The year 2009 brought us many losses in the world of music but perhaps
none hurt us as much as the loss of Les Paul, one of the founding fathers of
modern music, on August 12, 2009. Les Paul gave us the electric guitar as we
know it today and the technological advancements that give us the signature
sound of rock music, even though the man himself was a country guitarist. His
inventions altered the music world so much that Les Paul is one of the few
individuals who is honored with a permanent, stand alone exhibit in the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame.
Les Paul's story is an inspiration to musicians who are striving to win in
the music game. Born Lester Polsfuss, the young man took on the stage name of
Les Paul early in his musical career. He began by playing harmonica, then tried
to play banjo but eventually settled upon the guitar. This instrument went on to
become his greatest love but he continued to push the limits of the instrument,
looking for a unique sound. He used pickups made from an old phonograph to
create a new life for the acoustic guitar as the electrified instrument could
hold reverb for a much longer period of time.
In 1940, he brought the world its first solid body electric guitar, which
he named "The Log", a 4x4" piece of lumber with a bridge, guitar neck and
pickups attached. It wasn't pretty enough for performances so he disguised the
setup inside a traditional hollow body guitar.
From this humble beginning, the man went on to create some of the most
sought after guitars in the world. The Gibson Les Paul guitars command high
prices, with original Les Paul's drawing thousands of dollars for one guitar,
and have been used by some of the most notable names in rock history, including
To understand how much Les Paul loved music, there are two incidents in
his life that really should be noticed. The first was his 1940 electrocution
while experimenting with designs for his electric guitar. It took the man two
years to recover from the incident but he continued working on the guitar
because he wanted a sound that could not be rivaled by anything the acoustical
instruments of the time had to offer.
The second incident reads almost like a love story, and in a way, it was.
Les Paul was involved in a near fatal car accident that left his right arm and
elbow in a shattered mess. The doctors informed him that they could set the arm
but it would be in a fixed position. Les Paul loved his guitar so much he
couldn't bear the thought of being unable to play and asked the doctors to set
the arm at nearly a 90 degree angle so he could continue to play his beloved
instrument. If you have ever thought of giving up on your musical career, a look
at this mans life can definitely inspire you to hold the course.
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