Les Paul, formerly known as Lester Polfus, shed this mortal coil today in a New York hospital, from complications of pneumonia. He was 94.
How many 94 year olds do you know who play every Monday night in New York City?
I am by no means qualified to eulogize this great man, who reportedly was a joy to behold always. Les Paul was a tinkerer, coming up with many gadgets around guitars and recording.
With his guitar, the Log, he pioneered pickups, where are transducers, converting mechanical energy (strings vibrating) to electrical energy (plug it into an amplifier). Later on he was instrumental, as it were, in bringing us multitrack recording.
In case you’re not familiar, multitrack recording is the process of recording something, then going back and recording something else, on a separate track. This way one person can be an entire band or play multiple parts. Initially everything was recorded in one track mono, then came more tracks, then stereo. For the real history buffs, then came quad, which died a deservedly quick death.
Very happy with his work and fame, Gibson guitars put out a Les Paul model, of which Les got a cut of each one sold. I have never seen figures on sales but they have to be impressive. The last guitar show I attended featured a $200,000 1960 Les Paul, so they’re selling well 🙂
The Les Paul guitar came in many forms and with many features. It waxed and waned over the years but I’d state that it’s the second most popular electric guitar ever, right behind Leo Fender’s Stratocaster. If you’ve seen Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) you’ve seen a Les Paul.
Gibson is semi-nice to us lefties and has always built guitars for us over the years, albeit at a huge premium.
The Les Paul Recording model had special electronics (low impedence) for plugging right in and recording. For a few years the Les Paul was a double cutaway guitar, like the SG. Gibson continues to sell Les Paul models in numbers too high to note, including the Epiphone line, which features offshore, more affordable versions.
Les was a great guitar player, very popular with people of all ages. Ask people older than you about Les Paul and Mary Ford records.
You can find video on YouTube (of course you can) of Les Paul playing and appearing at many Gibson-sponsored parties for anniversaries of the Les Paul guitar. He would be ripping it up onstage with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, and even Slash. He was inspirational in life and no doubt will continue in death.
Play on, brother…..