Sunday, August 23, 2009
Spotlight: Les Paul
Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009) was an American innovator, inventor, musician and songwriter. He was a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar, which "made the sound of rock and roll possible". He is credited with many recording innovations, including overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects, and multi-track recording.
His innovative talents extended into his playing style, including licks, trills, chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing, which set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired many guitarists of the present day. He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s and they sold millions of records. Between 1950 and 1954, the couple had 16 top-ten hits. In 1951 alone they sold six million records.
In 1979, Paul and Ford's 1951 recording of "How High the Moon" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Paul received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in 1983.
In 1988, Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Jeff Beck, who said, "I've copied more licks from Les Paul than I'd like to admit."
In 1991, the Mix Foundation established an annual award in his name; the Les Paul Award which honors "individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio technology". In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of the solid-body electric guitar. In 2006, Paul was inducted into the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was named an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society.
Paul was the godfather of rock guitarist Steve Miller of the Steve Miller Band, to whom Paul gave his first guitar lesson. Miller's father was best man at Paul's 1949 wedding to Ford.
On August 13, 2009, Paul died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York. Paul is survived by his four children and his companion Arlene Palmer.
Upon learning of his death many artists and musicians paid tribute by publicly expressing their sorrow. Among them were Slash, Trey Anastasio, Joe Satriani, Brian "Head" Welch, Tom Morello, Ace Frehley, Tad Kubler, John 5, Keith Richards, Randy Bachman, Brian May, B.B. King and The Edge.
Former Guns N' Roses and current Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash called him "vibrant and full of positive energy."
U2 guitarist The Edge said, "His legacy as a musician and inventor will live on and his influence on rock and roll will never be forgotten."
Les Paul's Hit Singles
Multi-Track Recording Innovations