Les Paul The Man, The Music, The Myth's The Legend !!!!

Les Paul Biography

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 This is going to be a very long page,
I could probably easily turn it into a book !!


I am in research mode right now. I need some corroboration on some of the facts before I print them. Please stay tuned. I don't intend this to be another repeat of everything I have been reading in the last weeks since Les has passed. I want to present the real facts and bring out some of the less known information about this great man.

I am looking for sources to help corroborate some of the things that Les told me directly when I met him for the first time in 1993 or so.

I am looking for people who know about why his personally owned guitar did NOT sound like any other Les Paul, but rather a single coil sound.

I know Les was involved with several other guitar companies besides Gibson, I need some corroboration from anyone involved with those companies, or anyone that has personal knowledge about those circumstances.

I am looking for information regarding the Sidewinder Tremolo that reportedly Les designed when he broke his arm, I have gotten conflicting stories from several people at Gibson on this subject. (Why Am I Not Surprised)

Anyone who has direct knowledge of Les's multiple lawsuits towards Gibson regarding his royalties & The Epiphone Les Paul & The SG etc etc.  Or anything at all.

I am not looking for anyone who has an axe to grind against this man, I intend this to be a tribute to him!!  I am on a fact finding mission for my article, which promises to be very long, based on what I have already have accumulated.

Ed Roman



Lester William Polfuss AKA Les Paul 1915- 2009  is responsible for inventing the multitrack tape recording system'  Les and not Ned Steinberger was also responsible for designing the first headless guitar.  Although Ned perfected the design !!!!  The string technology was not available when Les originally designed the headless guitar. Otherwise we would have seen them 20 years earlier.

His famous LOG guitar had absolutely nothing to do with Gibson Guitars or anything they ever made except possibly the Firebird Model.

The Log Guitar was actually the catalyst for designing the neck thru body guitar construction style like Jackson, BC Rich & Abstract Guitars.  NOT GIBSON Guitars

Les Paul had his hand In many things that many people do not know about. He has also been credited for designing the Les Paul Guitar. 
Which I do not believe is even partly true. 

I have heard that Les was responsible for designing the Black & White Tuxedo style color motif on the Black Beauty Custom Model.  But I have not gotten even one piece of concrete information that he had anything to do with designing the body shape, short stubby neck, inferior neck joint, and 24 3/4 scale length.

I will be reprinting an article that Gibson printed right after he died which I intend to pick apart so that the public will get the real story.

This article will surely piss off a lot of people, I will probably get bashed even more on some of these mindless internet forums but I really don't care. Facts are facts and if anyone has actual facts to back up the claims I have been reading since Les Paul's unfortunate death I will retract immediately any thing that I say.  I repeat this will be a tribute to Les Paul and a celebration of all the really cool things he actually did invent.

Many People Don't Want To Hear The Truth
They Want To Live In A Fantasy, Hype BS World !!!!!!!

The Truth Does Not Set You Free        It Only Makes You Unpopular !!!!

I am basing my facts on a personal conversation between myself & Les back in the  90's. This conversation took place at Fat Tuesdays In New York City.  I consider myself very lucky to have spoken with him one on one for 30 minutes or so. I am an inquisitive sort, I tend not to believe what I read in the papers or the magazines so I ask a lot of questions and try to get answers direct from the horses mouth so to speak.

About a year later I went back to Fat Tuesdays to see him and watch him perform again, I was hoping to ask him a number of questions I had prepared for him. 

He was quite friendly,  he actually remembered me, which surprised me a little. His son was with him and his son cut me off at the knees real quick when I started asking questions about the lawsuits between him & Gibson.

His son is an attorney, It is now my contention that  any gossip or news of a lawsuit between Les Paul & Gibson would have only hurt sales and of course his royalties on the guitars would be affected.

Many people have no Idea that Gibson & Les Paul parted ways in 1960. Few people even realize there were NO Gibson Les Paul Guitars manufactured between 1960 and 1969 (There were a few made in 1968 as prototypes and in 1969 they actually made some of them but they did not get into full production again until 1971.

(According To Les) The revolutionary original Les Paul SG that Les wanted built in a neck thru body design were all recalled when Les discovered Gibson had not followed his design. Gibson had ignored his neck thru the body design, instead they made them glue on set necks a much less expensive way to build a guitar.

Les Paul's was a genius his designs were always way ahead of their time, That is why it's hard for me to believe he had anything to do with that horrible neck joint on the Les Paul or the SG.

I asked him where he got the idea for the headless guitar??
 his reply was   "It just made sense ! "

I asked him why he did not pursue the idea and he really surprised me by telling me the string companies did not have the technology to properly calibrate the length of the strings. I suppose I already knew that the strings had to be perfectly calibrated or they would not stay intonate correctly.

It seemed that the tenacity of the string by metallurgical standards in the 50's was simply not good enough to maintain their true length without stretching. Ned Steinberger & Labella solved that problem when Ned reintroduced the headless design. Today there are 100 or more companies offering headless designs and Steinberger is no longer the technological leader.  But by then Ned Steinberger himself was not really involved in Steinberger any longer.


I will be writing a long article on Les Paul so stay tuned hopefully ready by October.

Full Story Coming Soon



Les Paul information from Eric Becker 

Reply |Skottmjfarkus@aol.com to me
show details 11:09 AM (2 hours ago) Reply

Hi Ed,

I just started reading your tribute to the late Les Paul and would like to add some information. Some of this I got from an old book called "The American Guitar." I'm not to sure, but I think it was written by Tony Bacon. I lost it a while ago. Some things I do remember is that Les Paul had nothing to do with the design of the original guitar. Gibson wanted something to compete with the Fender Broadcaster/ Telecaster but felt they needed a marketing shtick. They brought the prototype to Les, who was also being courted by Fender to a lesser degree, and he liked it and signed with them. The only idea for the original Les Paul models that belonged to Les was for the Custom. He said there should be a guitar "like a tuxedo." He chose black because the players' hands, if they were white, would contrast against the guitar better.

When Gibson brought the double- cutaway Les Paul design, he hated it. He said "There wasn't enough wood were the neck joined the body and a guy could kill himself on those sharp horns." He had them take his name off the guitar. In the early 60's he was going through with a divorce from Mary Ford and decided against signing a new deal with Gibson. He tried again in the mid- 60's, but Gibson decided against this. Apparently, there was talk in corporate to dump the electric guitar lines and focus on acoustics. I've heard this from a few different sources including a former Gibson employee. Of course we know eventually Gibson signed Les back on etc.

Another item of note was an electric guitar Les made using the arm of a phonograph as the pick up. He also built a guitar using a piece of a railroad rail.

I hope this helps in your tribute. I only quoted where I remembered verbatim. If you have the book "The American Guitar" or access to it, it has the interview with Les I got the information from.


Eric Becker


Hey Ed,

I found a very good interview that has some more detail on Leo Fender and Les Paul. It was my mistake that he was being "courted" by Fender, but he was sent an early prototype solid- body (possibly a Broadcaster.) Besides, Fender was making amps since the 40's and PA's longer than that. The prototypes for the Broadcaster were around since 1949. I don't think he was mass producing them, they were mostly for the local country musicians. Leo Fender and Forrest White were always giving instruments to musicians to get their input.

I want to take this time to thank you. I think there should be more people out there that should stick their middle digit against unfairness, incompetence, and corporate abuse. Besides, when a very famous Guitar Incorporated Brand Sends Out a New float on the Thanksgiving Day parade, their true colors fly.
When I can get some money saved up, I want to order a Pagan arch- top. I check your site out on a regular basis to see what's new. Again, thank you for your time.



Les Paul Interview

by Michael Cochran, Courtney Grimes, and Rick Landers.

by Michael Cochran, co-author of Les Paul -- In His Own Words, by Les Paul and Michael Cochran

Born the grandson of immigrants in 1915, Lester William Polfuss exhibited an inborn Germanic talent for analytical thinking at a precociously early age. Coupling an insatiable curiosity about the world around him with a natural flair for showmanship, his inventiveness and musical abilities merged with the advent of electronics and the birth of jazz to launch and maintain a spectacular career that now spans three-quarters of a century.

After beginning his career at 13 as Red Hot Red, he met his primary guitar mentor, the multi-talented Sonny Joe Wolverton, becoming Rhubarb Red and achieving wide success as a country performer on radio while still in his teens. Further inspired by jazz greats of the day, he introduced Les Paul as a new persona in 1934 and became the primary force in popularizing the electric guitar, bringing it out of the rhythm section and into the spotlight as a lead instrument. In the late '40s, he achieved his signature "New Sound," and with wife Mary Ford unleashed a string of hit records that forever changed the way music was recorded and heard.

The guitar techniques perfected during his playing prime introduced stunning innovations still copied today, while his contributions to audio recording technology and the electronic processing of sound blazed new trails that have since become super highways. Through it all, what Les Paul has always done is take every resource available and integrate it with his own ideas to produce unique innovations. Taken together, the enduring influence of his unique contributions to recording technology, instrument design and American popular music are unsurpassed by any other single individual. He is the man who changed the music, and truly the godfather of modern electric guitar.

Note from the Iridium Jazz Club

We at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City join guitar and music fans everywhere in wishing Les Paul all the finest on his 90th birthday! Les's regular Monday night appearances at the club, since April, 1995, have attracted devoted fans from all over the world. World-class musicians like Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett, Steve Miller, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Jeff Beck, Slash, and countless others, have come to pay homage to this music icon. The Iridium is pleased and honored to have presented the great Les Paul for the past 10 years. We now look forward to the next 10.

- Ron Sturm, owner, Iridium Jazz Club

Background: A Birthday Tribute to the Ultimate Guitar Legend, Les Paul
by Courtney Grimes,

One of the greatest musicians of all time is celebrating his birthday this week. Les Paul, father of the electric guitar and multi-track recording, will be turning 90-years-old on Thursday, June 9th. Beginning as a professional musician before he was even 20, Les Paul worked for the Armed Forces Radio during World War II, and afterwards began working with NBC Radio.

By 1952 Les Paul was not only the most popular guitar player in America, he was also a leading innovator in guitar and electronics design. He had been experimenting with electric guitars for as long as there had been electric guitars. He had once mounted a guitar string on a railroad tie to confirm his belief that a solid-body guitar would maximize sustain, and he had incorporated a mini-railroad rail - a 4"x4" piece of pine - into the body of a homemade solid-body electric guitar he nicknamed "The Log."

Les had approached Gibson in the '40s with his ideas for a solid-body electric guitar, but Gibson was already leading the industry with arch-top electric guitars. Furthermore, Gibson had always been very conservative when it came to aligning with artists. In 50 years, only two players had their names on Gibson models: Nick Lucas, an early guitar star and crooner whose "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" was the biggest record of 1929, and Roy Smeck, a multi-instrumentalist so talented he was nicknamed "The Wizard of the Strings."

In the early '50s, when the solidbody guitar first became commercially viable, Gibson designed an instrument that would change the image of the solidbody electric from a simple plank of wood to an elegant, stylish piece of art. Such a guitar would be a radical move for a traditional company like Gibson, but Gibson had been founded on the radical mandolin and guitar designs of Orville Gibson back in the 1890s. This new model would have the same carved-top contours that had set Orville's instruments apart from all others.

With the new model almost ready for market, Gibson approached Les Paul, the obvious choice to help launch it. Les was already intimately familiar with the unique characteristics of a solidbody electric guitar. And he was at the top of his career. His 1948 hit, "Brazil," featured six guitar parts, all played by Les in a virtuoso demonstration that would eventually earn him recognition as the father of multi-track recording. When he combined his guitar and electronic talents with the vocals of his wife Mary Ford, the result was gold-two million-selling records in 1951, "Mockin' Bird Hill" and "How High the Moon."

The Les Paul Model, as it was originally called, has changed little since its debut in 1952. Except for an updated bridge and humbucking pickups, the Les Paul Standard of today is still the same guitar. The Les Paul has been the driving force behind many changes in popular music. It powered the blues rock sound of the late '60s and the southern rock of the late '70s. By the '90s the Les Paul was providing signature sounds for every genre of rock, from alternative to metal.

The legend known as Les Paul continues to play on with his signature Gibson Les Paul guitar. Paul still mesmerizes the crowds every Monday evening at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York and plans on celebrating his upcoming 90th birthday with music, laughter and good friends, with a tribute concert being held at Carnegie Hall on June 19, 2005.

* * *

by Rick Landers.

Are you still tinkering with Gibson guitars, like the new Digital Les Paul?

Les Paul: I have two or three different experimental models. We go in there and we work on altering those ideas and in many cases go in different directions. One minute we're over here, the next minute we're doing something completely different. But it's interesting because you are producing so many things you couldn't do with analog. We're switching the sounds, not so much the tone of the instrument. And when things seem impossible, it's back to grade school, soldering, re-developing - always building. I've been working with the digital Les Paul guitar since its infancy and experimenting in many directions. It's something I enjoy.

They must be much different from the first guitar you played.

LP: My first guitar came from Sears & Roebuck and I believe it was $3.95. When I got it I took it into the dining room and through the swinging door into the kitchen. Mother was in the kitchen and I took it out of its shipping box and one of the strings went "twang". She said, "Les, you sound great already!" That was a great line!

Was she musical?

LP: Yes. She played the piano and she would play a lot of blues. Mom and my father were getting a divorce and she would sit at the piano and cry. She had the blues.

She was very aware of what was going on and also what was commercial and what wasn't commercial. So I had a person unknowingly guiding me.

She was an asset to me because she'd say, "You need to put your foot here or you do this there or right here smile." Or she'd say "Do this or that!" She was always thinking about how it would look on stage. She knew when it was good too. She knew when there were right notes and wrong notes.

At what point did you decide the guitar needed to be amplified?

LP: When I got my first guitar my fingers wouldn't go to the sixth string so I took off the big E and played with just five strings. I was only 6 or 7. I used my mother's radio as a PA [public address] system. I'd take the telephone, the speaking part, and take those two leads off and lead them into the radio and the sound would come out of the speaker.

Later, I was at a barbecue stand half-way between Waukesha and Milwaukee and people loved it when I first played on stage. I was at this barbecue stand playing and one car drove up and there was a fellow in a rumble seat. He wrote a note to the car hop for me that said, "Red, your voice and harmonica are fine, but your guitar's not loud enough."

And that was the beginning?

LP: Well, that guy started me thinking I've got to find a way to make the guitar louder. And when I did, I ran smack into the problem of feedback. So, I filled the guitar with tablecloths, dirty socks -- I tried everything! And then I took that out and filled it with plaster of Paris. That was better, but it still wasn't the answer. So, in ruining the guitar, I decided once and for all to find the best piece of wood or steel.

I wanted something very dense, something that would sustain long and more pieces of wood that would be soft, sweet, for more of a mellow sound. I tried two of them. I first tried a piece of railroad track, about two-and-a-half-feet long, strung a string across it, down the length of the rail and then put the earpiece of the telephone under the string. And lo and behold, I put it into my mother's radio and out came the sound of the railroad track!

I ran into my mother and told her and she said, "The day you see a cowboy on a horse with a railroad track..." [Laughs]. So, it didn't take me long to get off the railroad track.

It had to look like a guitar?

LP: Yes! So, I said, "Now I need to take a piece of wood and make it sound like the railroad track, but I also had to make it beautiful and lovable so that a person playing it would think of it in terms of his mistress, a bartender, his wife, a good psychiatrist -- whatever. The guitar became so much part of me, it became what I loved the most and lo and behold I found that it would do the same thing around the world.

You also moved into the world of recording, eventually inventing multi-track recording?

LP: The first thing I did was tune in the radio and hear cowboys singing. I became interested in not only him singing and playing the guitar, but the clock ticking, his breathing, his fingers sliding on the strings, the hum of the transmitter. I started to become hooked on the sound in many ways and I wanted fidelity, like when you're parked underneath a transmitter at a radio station. I would actually go out to the station on my bicycle with my crystal phone and ear phones and sit under the transmitter so I could hear everything that was going on in the room. You could hear everything that was happening in the room. And of course, that gave me a whole new outlook and the next thing I was doing was building a recording machine, so that I could record and hear what I was doing and capture that same sound.

What was your role in developing multi-track recording and how did people react?

LP: My role started at the very beginning. I went to three different tape machine companies, but no one thought it was feasible until I met with Ampex. They just jumped on it. They were so excited they put staff on it immediately while another project was underway across the hall. It ended up that two inventions were born at practically the same moment, both of them involving or using the same machinery. They were the first color tape machine and the first multiple sound recorder, each complementing the other and using similar equipment.

I was involved deeply with my dream, which was multi-track recording, that started in 1953 and finished in 1956. So, it took a lot of hard work. We flew the 8-track machine back to Ampex three times before we finally go it up and running.

And then we did some big modifications and made so many changes that the fellow who worked with me became the vice president of Ampex. It's ironic, but they found that the guys I had working here were more on top of what was going on. We were working closely together and we were many years ahead of Ampex.

When it came out on the market it took the industry maybe five years to figure out what they were going to do with it because, for some reason, they limited their vision to, "Where do we find another Les Paul and Mary Ford?"

They weren't thinking, "Where could we add an Artie Shaw part or a Benny Goodman, or another voice?" - or all the different things you could do with multi-track other than what Les Paul and Mary Ford were doing.

It was amazing to see how slow they were! But, once they got the hang of it and Motown got it and Atlantic Records got it, Tommy Dowd and the rest of them, when they got it, it was a Godsend because it really alerted the world to the potential of multi-track recording.

How did your partnership with Mary Ford begin?

LP: Well, Mary and I were going together for five years. She was a guitar hippie and she followed me around from city to city. Boy, I was the round wheel. She thought that there was no one who played like me or sounded like me. It was about five years when I decided that I was going to do something with my group. I was going to add a vocalist.

So, Mary and I were in New York and I was with Paramount and we were sitting down figuring out who would be a great singer. We had Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Kate Starr. Anyway, I picked Doris Day as the girl who was going to be my singer. At the last minute I backed out and said, "No, I don't think so." And Mary said, "What are you going to do, sit up there sing and play tambourine?"

I figured I needed to think of somebody, somewhere. But, it never got to me until later when one night I was playing at my brother's and father's tavern and my brother forgot to hire a bass player. Mary had been following me around for five years. So, I told her that she should know what I play so she could play. I'm not playing up there alone! It was then and there that I decided I'd have Mary sing something. She sang church songs and a couple of hillbilly songs. So, I got her doing that and that's when the light lit!

I turned to my dad and he was shaking his head, "No!" and I was shaking my head, "Yes!" My dad said that I was a roughneck and she was so delicate, you two will never make it together! We did. We met in '45 and we married the day before New Years, the last day of 1949.

A lot of people may not know about your involvement with the creation of the electric bass guitar.

LP: I came up with the electric bass in the early 1930s when Everett Hull came into a little saloon called the Warm Winds, a little bar in Chicago, and he walked up to the bar (he didn't own Ampeg yet and he later owned Bass-Amp and Guitar-Bass) and he asked, "What the hell are you guys talking about?"

I was talking about my ideas for a solid-body guitar with no f-holes and all that stuff, made with a solid piece of wood. So, he's listening and we're drinking. I told him, "What you ought to do is make an electric bass!" And he did.

And, with his great sense of humor, Hull made an electric bass that had a seat and license plate on it that he "drove it to work"! [Laughs] He had a great sense of humor! What happened was one night he came home drunk and pulled the neck off his bass when he was parking. He ended up incorporating the parts into his automobile and would drive the thing to work.

Of course, later he went into business making the first electric bass where you shove a mike up into the bass. It sounded pretty good. So he ended up developing my suggestion.

You've been involved with so many musical firsts -- what's this about your idea that gave us Alvin and the Chipmunks?

LP: The Chipmunks would never be here if it wasn't for me. One night, I was with my friend Howie, who I didn't even know was Howard Hughes, I only knew him as Howie. Well, Howie was always busting my chops. I was playing at this jazz joint called the Club Rounders and Howie asked, "How you doing playing at the Upholstered Sewer" Later, we went to get a hot dog and we went by this studio and I knocked on the door and the guy inside says, "Can't you see the light's lit? Who are you anyway?", and Hughes said, "This is Howie," I said, "I'm Les Paul." The guy behind the door said, "The Les Paul?" and I said, "Yep," and he then said, "Well, come on in!"

So, I went in there and he's trying to make a recording of a bunch of guys singing and I said, "Why don't you do it this way?" And I took one of them and worked it up and they liked it and it was the first one to come out as the Chipmunks. That was in the late 1950s I think. And since that time he would always stop a date if he saw me, he'd cancel the date. He'd say, "Come back another day. Book another day, my friend is here!"

He always felt like he owed me a million dollars. Very few people know this story, I've rarely told that story. A lot of people that know me know about it, but I've never told the press about it. I just forget a lot of things.

Tell us some of the highlights of your performing career.

LP: Oh, my goodness. Playing for Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the highlights. After finishing with Fred Waring and his 65 Pennsylvanians, we had a big gigantic show at the White House. Following that we had the great privilege of going down and speaking personally with the President. When it was my turn to get an autograph, he gave me a pack of cigarettes and then he said, "Mr. Les Paul, would you be kind enough to play for my kids and the rest of us at a private party downstairs after this thing is over?"

So, that was one of my highlights -- that particular day. That night was a big, big, big thrill!

Working with Bing Crosby - I don't think anybody could have a greater privilege than working with somebody as big and powerful as Bing Crosby. He was just great. And there were many other thrills, such as playing with Django Rheinhardt. In 1946, Django went electric after he heard me playing with my band. He hid for three years to learn bebop. I told him not to and so did Eddie Lang. It ended up not being a good idea for him.

I think I've played with every great guitar player that there is -- on the stage with me where we're actually playing together. So many. There are a million more memorable moments - playing the London Palladium and for many Presidents. So, I've had many great experiences. And playing with Judy Garland -- it's an endless list, all different. Something was always happening and it's still the same -- no end.

It was a great pleasure playing with Count Basie just before he died. Talking about him, he'd just lift his left hand and take one finger and hit one note. It was the best damn note I ever heard. It's not how many notes you play, you just have to play the right ones! Like Freddie Green pumping a great rhythm.

Let me tell you a story about Bing Crosby. I never rehearsed and went in cold. Well, one night Sinatra was with us. He worshiped Bing, but was deathly afraid of him like a dog with his tail between his legs. He even bought a pipe and hat to be like Bing. Bing was the king!

Well, Bing and I were in the bathroom standing next to each other [chuckles] and he asked me if the kid [Sinatra] was any good. I said, "He's pretty good, Bing." Later, I was between Bing and Frank when they were singing and there was a low note that Sinatra couldn't hit and he got nervous. Bing looked him straight in the eye and said to Frank, "Is this what you're trying to do?" and easily hit that low note! Nobody was as good as Bing Crosby.

I understand that you're working on a hot new rock CD with some legendary players.

LP: There's a whole slew of them: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Santana, Richie Sambora, -- it just goes on and on. All my friends are great, great, great players and great songwriters. The album's "finished", but Jimmy Page may do it too. We're waiting to hear from him to see if he's cleared to do it. These are great things and it's great for me!

The great licks, they changed them and put them into rock. The actual playing is very familiar to me. What wasn't familiar is the change in the sound and how they were mixed all together and the way they were played - the rhythm sounds or how they use drums -- I didn't use drums like this.

After this rock album, we want to do a bluegrass album where I'll play with the very best bluegrass guitarists of all time by dubbing them in with me! Then we'll do a blues and a jazz album with the greatest guitarists. That's going to be a big charge! It will be hard because half of my fingers are arthritic, frozen stiff, no movement and so I play more with my hand from the first knuckle. I don't play that many notes now.

How did you and your jazz friends react to rock 'n' roll when it arrived on the scene?

LP: We were kind of upset about it - Sinatra, Nat King Cole - all of us. I thought I was out of a job when rock came in. We were told to change and to be less traditional. They used three chords, and not the right chords, and buried the singer! It was another world that you entered into with a riff and rode it, and you needed to turn it up 500 watts to get the sound right. It was rebellion, having something to say with a new beat. They wanted "How High the Moon" with a new strength!

The rock people wanted adventure, wanted to move cavities in their body, wanted to move your navel. There was this gal who called me who had been in a car crash. She told me she had figured out the music thing. She was a paraplegic and said when she was laying on her back and rock musicians hit certain notes, the sounds moved her innards. That's when she figured the music sounded really good!

I did meet Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was great! I talked to him twice here in New York. I didn't know him when I first met him, but he talked about us playing together. We didn't though, but if we had I'm afraid I would have been in big trouble. He was a hell of a fine player!

What's the best band you've ever played in?

LP: The band I'm in now. We have four and it's the right size. Five gets in the way. It's different with a small group. They're the greatest.

Looking back on your life, what are some of the things about which you're most proud?

LP: Well, I'm proud of sound-on-sound. I was the innovator, the creator of that and that's where you take one tape machine and you can record over and over on one piece of tape and make multi-track recordings like we did on "How High the Moon" and "Lover." That was a big thing. That's multi-track.

Delay and echo were other big ones, and phasing and flanging were very important. It wasn't tape delay, it was disk delay first and today it's digital delay. Delay has been used in so many ways. If you're in the U.S. and talk to someone on the phone who's in Iraq, you'll experience sound delay. It isn't long, but the sound has to go to a satellite and back -- it's used for everything. So I'm proud to have that be something I invented. Same with the multi-track recording that's used in many of the flight programs to get to the moon - to see my ideas used for all of those things, I feel terribly proud of it, that I was given the privilege to think of it.

You are now an inductee of the Inventors Hall of Fame. Your thoughts on that?

I think about Edison and all the things he did. If the honor went to Edison, I mean look at his [recording] cylinder and the first light bulb. That's something! He was a scientist, but we think of him as a gadgeteer. It's odd for me to think that I'm an inductee with inventors like the Wright Brothers and Goddard. My God almighty! Personally, I'm not sure I deserve it, you know, for a hunk of railroad track and strings.

Les Paul guitars have been around since 1952, with countless sold -- if you could have only one, which one would you choose?

LP: The one I'm playing. It happens to be a Les Paul Recording and it's not the most popular one of the Les Paul line for many reasons. But that particular guitar is the type of guitar that gives me the sound that I want without any equalization and all the problems you have with all the other guitars -- with all the voodoo stuff on them. I don't have any of that. I just go right into the port and do my thing and we just make the album. There's no equalization at all. Nothing.

It's a 1971, a brown one. I also have a black one that was one of the first prototypes made of what they call the recording guitar due to its low impedance device. The black one's so good that I'm afraid to take it down to the club because if I leave it on that stool it would be gone in a minute. You know, when I was in Chicago they'd take a jack to the lid of the car trunk. I lost many guitars that way - stolen. They should do it more with accordions...[laughs].

And I don't know of a guitar player that has only one guitar. They're never happy with one. I'm never happy with just one of them. I woke up and ended up with six, even if you can only play one at a time!

And, of course, the competition between the wife and the guitar is pretty heavy!

What did you think when you first saw Leo Fender's Telecaster?

LP: Well, I called Gibson and told them that they'd better get off their duff because Leo is going ahead with it. Told them they'd better find out what's going on in this world and Gibson agreed because I'd seen it first hand and thank God Gibson agreed. The rest is history.

Did you like the Telecaster when you first saw it?

LP: Sure.

You get a chance to play it?

LP: I've never played a Fender though Leo gave me one of the first ones. He gave me one with no serial number and no model name on it. It just had his name on it, you know, Fender.

What was your relationship with Leo Fender and did you ever consider yourself in competition?

LP: Leo was a dear friend. We shared our ideas a lot and we talked about them. He'd come into "the backyard" - it was a great place because I had a recording studio. Most of the people that I recorded were cowboys, country and western bands, and the electric guitar was the perfect thing to have in there.

Leo was interested in two things: a good amplifier and a good guitar. And where would you get a better opinion than from guitar players, who could tell you what was wrong or what improvements were needed? What's better than being at a recording spot and hearing the complaints so you could rectify them? But all of us were in different worlds. I was in the Gibson world and I'd be talking to Gibson. Paul Bigsby was with Leo once and he was looking at my vibrola and said, "I'm going to make one of those." So, Bigsby went in that direction.

Leo's beliefs and my beliefs were terribly similar. We just had different ideas about the sounds we wanted to create with this thing. They're both great. I have no qualms saying that. Whether it's Fender or Gibson, my God, they both came through with flying colors.

Let me tell you about Freddie Gretsch. He was a good friend and I told him I had another friend who I wanted him to meet. So, I introduced Freddie to Chet Atkins. [Laughs] And you know what? Chet asked, "Fred who?" They'd never heard of one another until I introduced them!

Do you have any favorite acoustic guitars?

LP: No, I don't play the acoustic. I played them when I was with the Service, with the Armed Forces in Hollywood Band. Sometimes I would play a Gibson L5 when I played in the orchestra. I play acoustic very rarely. And I got to the point where I didn't want to go near them. I leave Freddy Green to Freddy Green.

If you could go back and time and give some advice to the young Les Paul, what would you say?

LP: I would say how lucky I was in my life. I'd tell anyone young to first be prepared! I set my sights high and with determination. If you believe in yourself you need to only reinforce all your dreams. People need to raise their sights. I was able to get everything I set out to do. I have to thank somebody, someone, this act that has been given to me is bigger than I am.

What's been the highest compliment you've ever received?

LP: It's coming up! I'll be celebrating my 90th birthday at Carnegie Hall! It seems eerie. At 90, I'm first glad to have my health. A lot of my friends are now gone and it's hard to explain - going on to where, I don't know! I'm glad to just wake up! My first project of the day is to get to the bathroom [laughs], that's my first goal!

Every night I play at the Iridium is just great. It's wonderful playing for the people and meeting the young and the old. And it's great to still play guitar in America where there are no rules. I was once in Spain and came down with the runs, the heaves, and a Spanish doctor came up to my room to take care of me. Well, he saw my guitar picks on my dresser and asked what they were for and I told him they were to play the guitar and he started to close his bag and leave the room saying, "That's not the way to play guitar!" He was going to leave me!

Thank you, Les, for a great interview.

LP: Was that okay?

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Note about Les Paul's FX Pedals
by Rick Landers.

Before his performance at the Iridium Jazz Club, I got a peek at Les Paul's FX pedal setup, a photo of which you'll see below. The pedals, from left-to-right as they would face him, are: Chromatic Tuner (TU-2); Super Chorus (CH-1); Digital Delay (DD-3); Tremolo/Pan (PN-2); another Digital Delay (DD-3); and an Equalizer (GE-7). All pedals are by BOSS. In addition to the pedals, his FX holder contained a pair of sunglasses, electrical tape, a pair of pliers, screwdrivers, white out, and an extra guitar strap.

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