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Les Paul: The Man, The Music, The Guitar

Les Paul - The Man, The Music, The Guitar

Les Paul: The Man Behind the Model

by Mary Shaughnessy
Les Paul - The Music
Les had started playing harmonica, banjo, and guitar when he was still in grade school. He practiced relentlessly, trying his best to sound like the pros he listened to on live radio broadcast of Chicago’s National Barn Dance and Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

One day [Sunny Joe Wolverton] drove him from St. Louis to Kalamazoo to buy him his first Gibson, the L-50 archtop (Joe later bought Les an L-5). Under Joe’s tutelage, Les blossomed into a guitarist to be reckoned with.
Barely nineteen and on his own for the first time, Les continued to make a splash on Chicago radio as Rhubarb Red. However, he soon began jamming with noted jazz players in clubs all over the city. Trouble was, his guitar couldn’t be heard above the din of the brass players and hard drinking patrons. In the mid ‘30’s, he commissioned the Larson Brothers, who made guitars for many WLS performers, to build him an electric guitar. In order to boost the volume and sustain, Les ordered a half-inch-thick top of solid maple with no sound holes.

In 1941, he built “The Log,” a 20 lb guitar named after the four-by-four piece of pine he used for the body. He added a Gibson neck with a Larson fingerboard, two pickups he fashioned from the inner coils of an electric clock, and a pair of side wings from an old Epiphone to make it look like a guitar.

Les moved to Hollywood in 1943, where he scored chart-topping disc with Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. Four years later, after painstakingly experimenting with a variety of overdubbing techniques in his own garage recording studio, he turned out a solo record that turned the music industry upside down.
Les Paul - The Guitar
Les Paul - The Advertisement
An excerpt from the book Gibson Guitars:
100 Years of an American Icon by Walter Carter. Copyright © 1994 Gibson Guitar Corporation.

Les Paul - The Man

Les Paul worked hard with Gibson to create the Gibson Les Paul Standard, which was introduced in 1952, followed a couple of years later by the Gibson Les Paul Custom. The Gibson Les Paul’s remarkable tone, sustain and action quickly became admired by guitarists throughout the world. Some say the creative dynamic between Les Paul and Gibson that ensued in the subsequent decades became one that has never again been duplicated by any other manufacturer.

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