June 9, 1915: Rock Architect Les Paul Born

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les-paul_how-high-the-moonAlthough he never played rock ‘n’ roll music, Lester William Poisfuss, aka Les Paul, born on June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, WI, was a key figure in the music’s development, named as an “architect” of its sound when the guitarist and inventor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Best known as the developer of the first solid-body electric guitar, it’s one of many innovations that Paul created.

His first was the harmonica rack he patented in his early teens that enabled users to use both hands to also play the guitar simultaneously, best known for its use by Bob Dylan. In the late 1930s Paul began experimenting with a solid-body guitar design that would reduce the feedback and distortion of amplified acoustic guitars and increase sustain. The Gibson Les Paul guitar model became a favorite of such famed players as Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, Billy Gibbons and many others.

He also invented multitrack recording, developed the first eight-track recorder, pioneered tape delay and incorporated numerous innovations into studio mixing boards. His biggest success as a performer was as a duo with his second wife, singer Mary Ford, scoring such #1 songs as “How High The Moon” and “Vaya Con Dios” from the late 1940s into the early ’50s. From the mid-1980s until not long before he passed away on August 12, 2009, he played weekly shows at the New York City clubs Fat Tuesday and Iridium to which countless guitarists he had influenced made pilgrimages to pay their respects.

Watch one of those with Steve Miller…

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Paul was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush in 2007. Among his many honors was induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2005) and National Inventors Hall of Fame (also in 2005). He died on August 12, 2009 at age 94 and buried in his Wisconsin hometown.

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson began writing about music in 1976. Since his first published record review in Crawdaddy he has contributed to numerous national popular music magazines such as Creem, Musician, Circus, Spin, Request, Tower Pulse!, CD Review, Acoustic Guitar, Harp and many others along with major country music, consumer audio, musical instrument and studio recording magazines plus international publications New Musical Express and Country Music People in the U.K. From 1977 to '84 he wrote a nationally syndicated music column as well as stories for Newspaper Enterprises Association/United Feature Syndicate that ran in more than 400 daily newspapers across the nation. His work has also appeared in many weekly newspapers, onlinepublications like Salon.com and The Huffington Post, such books as the Rolling Stone Record Guide & Revised Record Guide, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History and The Year In Rock, 1980-81, plus liner notes for 20 album releases.
Rob Patterson
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