Les Paul
Guy Lochhead, 07/09/10
One of the inventors of the electric guitar. Paul made ‘The Log’ by taking a 4×4 bit of wood and a pickup from his parents’ Vitrola radio set. Later, he attached two other bits of wood “shaped like a woman”. This invention was first dismissed as a novelty, before being picked up (finally, after years of rejections) by Gibson Guitar Corporation, in the early ’50s. There were earlier solid-body guitars, but the Les Paul model endured and became a rock ‘n’ roll icon. Paul was also a pioneer in production, creating an 8-track song, ‘How High The Moon’, with his then-wife Mary Ford in 1951 that was a billboard number one, showcasing Paul’s innovative layering technique (the Paulveriser) 18 years before sound-on-sound became a standardised process. Later in his life he got more into jazz, where he also became well-respected. He was a noted philanthropist, involved in many charities including Little Kids Rock, which works to introduce music to children in some of the poorest areas of America. He was an obsessive worker who continued performing late into his life, eventually dying from pneumonia in 2009, aged 94 I was in two minds as to whether to include Paul. His early innovations stemmed from a fantastic curiosity and DIY approach, but this seemed to cool down a bit later in his life. The songs sound really fantastic, but their lyrics (particularly Mary Ford’s) are sexist and dated. This is also true of his radio shows. I think this was more a product of its time than any sort of personal prejudice, but that is irrelevant, and especially doesn’t matter considering I’m thinking of including them in a programme that exists outside of linear time. His religious beliefs come across in that sort of old-timey American romantic way, but they’re still very much there in the lyrics. He has credited his mum, Evelyn Pol(s)fuss, as a catalyst for his developing new recording and amplification techniques, so perhaps it’d be nice to include her in some way. I’ll write about her separately. Rather than including a Gibson Les Paul or Log-like DIY guitar, I’ll learn from his approach and include something independently made.

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