Les Paul at 102: How His Innovations Changed Music Forever

Vinyl Bay 777, Long Island’s music outlet, takes a quick look back at how Les Paul’s solid-body electric guitar became a rock music standard

Les Paul live @ Iridium Jazz Club in New York City in October 2008. Taken by Thomas Faivre-Duboz, Paris, France. Found on Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been musician Les Paul’s 102nd birthday. Known for practically inventing the solid-body electric guitar, his innovations have left a lasting impression on the music world forever.

A musician himself, Les Paul started his career playing jazz, blues and country music live and on the radio. From 1945 to 1961, he released several hit singles, many of which peaked in the top 10 on the singles charts. Paul continued to perform live solo and with his trio up until his death in 2009 at the age of 94.

Though he may have had a very successful music career, Les Paul is still best known for his electric guitar. A pioneer in the creation of the solid-body electric guitar, he put together his first design, dubbed “The Log,” in 1940. Built on a four-by-four piece of pine wood, The Log included strings and a pickup, which he would later add the “wings” of an acoustic guitar to for a more traditional guitar look. It would take 10 years for his design to officially be made, having been turned down originally by Epiphone and Gibson. But by 1952, the Gibson Les Paul was the most popular solid-body electric guitar in the world.

Les Paul’s talent for tinkering and innovation went much further than just guitars. As a young boy, he attached a coat hanger to a piece of wood and his harmonica, making the first known harmonica holder. His design has been in use for decades, its most iconic users being Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Paul also made strides in the worlds of recording and amplification. He was one of the first to come up with a way to record multiple tracks on top of each other, what he called “sound on sound,” and, along with Ampex, developed the first eight-track recorder in the mid-1950s. Interested in achieving different effects with his guitar, he developed ways to incorporate delay, reverb and phasing into his sound. Paul was even one of the first people to use a coil and magnet to create pickup to amplify his guitar.

Les Paul’s namesake guitars are still some of the most popular designs to date. Guitarists spanning all genres of music, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Slash, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, KissAce Frehley, Reggae legend Bob Marley, The Who’s Pete Townshend and the Allman Brothers Band’s Duane Allman, have used his signature design to make music history.

Artists have been benefiting from Les Paul’s innovations for more than six decades. From his iconic guitars to his work developing new recording and amplification technology and techniques, his many musical innovations have had a monumental impact on how we hear music and will continue to shape the way we hear music for a long time to come.

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This article was originally published on vinylbay777.blogspot.com.