Les Paul Rides into the sunset...

Happy Trails ole saddle pal

 

I first began to work with Les Paul some years back, I was working on producing a two hour segment of a huge Guitar Festival that Eric Clapton was producing, and a friend in the organization knew I knew the old timers and asked me to round up some.  After the idea and vision of the Pioneer Troubadour project came to me, it was as if I had a predictive dialer, I knew one of the first people I called was Les Paul.  He told me to tell Eric that he had a gig that weekend and that he can make it, but that he wants to sign and donate a Les Paul Gibson guitar to his Crossroads Foundation."  I asked him then, "Hey then Less, can we make you an Honorary Pioneer Troubadour...and he said,  You darn betchya. 

 

We went on to meet up some months later in Vegas at the CES show, and I recorded him for the Pioneer Troubadour DVD, which is some of the footage above, which we recorded at about 1 a.m. on the Gibson Guitar Bus.  Around 2 a.m. we recorded him telling me some things he wanted folks to know for my documentary on Jimmie Rodgers.  That is another Les Paul saga itself...

 

Merle is also part of the project with the song "Troubadour" that he penned some years back.  I was on the road with Haggard and Bob Dylan, shooting most of the 39 show tour, and in some city after the show Merle was shooting pull and we were talking, and I mentioned Les Paul.  Merle looked at me shocked,

and said, "You know Les Paul?"  I looked at Hag and said, "You don't?"  in a kinda disbelief.

 

Merle told me that it would be such a great honor for him to meet Les Paul.  So on the road to New York I began calling Mr. Paul to set up the meeting.  Merle said he would love to go down and meet Les and hear him perform at the Iridium Jazz Club (1650 Broadway), where Les plays every Monday night. Right after Merle got off stage opening for Bob Dylan at the Beacon Theater on Broadway, we had a limo there to take him down to the club, where the two legends met (pic I took to the right).  Later Hag got on the stage and played two songs...Merle and Les played "Trouble in Mind" and "Pennies From Heaven."  The audience went wild.  One could see the mutual admiration that Les Paul and Haggard, and that a long friendship had its beginning.  Later that night Hag took me by the shoulders and looked at me and said, "This is the most important thing that has happened to me in my career."  wow

 

The next night Les came to see Haggard and Dylan show and they bonded further. 
 

 

 

Crossroads Foundation

Crossroads Guitar Festival

 

I had Les Paul tied into the Festival, and in fact just had talked to him some a few weeks ago, and made a tape of the recording, which I would do when we would talk on the phone, he and I would talk about Jimmie Rodgers and Slim Bryant.  MORE ON SLIM AND LES LATER...I told Les that we wanted have him part of the festival, and that we would have a camera and tech crew at his club gig on the regular Monday night, and we were going to patch him into the Festival via the Internet and give him

an award and show it on a screen at the festival.  He was excited to try the new technology and be part of the Festival

I got a email and txt when I woke up this morning from Kenny Lewis, friend that plays guitar for the Steve Miller Band...that Les had passed away...couple of other emails are below, and a list of phone calls from friends telling me sorry made me realize how fortunate I was to have him as a friend, to have his trust and stories to tell, and the times spent with him...

I'm sending your quote on Les to a good friend of mine, a producer who was working with Les until his illness and a good friend of Mr. Paul. He will love your heart through your meaningful words. I was intending to send him an email with my thoughts as well that are, “Genius whose influence and impact on music will never be usurped, rest in peace, gone but never to be forgotten.” I know this is a blow to u bro.       dan

Ben: This was a quote from a friend in NY. "thanks Les Paul for guitars so sweet they can make you cry while listening to them or playing them and so heavy they can break your ears, your skull or your toe! RIP

 

I'm truly sorry for your loss, as I know in talking with you, how close you were to him, and the big plans you had in wanting to do the documentary. If there is anything i can do to help, all you need do is pick up that phone buddy.

Richard

This is a sketch that my sister

is doing for the Pioneer

Troubadour project

 

Les Paul

Les Paul, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, five-time Grammy Award winner, pioneer of the electric guitar and inventor of numerous recording techniques, such as reverb and multi-track recording was born June 9, 1915 in Waukesha Wisconsin. As The Gibson Les Paul line of guitars is universally hailed as the best and is played by legendary musicians, Iridium has been the host to countless musicians and celebrities who pay homage to "The Father Of The Electric Guitar". Musicians such as, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett, Paul Schaeffer, Steve Miller, Brian Setzer, Joe Beck, Al Dimeola, George Benson and many others have "jammed" with Les on Monday nights at Iridium. You never know who will show up at Iridium to jam and joke with Les and the band!

Les says his greatest God-given gifts are perfect pitch, a love for music with the ability to learn it quickly, and the curiosity and persistence of an inventor who wants to know "how things tick". His first professional job, as "Red Hot Red", was as a guitarist and harmonica player when he was just thirteen. One fateful night while performing in front of an outdoor crowd, Les became frustrated that people farther back couldn’t hear him. Les Paul created an electric guitar and amplification system out a radio, the earpiece of a telephone and a needle from a family record player that he jammed into the fret board as a "pickup"! Les?guitar and voice were now heard by all.  However, the resulting vibration and resulting feedback had to be contained. Les experimented by stuffing clothes and plaster of paris in the guitar; he even went so far as attaching a string to a hinge placed at the end of a railroad track. The sound was perfect. When Les showed his mother his accomplishment she replied, "You’ll never see Gene carrying that thing around". So he settled on using a 4x4 block of wood attached to an Epiphone neck. When the audience paid no attention to his playing because the instrument was too strange, he attaches two non-functional "wings" to the 4x4 so it looked like a normal guitar. The fans loved the sound and the solid body electric guitar was born! In 1950, Les started his design of the Les Paul model for The Gibson Guitar Company, which has become the world’s best selling line of electric guitars.

Les’ life long interest and ground breaking work in the recording studio resulted from a need to develop his own unique style. One night, Les’ mother commented that she heard him on the radio. Apparently she had heard someone else who was copying his style! Les became determined over the next two years to develop his own unique sound. The result of hundreds of multiple-disc recording experiments, some with delay, reverb, echo and other electronic techniques, revolutionized the recording industry and immediately led to a contract with Capitol Records. A string of top ten hits followed with his wife Mary Ford, the most famous one being "How High The Moon".

Soon Les Paul and Mary Ford were the stars of their own television show, The Les Paul and Mary Ford at home show, which was a top rated hit and ran from 1953 to 1960 and they became international stars!

Les Paul’s pioneering work with tape recording led to some of his most important contributions to recorded music. This again grew out of necessity. Les Paul had been talking to his friend, Bing Crosby about the need to develop a tape recorder that would give musicians the freedom of recording anywhere. Les found such a product and then began tinkering with it. One result of his experimentation was the development of sound on sound recording. This was accomplished with an additional recording head. No more was a studio needed for him and Mary- they could record anywhere! To solve the problem of recording with other musicians who were not present, Les conceived the idea of recording on eight separate tracks then blending them together. This is but a small sampling of the diverse and legendary career Les has enjoyed and his role as one of the most important figures in twentieth century music!

Les Paul, multiple Grammy Winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and idol and legend to millions, plays every Monday night at Iridium! Set times are at 8:00 and 10:00, and Les gladly signs autographs and chats after every show! www.njinvent.njit.edu

Les Paul "The Wizard of Waukesha"

Lester William was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 9, 1915 to parents George and Evelyn (Stutz) Polsfuss. Les' mother was related to the Stutz Bearcat automobile and Blatz beer people. Les says his greatest God-given gifts are perfect pitch, a love for music with the ability to learn it quickly, and the curiosity and persistence of an inventor who wants to know "how things tick". His first professional job, as "Red Hot Red," was as a guitarist and harmonica player when he was just thirteen. One fateful night, while playing to an outdoor crowd, a listener in the back complained that Les' voice could not be heard. To accommodate those farthest away, Les attached his mother's radio to the family's telephone mouthpiece creating a public address system. Again a critic voiced that his guitar could not be heard. So Les "borrowed" his father's radio, the other end of the telephone, and the needle from the family record player. Jamming the needle into the guitar bridge and joining the other components, Les' guitar and voice were now heard by all. Les actually created a stereo system, however with some feedback and acoustic vibrations. Les experimented by stuffing clothes and plaster of paris in the guitar to dampen the unwanted acoustic vibrations. The plaster worked but the guitar was too heavy! His final experiment was attaching a guitar string to a hinge placed at the end of a railroad track. The sound was perfect. When Les showed his mother his accomplishment she replied, "You'll never see Gene Autry (the most popular singing cowboy at the time), carrying that thing around". So he settled on using a 4x4 block of wood attached to an Epiphone neck. When the audience paid no attention to his playing because the instrument was too strange, he realized that "people hear with their eyes." To compensate for this Les attached two non-functional "wings" to the 4x4 so it looked like a normal guitar. The fans loved the sound! Les has donated his first practical solid-body electric guitar (1941), to The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee where it is on permanent display. Les' solid-body electric guitar concept, however, was not appreciated by guitar makers until one was successfully marketed by a California neighbor, Leo Fender who was into electronics. Then the Gibson Guitar Company contacted Les who was called "the guy with the pickups on the broom handle."


Les applied for his first patent, "Combined Bridge and Tailpiece for Stringed Instruments", on July 9, 1952, a one pickup design which was granted on March 13, 1956, #2,737,842. A patent filed by Gibson president, the late Theodore M. McCarty, on Jan. 21, 1953, "Stringed Musical Instrument of the Guitar Type And Combined Bridge And Tailpiece Therefore", was granted on Aug. 2, 1955, #2,714,326. This two pick-up design appears to be the basis of the Les Paul model guitars in which Les says he had much input.

Back in 1946, Les' mother commented that she heard him on the radio on a particular night. Les explained that it wasn't him as he was on stage playing back-up guitar with the Andrew Sisters. Apparently someone was copying his style. Les was so dejected that someone could copy him good enough to fool his mother that he quit the Andrew Sisters and devoted the
next two years in secret experiments toward developing his unique sound. Hundreds of multiple-disc recording experiments, some with delay, reverb, echo and other electronic techniques, were made. Then at a party one night he quietly slipped in his new recording of "Lover" (1948). History again was made, and a contract with Capitol Records quickly followed. Capitol asked Les what this new sound should be called. Les keeping it simple, said "The New Sound", and that's how his records were marketed! After World War II, a Newark, New Jersey electronics engineer, Colonel Richard Ranger, showed Les a tape recorder which he located in a German military electronics laboratory. Les then informed Bing Crosby of the machine since Bing wanted to record away from the studio and have more time to play golf. When Les assured Crosby that the device would work, Bing said he wanted 50. The Rangertone Electronics Company could not mass-produce the recorders fast enough so the idea was submitted to the Ampex Corporation. Bing Crosby put up the capital and gave one recorder to Les. On the road to Chicago with Mary Ford (nee Colleen Summers) and the new recorder, Les thought that if he could put in one additional recording head he could do sound-on-sound recordings anywhere. So Les called Ampex and said he burned out the recording head and could they send another. The additional head was installed by a machinist named Mr. Goodspeed and it worked on first try. No more was a studio needed for him and Mary. Then to solve the problem of recording with other musicians who were not present, Les conceived the idea of recording on eight separate tracks then blending them together. He consulted Ampex again (1952) and they agreed to build him one at his cost. Les did not seek a patent on this concept or the "Sel-Sync" idea (1956-60), which made the now-famous multi-track possible. On Jan. 30, 1962 Les was granted patent # 3,018,680, "Electrical Musical Instrument", and on Apr. 3, 1973, # 3,725,561 "Method of Electrically Reproducing Music and Improved Electrical Pickup for Practicing the Same". Both were for improved pickups. He is presently working on ten electronic pickup modifications, in as many guitars, chasing after his quest of "the perfect sound." Not bad for a "tinkerer" wouldn't you say? Les was inducted into the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1996. On February 20th 2001, Les received his 5th Grammy, for his technical achievements, from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.

Copyright 2002 Charles Dzuba, 330 Paxinosa Road West, Easton, PA 18040-1322

FROM LES PAUL'S BIO AT THE WEBSITE FOR THE IRIDIUM CLUB IN NEW YORK...

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