Happy birthday Les Paul!

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Les Paul (June 9, 1915-August 13, 2009) was an American guitarist, songwriter, recording artist, and luthier. He is credited with pioneering multitrack recording and other recording techniques.

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Paul was born Lester William Polsfuss in Waukesha, Wisconsin to George and Evelyn Polsfuss. As a child, he taught himself harmonica, guitar, and banjo despite it being said that he did not have innate talent. By the time he was 13, he was performing semi-professionally as a country singer, playing drive-ins and roadhouses around the midwest. (Image source)

Wanting to be heard by more people, he wired a phonograph needle to a radio speaker. He'd always been interested in inventing and building; at the age of nine, he built a crystal radio and at 10, he built a harmonica holder out of a coat hanger.

Soon he dropped out of high school to join Wolverton's Radio Band. In 1934, he moved to Chicago. He began playing with pianist Art Tatum, who influenced him to dedicate himself to the guitar. He got into jazz guitar, and in 1939, after landing a spot on Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians radio show, he moved to New York.

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It was in his Queens apartment that he began experimenting and building guitars. He built "the log," which was a piece of lumber with a bridge, neck, and pickup attached. Eventually he attached this to an acoustic body. The instrument was initially criticized, but eventually adopted by the rock world. Paul teamed up with Gibson in 1952 to produce the instrument en masse, and soon it was one of the most widely used guitars.

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In 1940, Paul almost died as a result of electrocution. He moved to Hollywood and produced radio music to support himself during his two years in recovery.

After being drafted into the U.S. Army during the war, he served in the Armed Forces Network, appearing with such artists as Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.

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Les Paul with Paul McCartney

Paul was a perfectionist and was always looking for ways to perfect his sound. At the urging of Bing Crosby, Paul opened his own recording studio in the garage of his home. In his first multitrack recording, "Lover," Paul played eight different guitar parts, some at half speed so that they would come out "double fast" when they were played on the master track.

Paul met country singer Colleen Summers in 1945. The two began recording together, and Paul changed her name to Mary Ford. They were married in 1949. Some of their hits include "How High the Moon," "Bye Bye Blues," "Song in Blue," and "Don'cha Hear Them Bells."

 

Paul hosted the radio show The Les Paul Show, on NBC radio in 1950. The show featured his trio, but later would become a television show called The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show (also known as Les Paul & Mary Ford at Home).

Paul continued to perform into his eighties and was in the process of restoring some of his earliest recordings to meet current quality standards up until his death. He was the recipient of many awards during his career including Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 09 June 2014
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