Paul, Les

Paul, Les, 1915–2009, American guitarist and inventor, b. Waukesha, Wis., as Lester William Polsfuss (later Polfuss). He began playing country music at 14, later switched to jazz, and started his own trio in 1936. Considered one of the finest jazz guitarists, he remains famous for his amazing versatility. Dissatisfied with the sound of available instruments, Paul invented (1941) a solid-body electric guitar which, marketed (1952) by Gibson, was extremely important in the development of rock music and was played by many of its greatest stars. Several versions of his guitars are still manufactured. Paul also created techniques in his home studio that allowed him to overdub numerous tracks, producing the distinctive sound of Les Paul and Mary Ford (his wife) in such 1950s hits as Vaya Con Dios and How High the Moon. The multitrack recording originated by Paul has since been widely used to make popular recordings. He also invented the eight-track tape recorder, which initiated the modern recording era, and made important innovations in reverb and other areas of studio methodology. Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

See M. Cochran, Les Paul: In His Own Words (2008); R. Lawrence, The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1915–1963 and The Modern Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1968–2008 (both: 2008).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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