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Les Paul, RIP

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:59 pm
by Rob
Inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, multi-track recording, and an amazing songwriter and guitarist to boot. This is a clip from "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music," which talks about his playing and his innovation. Les is about three minutes in. But watch the whole clip. It's a must-see film for anyone who loves music.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:47 pm
by Ian
I never really knew that much about the man behind the iconic name.. that he was such an innovator?

So thanks for that Rob.

"While his guitars gently weep"


PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:46 pm
by Rob
His childhood piano teacher wrote to his mother, “Your boy, Lester, will never learn music.”

Les Paul 1915-2009

(Watch the video with the article)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:03 pm
by Our Kid
Les Paul has died.

My father was always a huge musical influence on me. When I was a kid and got heavily into Rock n Roll, my dad countered my never-ending devouring of this-and-that-Rock-God guitarist by turning me on to the sounds of Les Paul. My mind was instantly blown to pieces. I wanted to know everything I could about the man and his history. My poor father - he had no idea what he was doing…

So there I was, this teenager obsessed with guitars and with the endless layering of sounds on Rock (and just about all other) records. By the time I was old enough to really understand the recording process, most people were using 24 or 48 tracks in typical studios to make music. Les Paul INVENTED that shit.

He cut his early multiple track recordings using acetate discs (basically an old-school record kind of thing), not tape. So many of the people here in this community have experience in playing and recording music. I ask you to just picture doing things that way. First you have to BUILD YOURSELF a machine in your home that allows you to “cut” your acetates. Using the equipment you create, next record a performance onto a disc and then play that disc over a record player so you can play along with it while recording a second one. Then do that over and over until you have built up a number of good tracks. You can’t “punch in” to cover mistakes. You can’t “bounce tracks down” and condense things on the same tape. If you make a mistake on your third acetate cut (or worse, the fourth or fifth or whatever), you have no choice but to dispose of the hours of work and start over again.

He was also the second person in the USA to get their hands on a legitimate reel-to-reel recorder. Once that happened, it was all over. Les Paul was the first person to bounce tracks down using tape. He discovered so many things hidden in that primitive technology that I still shake my head thinking of it: multi-tracking, tape echo, phasing, hard and soft panning, half-speed tracks that could be sped up to give a song a totally new and fresh sound that nobody had ever heard. The list goes on and on. He’d record and re-record his wife, Mary Ford. He’d make her sound like 3 sets of Andrews Sisters singing the living shit out of some standard. I was absolutely amazed by it all.

Then there was the whole guitar thing. Les Paul wanted to make his acoustic guitar louder. Sticking a telephone receiver under the strings didn’t work, so the bastard jabbed a phonograph needle into the wood of the body top. BINGO! There was the immense sound he wanted. There was the warmth, the sustain, the creamy sound that would ultimately become the biggest instrumental voice of the revolution that became Rock n Roll.

In fact, one night in (I think) 1965 or 66, Les and his son were in a club in (I think) New Jersey and saw some crazy looking black cat absolutely blister the paint off the club’s walls with a Fender Stratocaster. They went back the next night but found out that the guy was just passing through. Eventually, Les (and the rest of the world) found out that the fellow in question was Jimi Hendrix. Jimi might have been the greatest Rock guitarist ever (well, he absolutely was but I am trying to be diplomatic for once), but the whole sound of the thing went straight back to Les Paul.

Les, of course, would eventually lend his technical brilliance and his name to Gibson’s greatest solid-body electric guitar. To the very end, as far as I know, he forwent stock (or even expensive custom-built) pickups on his guitars, preferring to personally wind his own. SICK, I tell you – SICK.

I have been listening to his boxed set for hours now and I just crack up hearing to the myriad of techniques and licks and tricks that are standard Rock Guitar fare that are splashed liberally over all his songs. Trilling, hammer-ons and offs, percussive fretting, all kinds of sounds.

For goodness sakes, the man had his arm PERMANENTLY SET after an accident so that it was in the right position to play the guitar. I can still remember my dad telling me about that. It made quite an impression. I just love the guy and I love his music. I am thankful that my dad clued me in to him at such a young age. It was something that one never forgets, you know?

Before there was a Chuck Berry, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Phil Specter, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Beatles, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Brian Wilson, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Jimmy Page, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Jimi Hendrix, there was Les Paul.
Before there was a Dick Dale, there was Les Paul.
Before there was an Eddie Van Halen, there was Les Paul.

I could keep going, but I suppose that’s about enough. Those are just some of the obvious and directly-related ones.

Today, we lost one of the touchstones of Modern Music in the world. Check him out if you have never heard him. It is an incredible treat to get acquainted with his stuff.

Let There Be Love (and fresh strings on the Other Side),


PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:05 pm
by Turk
That article and the videos are just awesome. Thanks, Rob.

RIP, Lester.

His interest in gadgets came early. At the age of 10 he devised a harmonica holder from a coat hanger. Soon afterward he made his first amplified guitar by opening the back of a Sears acoustic model and inserting, behind the strings, the pickup from a dismantled Victrola. With the record player on, the acoustic guitar became an electric one. Later, he built his own pickup from ham radio earphone parts and assembled a recording machine using a Cadillac flywheel and the belt from a dentist’s drill.

Simply amazing.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:55 am
by Rob
Thanks, Tim. That was great. A lot of people today (and probably back then) don't realize how much of a giant he was. If they think of him at all, it's that his name is on a guitar. He once said...

“When I introduce myself to people, they’re always surprised to learn that I'm not a guitar and I’m not dead!"

What Thomas Edison was to the light bulb, Les Paul was to the electric guitar, rock-n-roll and recorded music.

Mis posted on Facebook about Les so I sent her this email about the time I saw him play and met him in 2005 at the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony.

After he got the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, they brought a stool out for him to sit on so he could play.

He fell off the stool.

The crowd collectively gasped thinking they'd witnessed Les Paul being horribly hurt as they'd just sung Happy Birthday to him for his 90th which was that day (it actually wasn't his fault, one of the stagehands left him a bit too soon before he was fully seated).

Anyway, he bounced right back up with a huge grin on his face and said "happens all the time." The crowd roared. Then he went on and talked about needing Viagra after seeing Alicia Keys who had played earlier. He really brought down the house with his humor. And his guitar playing was still exceptional.

I remember shaking his hand afterward and thinking how remarkable it was that he played so fucking well because it was pretty much gnarled.

That was the only time I saw him play. Genius.

This fact went straight went into the speech.

Turk wrote:... assembled a recording machine using a Cadillac flywheel and the belt from a dentist’s drill.

Jeff Beck confessed: "I've copied more licks from Les Paul than I'd like to admit.” Him and about a zillion other guitar players.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:33 am
by Turk
Tim -
While I was posting my little pitiful post last night, you were posting your masterful, personal one. Very well done. Had no idea of your knowledge of guitars and Les before. Thanks for sharing.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:29 pm
by ScottG
Right you are, Tim!