Thursday, August 13, 2009

The legendary Les Paul dies at age 94

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Les Paul, one of the great pioneers of modern music, died today at age 94. Paul was an extraordinary, innovative guitarist who developed the solid-body electric guitar, thus making the sound of rock & roll possible. He was equally renowned as a studio genius who brought music recording into the modern age with his innovations in multi-track recording.

In 1941, he tinkered with the idea of amplifying guitars, and came up with what he called "The Log," a four-by-four piece of wood strung with steel strings. It eventually revolutionized popular music, as electric guitars gained popularity and then flourished with the beginning of rock in the 1950s. In 1952, Gibson Guitars began producing a Les Paul model guitar, which became one of the most widely used guitars in the music industry, and an absolute staple of rock & roll, played by musicians like Pete Townshend of The Who and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

In the studio, Les Paul essentially invented overdubbing and multi-track recording, as well as effects such as tape delay, sound-on-sound, and phasing effects.

From 1949 to 1962, he recorded with his wife, singer Mary Ford, and the two earned 36 gold records and 11 No. 1 hits, including their famous version of “How High The Moon.” Most of their songs used overdubbing methods that Paul had invented himself.

Until recently, Paul played weekly shows with the Les Paul Trio at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York, which included guests such as Keith Richards and Paul McCartney. Incredibly, he won a Grammy in 2006 for "Les Paul & Friends: American Made, World Played," an album he recorded after his 90th birthday.

Here is a brief YouTube history of Les Paul, which ends with his and Ford’s recording of “How High the Moon,” the first No. 1 song to use such extensive overdubbing (at one point in the song’s bridge, Ford’s voice was overdubbed a dozen times).

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