Every Friday, we like to run a little eye candy to make up for taking the weekend off from posting. In the past, that’s always been in the form of some kind of pretty girl in a topically relevant pose, but there’s more than one way to be sexy. With the passing yesterday of guitar legend Les Paul, we’ve decided to honor his memory with a different kind of eye candy – that sexy beast of a guitar that bore his name. May we present the Gibson Les Paul …
Les Paul might have been just another footnote in the history of popular music had he not been so frustrated. Performing first with Mary Ford and later on his own, it irritated Paul that he couldn’t play loud enough for a large audience to hear. Beginning in 1941, he experimented with different prototypes for a solid body electric guitar. His experiments culminated with the 1952 release of the Gibson Les Paul, a guitar that continues to set the standard for electric guitars and has been used by a half-century of guitar greats.
But Paul didn’t stop there. Four years later he designed the first eight-track tape recorder, a device that changed the way music could be recorded in the studio. All the while, Paul continued to release Grammy-winning albums; just last year he released “Les Paul and Friends,” an album of duets with some of the greatest guitarists of all time. Those touched by his life commented on his passing:
“Les Paul was truly a ‘one of a kind.’ We owe many of his inventions that made the rock ‘n roll sound of today to him, and he was the founding father of modern music,” B.B. King said in a statement. “This is a huge loss to the music community and the world. I am honored to have known him.”
Joe Satriani said in a statement: “Les Paul set a standard for musicianship and innovation that remains unsurpassed. He was the original guitar hero and the kindest of souls. Last October I joined him onstage at the Iridium club in [New York], and he was still shredding. He was and still is an inspiration to us all.”
In a statement, Slash said, “Les Paul was a shining example of how full one’s life can be; he was so vibrant and full of positive energy.”
Others might have made their own impact on the electric guitar (Leo Fender among them), but few can boast such a game-changing life as Les Paul. Scary to think what the music scene might sound like today had he not acted on those frustrations so long ago. Les Paul was 91, and will be missed by every sore-fingered guitarist – and their fans.