″ with amplified strings with a guitar body attached for asthetics.  

As early as 1939, Les Paul brought his “invention” to Gibson Guitar company where he was summarily laughed off the property.  However, they eventually worked with Paul to create the legendary solid-body design that caries his signature and name.  Probably one of the most famous Les Paul models is “Lucille”, B.B. King’s infamous instrument.

bb king lucille 

Generations of guitarists have chosen the signature Les Paul Gibson as their axe of choice, including guitar greats Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler and Les Paul’s close buddy, the late, great Chet Atkins.  Chet’s half-brother, Jim, was a member of the Les Paul Trio, who famously played throughout the 50s and 60s.  Both Les and Chet have been major influences in the evolution of the guitar as a forefront instrument.  They were good friends with a strong, mutual respect for each other.

  The Birth of the Blues, Les Paul & Chet Atkins

Amazingly, Les Paul could not read music.  However, his superb ear and creativity provided ingenuity in playing that basically made the guitar speak.  He brought personality to guitar.  He also brought it to the recording studio.  Using his wife, Mary Ford’s pure voice, Les Paul began over-dubbing and multi-track recording, revolutionizing how recordings were made and producing rich sound that resonates deeply within.

There are so many facets to Les Paul and the genius of his 94 years.  I strongly encourage you to look him up on YouTube and Google and watch the documentaries and performances about this icon who literally changed the face of modern music. 

Perhaps Guitar Hero will add a Les Paul version to honor the Original Guitar Hero.  (They may need to add a looping accessory….)


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3 responses to “The Original Guitar Hero

  1. woooooo-mama

    August 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Well written tribute! I really enjoyed the video of he and Mary… it brought home how far recording technology has come. I googled and youtubed a little bit and came up with these: (Les Paul playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in 2008) (Les Paul Trio playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in 1988– beautiful!) (Eric Clapton playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in 2001) (Jimi Hendrix version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow) (Les playing How High the Moon– this longer, slower instrumental version takes you to another place and time!) (Les Paul Trio Dark Eyes w/ comic relief 😉 )

  2. music maven

    August 31, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for those woooooo-mama.

    There’s just something about Les Paul’s command of the guitar language. His sound is so pure and soothing. Chet Atkins has a similar, yet different, sound but both convey great emotion via the music with no spoken word.

    Paul was truly an innovator who actually DID change the world. So glad that so many were able to enjoy Les Paul and his music for so long.

  3. Harry

    February 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    The late great Chet Atkins! He was truly one of the greatest music legends of the 20th century. RIP, Mr. RCA.


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