Inventors are inspirational. Les Paul was an inventor, musician, songwriter, and luthier. He played multiple instruments, however is best-known for guitar. He played jazz, country, blues, and rock and roll. He invented guitar styles and is known for recording innovations.
Lester William Polsfuss was born on June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. When he was still a child, his parents divorced. When Les Paul was eight, he learned to ply the harmonica. He then began playing the guitar. In order to play both instruments at once, he invented a neck-worn harmonica holder. His design is still used today when manufactured. He began performing semi-professionally by the time he was thirteen. He played guitar and harmonica, as well as, sang country music. He began experimenting with sound. He wired a phonograph needle to his acoustic guitar and connected it to a radio speaker. While still a teen, Paul created his first solid body electric guitar.
In 1934, Paul moved to Chicago. He continued to play on the radio, which he had done before his move. In 1936, he released two records, played with bands, began adding other sounds, and adopted the stage name Les Paul. In 1937, he formed a trio with Jim Atkins and Ernie “Darius” Newton. Experimenting in his apartment he created versions of his guitar that became known as “The Log”. In 1943, he was drafted into the US Army. He served in the Armed Forces Radio Network and met other artists. He famously played with Nat King Cole and others in the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1944. Bing Crosby began sponsoring Paul’s recording experiments. Paul recorded with The Andrews Sisters in in 1946. In 1949, Paul began working with a Ampex Model 200A reel-to-reel audio tape recording decks. Paul invented Sound on Sound recording with this machine. Gibson Guitar Corporation and Les Paul have a “roller coaster” history, however novice and professional guitarists all over the world use Gibson Les Paul guitars.
Les Paul married Iris Colleen Summers, stage name Betty Ford, in 1949. She was country-western, they became a duo, and they created hits. In 1950, they and Eddie Stapleton, hosted the The Les Paul Show on NBC Radio. It later appeared on TV and became The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show. It was syndicated until 1960.
Les Paul had married Virginia Webb in 1938. They had two children and divorced in 1949. He then married Mary Ford in 1949. They adopted a girl in 1958 and had a son in 1959. Paul and Ford divorced in 1964. In 1995, Paul established the Les Paul Foundation to share his life and legacy, as well as, support music education, engineering, innovation, and medical research. Les Paul died on August 12, 2009 in White Plains, New York. Guitarists, such as, Steve Miller, Slash, Richie Sambora, and U2’s The Edge all expressed sorrow and paid tribute to Les Paul’s legacy.
Les Paul received honors and awards during his life and posthumously. In 1960, he and then wife Mary Ford received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame and the Jazz Hall of Fame. In 2005, his past development of the solid-body electric guitar had him inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2007, US President George W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts. Articles, concerts, Google, and television biographies have honored him. Be inspired! Have a bright day!