H.E.A.R. Honors Les Paul
Les Paul is a unique blend of musician and inventor. His
performing career started at the age of 13 and by the early
1950s he was the greatest jazz guitarist of his generation.
The Les Paul Trio, which included his talented wife Mary Ford,
produced such hits as "Tennessee Waltz," "Mockin' Bird Hill,"
"How High The Moon," and "Vaya Con Dios." He also won a 1977
Grammy with Chet Atkins for the album Chester and Lester.
As an inventor, Mr. Paul's breakthrough creation of the
solid-body electric guitar paved the way for electric music
made the sound of rock and roll possible. In 1953 while performing
with Bing Crosby, he perfected the first muli-track recording
machine, allowing separate lines of instrumental music and
vocals to be blended together. His many recording innovations--including
sound-on-sound, overdubbing, reverb effects, and multi-tracking--greatly
accelerated the advancement of studio recording.
By 1952 Les Paul was not only the most popular guitar player
in America, he was also a leading innovator in guitar and
electronics design. He had been experimenting with electric
guitars for as long as there had been electric guitars. He
had once mounted a guitar string on a railroad tie to confirm
his belief that a solidbody guitar would maximize sustain,
and he had incorporated a mini-railroad rail-a 4"x4" piece
of pine-into the body of a homemade solidbody electric guitar
he nicknamed "TheLog."
Les had approached Gibson in the '40s with his ideas for
a solidbody electric guitar, but Gibson was already leading
the industry with archtop electric guitars. Furthermore, Gibson
had always been very conservative when it came to aligning
with artists. In 50 years, only two players had their names
on Gibson models: Nick Lucas, an early guitar star and crooner
whose "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" was the biggest record
of 1929, and Roy Smeck, a multi-instrumentalist so talented
he was nicknamed "The Wizard of the Strings."
In the early '50s, when the solidbody guitar first became
commercially viable, Gibson designed an instrument that would
change the image of the solidbody electric from a simple plank
of wood to an elegant, stylish piece of art. Such a guitar
would be a radical move for a traditional company like Gibson,
but Gibson had been founded on the radical mandolin and guitar
designs of Orville Gibson back in the 1890s. This new model
would have the same carved-top contours that had set Orville's
instruments apart from all others.
With the new model almost ready for market, Gibson approached
Les Paul, the obvious choice to help launch it. Les was already
intimately familiar with the unique characteristics of a solidbody
electric guitar. And he was at the top of his career. His
1948 hit, "Brazil," featured six guitar parts, all played
by Les in a virtuoso demonstration that would eventually earn
him recognition as the father of multi-track recording. When
he combined his guitar and electronic talents with the vocals
of his wife Mary Ford, the result was gold-two million-selling
records in 1951, "Mockin' Bird Hill" and "How High the Moon."
The Les Paul Model, as it was originally called, has changed
little since its debut in 1952. Except for an updated bridge
and humbucking pickups, the Les Paul Standard of today is
still the same guitar. The Les Paul has been the driving force
behind many changes in popular music. It powered the blues
rock sound of the late '60s and the southern rock of the late
'70s. By the '90s the Les Paul was providing signature sounds
for every genre of rock, from alternative to metal.
We are thrilled at H.E.A.R. to honor Les Paul as our featured
artist of the month! The music industry and the world owe
Les a great debt of gratitude.
H.E.A.R. will be
auctioning off a very rare Gibson 100 Year Anniversary
Les Paul Guitar during May Better Hearing and Speech month.
There were only a very few made folks! Please check back with
us for more details.