Les (pron. “less”, not “lez” – his first name was Lester, not Leslie) Paul may not have invented Rock ‘N’ Roll, but he pretty much created everything that makes it possible.
In the Thirties, when electric guitars first arrived, he immersed himself in the technology – and spent the rest of his life developing it.
In 1952 (as it happens, the year of this writer’s birth) he managed to convince Gibson Guitars to start producing SOLID bodied guitars (he’d been playing his “log” long before) which, devoid of the extraneous vibrations produced by the soundbox on the conventional guitar, would give a purer sound. Enter the legendary and beloved “Les Paul Gibson”.
And during the late Forties and right through the Fifties, he developed multi-track recording – without which modern recording studios would not exist.
Initially, he used acetates, but as soon as open-reel tape machines arrived, he began adding extra heads – to develop reverb (without which, Elvis would have sounded “thin”) – and ganged eight machines together to produce records where he and his then-wife Mary Ford (she divorced him in the early Sixties – she had had enough of his itinerant life-style) would overdub.
This meant Les could play lead, rhythm and bass guitars “simultaneously”, while Mary could do the same, singing melody, counter-melody and descant.
They had TV and radio shows, Les composed and they had a string of hits right through the Fifties. If you can find them, check out “Mockingbird Hill”, “San Antonio Rose” and “Tiger Rag”. Fantastic.
In the Sixties, he went back to inventing, but in the Eighties, he was re-discovered and went on the college circuit – blowing away a whole new generation who could not believe the genius of this diminutive old geezer.
You can SEE the great man here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJaNMZmBR6E
He passed away yesterday, aged 94.