'World's most influential guitar player and inventor' dies aged 94


2015-06-26 11:36:16


'World's most influential guitar player and inventor' dies aged 94

'Genius' creator of guitar which sold for $268k at Christies leaves legacy that 'will never be forgotten'

In 2005, one of the holy grails of modern music sold for $268,000 at Christies.

The item was a 1959 Sunburst Gibson Les Paul - an invention which was fundamental to the birth of rock 'n' roll.

At the time, auctioneers were amazed that a guitar could bring such a high amount without having celebrity associated with it.

But this guitar was associated with a celebrity of a different kind.

It was invented by a man described as, "the world's most influential innovative guitar player and inventor."

Les Paul, who died today aged 94, is most celebrated for his creation of one of the first sold-bodied electric guitars.

The above quote comes from Gibson, the firm which sold the first Les Paul electric guitars in 1952. But Paul actually created his first electric guitar, dubbed The Log, back in 1941.

At the time, he was a country and jazz musician, playing with such acts as Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole.

Unhappy with acoustic guitars, Paul had began experimenting with guitar amplification aged 13, placing a telephone receiver under the strings.

"I went into a nightclub and played it [The Log]," he later said. "Of course, everybody labeled me as a nut.

His 'nuts' invention, branded the Gibson Les Paul, would later be played by the likes of Paul McCartney, Slash and U2's the Edge - and is still a firm favourite with younger musicians today.

"It was a beautiful guitar it was hand crafted, it was carved, it was a really beautiful looking instrument," Stephen Lawson, editor of Total Guitar magazine told the BBC.

"It was produced in a completely different way - it had a set neck - not a bolt-on neck, so when it came out, people were rather impressed."

[It has] a powerful sound but it's also quite refined... It's pretty versatile... You can get a really decent jazz sound, but then it's also known for being a real rock guitar," said Mr Lawson.

Paul doesn't only deserve credit for reinventing the guitar - he was a virtuosic musician and performer, notching up 11 number one singles and 36 gold discs with his wife Mary Ford.

He also pioneered multi-track recording, enabling musician to record instruments and vocals separately.

"Until he did that, you had to make a record gathered round a microphone in the middle of a room," said Mr Lawson.

Since the news of Paul's death, rock legends from across the decades have lined-up to pay tribute.

"Without the advances he pioneered, the recording sciences and the electric guitar would have been left years behind," said US rock artist Joan Jett.

U2 guitarist The Edge, long associated with Les Paul guitars, called him a, "legend of the guitar and a true renaissance man."

"His legacy as a musician and inventor will live on and his influence on Rock and Roll will never be forgotten," he told the BBC.

Paul was born in Wisconsin in 1915, and reportedly died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital

He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

"It's really mind-boggling to imagine what the world would be like without him," said Mr Lawson.

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