by Jason Hicks
Legendary guitar player and monumental music figure Les Paul passed away today and it's pretty much impossible to overstate his importance in the development of modern music. Not only did he build one of the first solid body guitars in 1941, but he also was an innovator in multi-track recording and developed effects for the guitar that were the foundation of the rock n' roll sound, such as tape delay.
Perhaps even more amazingly, he continued playing regularly right up until the end and could be found playing at New York clubs even at the age of 94. His dedication to guitar playing was further evidenced by an incident 1948 when in broke his arm. In order to be able to continue to play the guitar his right arm was set at a permanent right angle suitable for cradling and strumming.
In the early '50s Gibson introduced the signature Les Paul model based off his suggestions and designs. Notable players of various Les Paul Gibsons are a veritable who's-who of prominent guitar players and include: Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Slash, Eddie Van Halen, John Lennon, Pete Townsend, Frank Zappa, Neil Young and many more.
The course of music history would have undoubtedly been different without him and the profound effects of his direct and indirect contributions to our culture are truly staggering.
Below is a video of Paul and then wife Mary Ford performing the jazz standard "How High the Moon" over a 24 track recording for a total of 26 tracks, which was likely unprecedented at the time.