August 13 2009

R.I.P. Les Paul

les paulOne of the greatest men in modern music has passed away: Les Paul is gone.

Mr. Paul was an accomplished guitar player who influenced not just the majority of today’s greatest guitarists, but also changed the face of the instrument itself.  In the 1930’s he experimented with guitar designs of his own, and in 1939 he built what was known as “The Log”: built form a 4″ x 4″ piece of wood with a guitar neck, bridge and pickups attached to it.  In the 1950’s, the Gibson guitar company approached him about polishing the design and the Les Paul guitar was born.

It was also during this time that he performed with his then wife Mary Ford and they sixteen top 10 hits between 1950 – 1954, including songs such as “How Hight The Moon”, “Viya Con Dios”, “I Wish I Had Never Seen Sunshine” and more.

les paul standardOver the years I have owned many guitars (trust me, I have always had more equipment than talent in this particular field), and I have owned three different Les Pauls during that time.  While other guitars have come and gone in my life, I have always rotated around the Les Pauls.  My current model is a black Standard, and while I really don’t have time to play any more, that guitar will never be sold.  The feel, the sound … there is nothing like it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything at this point.

One of my favorite stories about Mr. Paul was when at a music event, he got to hear Slash (formerly of Guns N’ Roses, now Velvet Revolver) play.  Slash was a die-hard fan of the Les Paul guitar model, so it was an honor for him to be included in such an event … until it was over.  Mr. Paul reportedly said to Slash, “You’ll be pretty good once you learn to play.”  The story goes that Slash locked himself in his house for months, doing nothing but practicing his skills.  If you listen to the guitar licks on Appetite for Destruction vs. Use Your Illusion I & II, you can hear the results, they are unmistakable.  While I have never heard this story confirmed, it sure is an interesting one.

Oddly enough, I just happened to find, and start following, Slash on Twitter yesterday, and it was an update from him that informed me that Mr. Paul had passed away.

My friend & mentor Les Paul died today at 94, he was one of the most stellar human beings I’ve ever known, rest in peace Les.

I couldn’t agree more, Slash. Rest in peace, Les Paul.

Although Les Paul and Mary Ford divorced in 1964, I leave you with two of my favorite songs by them.

“Viya Con Dios”

Probably their best known song, “How High The Moon”

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