The cause was complications of pneumonia, the Gibson Guitar Corporation & his family announced. .
Mr. Paul was a remarkable musician & tireless tinkerer. He played guitar alongside leading prewar jazz & pop musicians from Louis Armstrong 2 Bing Crosby. In the 1930s he began experimenting w/guitar amplification, & by 1941 he had built what was probably the 1st solid-body electric guitar.[although there are other claimants] With his guitar & the vocals of wife, Mary Ford, he used overdubbing, multitrack recording & new electronic effects 2 create a string of hits in the 1950s.
Mr. Paul’s style encompassed the twang of country music, the harmonic richness of jazz & later, the bite of rock ’n’ roll. 4 all his technological impact, though, he remained a down-home performer whose main goal, he often said, was 2 make people h☺ppy.
Mr. Paul, full name Lester William Polsfuss, born on June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, Wis. His childhood piano teacher wrote 2 his mother, “Your boy, Lester, will never learn music.” But he picked up harmonica, guitar & banjo by the time he was a teenager & started playing with country bands in the Midwest. In Chicago he performed 4 radio broadcasts on WLS and led the house band @ WJJD; he billed himself as the Wizard of Waukesha, Hot Rod Red & Rhubarb Red.
His interest in gadgets came early. At the age of 10 he devised a harmonica holder from a coat hanger. Soon afterward he made his first amplified guitar by opening the back of a Sears acoustic model and inserting, behind the strings, the pickup from a dismantled Victrola. With the record player on, the acoustic guitar became an electric one. Later, he built his own pickup from ham radio earphone parts and assembled a recording machine using a Cadillac flywheel and the belt from a dentist’s drill.
From country music Mr. Paul moved into jazz, influenced by players like Django Reinhardt and Eddie Lang, who were using amplified hollow-body guitars to play hornlike single-note solo lines. He formed the Les Paul Trio in 1936 and moved to New York, where he was heard regularly on Fred Waring’s radio show from 1938 to 1941.
In 1940 or 1941 — the exact date is unknown — , Mr. Paul made his guitar breakthrough. Seeking to create electronically sustained notes on the guitar, he attached strings and two pickups to a wooden board with a guitar neck. “The log,” as he called it, if not the first solid-body electric guitar, became the most influential one.
“You could go out & eat and come back and the note would still be sounding,” Mr. Paul once said.
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