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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - Les Paul, who pioneered the solid-body electric guitar later wielded by a legion of rock 'n' roll greats, died Thursday of complications from pneumonia. He was 94.

According to Gibson Guitar, Paul died at White Plains Hospital. His family and friends were by his side.

As an inventor, Paul also helped bring about the rise of rock 'n' roll with multitrack recording, which enables artists to record different instruments at different times, sing harmony with themselves, and then carefully balance the tracks in the finished recording.

The use of electric-amplified guitars gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1940s, and then exploded with the advent of rock in the mid-'50s.

"Suddenly, it was recognized that power was a very important part of music," Paul once said. "To have the dynamics, to have the way of expressing yourself beyond the normal limits of an unamplified instrument, was incredible. Today a guy wouldn't think of singing a song on a stage without a microphone and a sound system."

"Without Les Paul, we would not have rock and roll as we know it," said Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. "His inventions created the infrastructure for the music and his playing style will ripple through generations. He was truly an architect of rock and roll."

A tinkerer and musician since childhood, he experimented with guitar amplification for years before coming up in 1941 with what he called "The Log," a four-by-four piece of wood strung with steel strings. He felt a solid body would give the instrument a different sound from a traditional hollow guitar with an electrical pickup added to it.

"I went into a nightclub and played it. Of course, everybody had me labeled as a nut." He later put the wooden wings onto the body to give it a tradition guitar shape.

Leo Fender's Broadcaster was the first mass-produced solid body electric on the market in the late 1940s. In 1952, Gibson Guitars began production on the Les Paul guitar.

Pete Townshend of The Who, Steve Howe of Yes, jazz great Al DiMeola and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page all made the Gibson Les Paul their trademark six-string.

Over the years, the Les Paul series has become one of the most widely used guitars in the music industry. In 2005, Christie's auction house sold a 1955 Gibson Les Paul for $45,600.

Guitarist Joe Satriani called Paul "the original guitar hero," saying: "Les Paul set a standard for musicianship and innovation that remains unsurpassed."

In the late 1960s, Paul retired from music to concentrate on his inventions. His interest in country music was rekindled in the mid-'70s and he teamed up with Chet Atkins for two albums. The duo were awarded a Grammy for best country instrumental performance of 1976 for their "Chester and Lester" album.

With Mary Ford, his wife from 1949 to 1962, he earned 36 gold records for hits including "Vaya Con Dios" and "How High the Moon," which both hit No. 1. Many of their songs used overdubbing techniques that Paul had helped develop.

"I could take my Mary and make her three, six, nine, 12, as many voices as I wished," he recalled. "This is quite an asset." The overdubbing technique was highly influential on later recording artists such as the Carpenters.

Released in 2005, "Les Paul & Friends: American Made, World Played" was his first album of new material since those 1970s recordings. Among those playing with him: Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Richie Sambora.

"They're not only my friends, but they're great players," Paul told The Associated Press. "I never stop being amazed by all the different ways of playing the guitar and making it deliver a message."

Two cuts from the album won Grammys, "Caravan" for best pop instrumental performance and "69 Freedom Special" for best rock instrumental performance. (He had also been awarded a technical Grammy in 2001.)

Paul was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.

Paul was born Lester William Polfuss, in Waukesha, Wis., on June 9, 1915. He began his career as a musician, billing himself as Red Hot Red or Rhubarb Red. He toured with the popular Chicago band Rube Tronson and His Texas Cowboys and led the house band on WJJD radio in Chicago.

In the mid-1930s he joined Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians and soon moved to New York to form the Les Paul Trio, with Jim Atkins and bassist Ernie Newton.

Meanwhile, he had made his first attempt at audio amplification at age 13. Unhappy with the amount of volume produced by his acoustic guitar, Paul tried placing a telephone receiver under the strings. Although this worked to some extent, only two strings were amplified and the volume level was still too low.

By placing a phonograph needle in the guitar, all six strings were amplified, which proved to be mu c h louder. Paul was playing a working prototype of the electric guitar in 1929.

His work on taping techniques began in the years after World War II, when Bing Crosby gave him a tape recorder. Drawing on his earlier experimentation with his homemade record-cutting machines, Paul added an additional playback head to the recorder. The result was a delayed effect that became known as tape echo.

Tape echo gave the recording a more "live" feel and enabled the user to simulate different playing environments.

Paul's next "crazy idea" was to stack together eight mono tape machines and send their outputs to one piece of tape, stacking the recording heads on top of each other. The resulting machine served as the forerunner to today's multitrack recorders.

In 1954, Paul commissioned Ampex to build the first eight-track tape recorder, later known as "Sel-Sync," in which a recording head could simultaneously record a new track and play back previous ones.

He had met Ford, then known as Colleen Summers, in the 1940s while working as a studio musician in Los Angeles. For seven years in the 1950s, Paul and Ford broadcast a TV show from their home in Mahwah, N.J. Ford died in 1977, 15 years after they divorced.

In recent years, even after his illness in early 2006, Paul played Monday nights at New York night spots. Such stars as Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Van Halen came to pay tribute and sit in with him.

"It's where we were the happiest, in a 'joint,'" he said in a 2000 interview with the AP. "It was not being on top. The fun was getting there, not staying there - that's hard work."


Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press
Published in New York Times on Aug. 13, 2009.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
466 entries
July 7, 2017
Valenda Newell
August 13, 2016
Rest Les, until you hear at dawn,
the low, clear reveille of God.

Thank you for your service to this nation.
Harry Simpson
April 27, 2016
Dear Paul family; I was personally touched by Les & Mary's music...it' s happy music that lifts spirits and changes moods....for the better...It even inspired me to buy a Les Paul Standard and despite taking lessons and studying music theory I really cannot play and do not have a sense of rhythm...that's why I adore Les! R E S T IN P E A C E !
Greg Kirkorian
August 9, 2015
The greatest, from lover onward you and Mary made my youth
terry woodison
February 20, 2015
HAMMY ALEXANDER NADEN BAND
HAMMY ALEXANDER
December 2, 2014
You have inspired me to pick up my guitar again ad look at my life in a different way.
Steve Genuario
September 30, 2014
Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.
Harry Simpson
October 12, 2012
RIP Mr. Les Paul. Your invention opened so many doors.
A. Nonymus
September 20, 2012
RIP Les Paul. you are missed
p niss
June 15, 2012
R.I.P Mr Les Paul.
Thank you for being such huge inspiration to me.
Rick
June 15, 2012
To the meomory of Mr Les Paul
Thank you for all the inspiration you have brought me throughout the many years of guitar playing, recording and love of music, you truly were and will always be a huge inspiration to me and your memory will forever live on.
R.I.P
June 10, 2012
Patricia & Caleb Skipper
January 13, 2012
The first time I heard Les Paul & Mary Ford I was just a toddler however, I knew what marvelous composition this was. It was "How High the Moon" I believe it topped the charts in 1955, I was three or four. In 1972-3, I purchased his "Phase four" album. I gave it a spin on my new Altec Lansing stereo system with four 48"X 20"X 20" separate speakers (pre-quadraphonic) and was suddenly harmonically "smacked" across the face with these unexpected wonderful tunes. It immediately became one of my album favorites. Sadly, my extensive vinyl collection was stolen about twenty five years back and it went along with the rest.
The excellence in these compositions is undeniably some of the most wonderful fusion of sounds that any human could ever wish to achieve. As a musician, Les Paul was clearly "super human."

Thank you Mr.Paul & God Bless. R.I.P.
Wayne Barrett
March 17, 2010
For Les...

WEEP NOT FOR ME


Do not weep for me when I no longer dwell among the wonders of the earth; for my larger self is free, and my soul rejoices on the other side of pain...on the other side of darkness.

Do not weep for me, for I am a ray of sunshine that touches your skin, a tropical breeze upon your face, the hush of joy within your heart and the innocence of babes in mothers arms.

I am the hope in a darkened night. And, in your hour of need, I will be there to comfort you. I will share your tears, your joys, your fears, your disappointments and your triumphs.

Do not weep for me, for I am cradled
in the arms of God. I walk with the angels, and hear the music beyond the stars.

Do not weep for me, for I am within you;
I am peace, love, I am a soft wind that caresses the flowers. I am the calm that follows a raging storm. I am an autumns leaf that floats among the garden of God, and I am pure white snow that softly falls upon your hand.

Do not weep for me, for I shall never die, as long as you remember me...
with a smile and a sigh.


© Joe Fazio
~
jfazio@gmail.com /Joe Fazio,
Beverly Hills, California
November 6, 2009
To the family of Les Paul:

What a privilege for me to meet him back stage in Cleveland after the concert this year and to meet his family. I was the guest of a person who was part of the cardiac team who operated on him at the Cleveland Clinic.
Mary Szalkowski
October 5, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Rob Pizapio
September 8, 2009
To the family of Les Paul,
His music and talents and love will live with us eternally. My prayers are with you.
Maria
Maria V
September 6, 2009
So glad I got to know him. A truly down to earth person. Thanks Les, we will miss you.

Joe Stefaniak
September 6, 2009
all i know is the man was beautiful with the guitar...with much respect...tracy thomas
August 29, 2009
I am in my 60's . I was raised on Les Paul and Mary Ford, because my grandfather and his friends used to play guitar, and he taught me how to play. to this very day I listion to Les Paul and Mary Ford, and always will. alot of good memories. I was in shock when I found out about Les Pauls passing. Rest in peace Les.
Leonard Dobbert
August 28, 2009
I remember hearing Les Paul & Mary Ford
on the radio when I was very young. I'm
now in my 60's & their music will live
on. They were truly a great duo. My
thoughts & prayers are with Mary & family
Lonita Rains
August 28, 2009
OUR THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU AT THIS TIME
MAY YOUR MEMORIES BRING YOU COMFORT
ACTS 24:15
COOLEY FAMILY
August 28, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Jon Lowder
August 27, 2009
god bless u Les
muddy kurtz
August 27, 2009
When I was a young child, my dad used to say that he would see Les, walking down the streets of Waukesha, playing his harmonica. As an adult I enjoyed hearing the music of Les Paul and Mary Ford. To know he was from my home town was really special. I was able to see him when he was in town for his mothers birthday some years back. I was not able to attend his last concert in Milwaukee last year, as much as I wanted to go. I am sorry for his passing, and sorry for the loss to his family. I am happy that he has returned to his hometown, Waukesha. Now we can visit his resting place, whenever we want to. Thank you so much Les, for all that you have given to us, and to the world.
Barbara Thompson
August 27, 2009
Dad and Mom turned me on to your music. Started at age eleven, I am now fifty six and still jammin. Thanks Les
Robert Duffy
August 27, 2009
My deepest sympathies to Les Paul family, May God give you the strength through the pain of losing a loved one. The world has lost a great inventor and musician
Peggy Kiesner
August 27, 2009
He was a great man, and may we hear more sweet music from the sky's above and may his memory's live on forever.

RIP
jerry wills
August 27, 2009
THANKS TO THE GODS FOR LES PAUL. OUR WORLD WOULD BE DEVOID OF SO MUCH MUSIC AND BEAUTY WITH OUT HAVING HAD HIM IN IT. I AM SURE YOU WILL REIGN SUPREME IN THE SUMMERLAND. I AM ALSO SURE THAT THERE ARE MANY MUSICIANS WHO HAVE BEEN WAITING IMPATIENTLY TO JAM WITH YOU THERE. RIP YOU AWESOME MAN.
CYNDI
August 27, 2009
Thank you LES
August 27, 2009
Thankyou so much for your years of service to the music world you will be missed here Les but Jesus is going to enjoy you now .. God Bless The Elliott Family
Gary Elliott
August 26, 2009
RIP Mr. Les Paul..
Jona K
August 26, 2009
We want to send our condolence to Mary and all of Les Pauls' family for their great loss of Les Paul.
May all of his music live on in our hearts and the world. Vaya Con Dios will always be our favorite and tears fall every time we listen to it. Truly beautiful music! God Bless all your family.
May God comfort and give all of you strength during these trying times of your great loss. Love, George Sr, and Dorothy McKeon St. Johns, Arizona
August 26, 2009
We want to send our condolence to Mary and all of Les Pauls' family for their great loss of beautiful music made by Les and Mary.
May all of his music live on in our hearts and the world.
May God comfort and give all of you strength during these trying times of your great loss. Love, George Sr, and Dorothy McKeon St. Johns, Arizona
August 26, 2009
May Les Paul rest in Peace! He was the greatest, and the world knows that! I will truly miss his humor, talent, and i send my sincerest sympathy to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and to his friends who share the grief of this loss.
Ronny Reuter
August 25, 2009
I am so sad to see all my favorites music makers leave this earth. I remember LesPaul and Mary Ford as a little girl I loved their music so much and reminds me I am getting older.

I wish to send my sympathy to all family members He will always be with us through his music

May he rest in peace

Helen Siegel
Helen Siegel
August 25, 2009
I'm really saddened by the lose of Les Paul, He will truely be missed by the millions of people that were touched by his music. God bless all you, Rest in peace, yor music will forever be in our hearts. Juanita Dove Galt Ca
juanita dove
August 25, 2009
Thanks Les for your contributions to the world..


The Ride
Aging yet young .. never longing
to be, because we have experienced
the lime light, and thunder
the grime of down under
with nerves of steel they played
to our hearts and feet..
to our nights... so complete
and have brought us along
on the journey called life..
We went for the big ride
with steel strings amplified to extreme
and we became part of a throng
that was part of a dream...
called Rock and Roll.....

Jim C Johnson Aug 2009
James Johnson
August 25, 2009
To the Paul Family,

All my life I heard about Les Paul and have been inspired! May you all have peace and be touched by the music of his gifts.
Carole Knipe
August 24, 2009
To the Paul Family,

Because of my Dad and Uncle's association with Russ, I got to know a great deal about the history of Les Paul at an early age. That knowledge was the inspiration for my interest in recording techniques and the music industry. His influence will be felt for many years to come. It is my hope that the words of all the people he touched directly and indirectly will give you comfort at this time.

Eddie O'Rourke, IV
August 24, 2009
To Russ & Family,

May God bless you at this time and fill you with all the wonderful memories of happy times with your Dad. His name will be an important part of music for all time.

Garry O'Rourke, "Moonchild"
August 24, 2009
I always wanted to meet Les Paul. Unfortunately I never was able to do this. He was the man. Les Paul and Mary Ford helped me through some very tough times with their songs. Thank you so much for the memories
Sandra Novoshielski
August 24, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
August 24, 2009
Les Paul will be missed by many people in the music field. He was a great guitarist. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Justin Roth
August 24, 2009
Music city Nashville Tennessee will never forget you Les to look up at the moon will refresh our memories of a great tune "HOW HIGH THE MOON" From your Tennessee Friends we will see you soon, Tell old Chet Atkins hello, see ya soon.
John Allen
August 24, 2009
Les Paul will be missed by many people in the country music field. I for one thought he was the very best guitar picker that there ever was, and what he did for Barbara Mandrell, just shows you the type of person he was. My thoughts and prayers are with his family he will be greatly missed.
Frankie Roberts
August 24, 2009
He Will Not Be Forgotten
tim thomason
August 24, 2009
The world has lost one of the best. I had one of my lifetime dreams come true by being in the presence of Mr. Les Paul himself last December in New York. I will never forget it. He has given us such incredible gifts of his inventions. He will be missed dearly. My prayers and sympathies to his family. Aloha.
Robyn Winters
August 23, 2009
I was a kid in the 40s and the first
recorded sound which made an impact on me came from Les Paul's guitar. It was
and still is - pure enchantment.
Diane Morgan
August 23, 2009
good bye les. you really were a bright shining light. you left the world a better place then when you got here.

jim survis - aerosmith guitar tech.
jim survis
August 23, 2009
A legend who changed the face of popular music, always sad to have someone pass, but his legacy will be carried on for generations, everytime a 12 year old boy picks up an electric guitar for the first time , everytime we hear multi track recordings etc.
Josh Rosen
August 23, 2009
Kristian Herbert Polsfuhs, pfoto from 2004
Oh no.
I thought all the years LES PAUL is a Gibson Guitar.


At the 15th August 2009 I red in a german newspaper:
"LES PAUL IS DECEASED".
After all the years now I know, LES PAUL is a Person named
LESTER WILIAM POLSFUSS.

My respect, my bow for him.

In memory

Kristian Herbert Polsfuhs *
vehicle technical, rüsselsheim

Herbert Richard Polsfuhs †
military musican, leipzig

2. Richard Paul Arno Polsfuhs † businessmann, hoyerswerda

1. Albert Polsfuhs †
oilmill owner, vitz prussia

Sorry, my american is very rusty!
Kristian Herbert Polsfuhs
August 23, 2009
Iridium Jazz Club-April 27th, 2009
August 23, 2009
Les Paul was Mentor, Career Counselor, Sounding Board, and Inspiration to many, but most of all, Les Paul was a Friend! Monday Nights at The Iridium will never be the same. He will be missed and never forgotten. Rest In Peace, "RED"!
Richie Rich
August 22, 2009
Wow, what a tremendous loss for musicians all over the world. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Les Paul, you will be greatly missed!
Haley Smith
August 22, 2009
you will be missed in our world. ron and and nancy ballard
nancy ballard
August 22, 2009
Les, I was priveleged to meet you several times and I will remember that forever. Condolences to Rusty, the family and especially Lou Pallo (we know you loved him). Rest In Peace my friend. -- NOW GO AND JAM WITH CHESTER!!!
Ken Kriepke
August 22, 2009
Me & Les Showing off the Pick Guards
August 22, 2009
Les, your music and you will never be forgotten.... Thankyou...
August 21, 2009
I send my deepest sympathy for not only a great legend and I am sure a great person who has inspired so many around the world including myself, he will be missed.
Sreve Kress
August 21, 2009
Many Thanks for the gift that keeps on giving!
Livin on with every note of every players fingers that plays a Les Paul creation!
Your Journey has come full circle & Musicians Heaven is blessed with another gifted one!
Lady Dove
August 21, 2009
Inspired a generation! including myself! Sadly missed RIP
David Nelson
August 21, 2009
I first heard 'Mockingbird Hill' when I was ten (1952) and it sparked my imagination forever. From that moment on, I bought every Les Paul 45 and LP I could afford. I and all of my kit- building 'hi-fi' nerd friends played his recordings to show off our home-brew systems as only his recordings could. I owe all of my interests in electronics, music and home studio efforts to Les. I so wanted to be able to visit with him during one of his sessions in New York. I'm sure his death will serve to amplify his music once again to levels beyond even his expectations. I must now go and disrupt my neighborhood and my sadness with a few kilowatts of 'Ro-Ro- Robinson'.
Bobby Barefoot
August 21, 2009
I'm just an around the house guitar player with a 1958 Gibson Archtop I've had since new. I'm obsessed with great guitarists and Les in my book was over the top! Then in 1993 I actually sat an arms lenght away in the basement of Fat Tuesday's and experienced his playing live which I'll never forget! I then learned about the person, as he came over to me at the bar while taking a break, introduced himself, posed for a picture with me and autographed my VCR that his son had filmed right here at Fat Tuesdays It was like we knew each other for years!With the help of electronics I'll stil be able to enloy a great guitarist and person via. the VCR. "Thanks Les"
Edward Cowman
August 21, 2009
A life well lived. Thank you, Frater Les!
YITB, Walt Jenny
August 21, 2009
AS A YOUNG BOY I ENJOYED YOU AND MARY FORD. R.I.P.
RICHARD SEIBERT,M.D.
August 21, 2009
I can't image what music would be like today without the influence of Les Paul. He will never be forgotten. Thank you for everything you contributed. Heaven's house band just picked up another legend.
Dave Ferrari
August 21, 2009
God Speed Les Paul
Rick Kolosso
August 21, 2009
No guitar player has come along, since the sixties, without knowing who Les Paul was. The awe and respect of his musical genius was common evening conversation in my neighborhood of musicians. We are all grateful to have been born in the time of his influence. Adios, Les!
Franny Gibson
August 21, 2009
Thank you for the music
August 20, 2009
A true inspiration to me since I was old enough to hold a guitar. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Michael Monahan
August 20, 2009
I went out on a plumbing call to Les Paul's house in Mahwah on a cold winter's night. My 9 yr. old son Kevin came with me carrying the tools. He was in awe seeing the guitars hanging on the walls going up the stair case. Kevin had no idea who Les Paul was but he thought Les might give him a guitar since he had soooo many. I tried to explain but it was in vane. It wasn't til years later that Kevin understood who "Les Paul" was after becoming a Mahwah Policeman.
Arthur Tielemans
August 20, 2009
Light a Pixel for Les Paul:
http://www.lightapixel.com/Les_Paul
Lena Gutman
August 20, 2009
August 20, 2009
I met him twice and he was a wonderful man. Both times I felt at home with him and he never acted like he was responsible for all the great things he had done. Just a regular guy. I will remember him fondly and meeting him (and I have met countless famous people) as the most exciting times in my life. Thanks you Les for being such a great guy.
Jay Vincent
August 20, 2009
Les, you created the sounds we all take for granted hearing today. The music world is certainly a whole lot richer for once having you in it. You were such an inspiration and a total class act. You will truly be missed. Vaya con dios!
Marge Illich
August 20, 2009
I grew up listening to Less Paul and Mary Ford and loved their music. We are all richer in music because of thier work.
Dan Parry
August 20, 2009
Where would my generation have been without this great man
randy welch
August 20, 2009
Les Paul was a "regular" late night guest on WOR Radio's "Joey Reynolds Show" when I was the show's Producer. Les Paul was such an humble man, that if you didn't know the magnitude of his contributions to mankind in the arts, you never would have known from his demeanor, and the kindness he genuinely showed to others...no matter what your station in life. Les Paul is truly "One of A Kind"
Helen Sanders
August 19, 2009
Thank God for Les Paul!!!
Joni Romiti
August 19, 2009
A man that will missed for a long time for those who are in the music business may god bless his renaining family menbers.

A music lover from the great state of Oklahoma.
August 19, 2009
He left us all a wealth of music,his passing leaves us with a great empty space,nothing can fill it. Friends from texas
August 19, 2009
Connie & Jonathan Stephens
August 19, 2009
Les without a guitar.
He didn't just have a life of many years. He had a life of a man who wanted to contribute by using the many talents he was given by God. He did that as long as he was able to. He was a man to be admired and respected. He will surely be missed.
Clarence Martin
August 19, 2009
Steve playing a friend's Custom Les Paul!
August 19, 2009
To own and play a Les Paul guitar is enchanting and the music you can make is endless.What a world to belong too.Les Paul is truly one of God's gift to the U.S.A. and the world!
Steven Allwein
August 19, 2009
Growing up in the Fifties,we all knew Les Paul was the "Guitar Man". May he play forever with all the Rock and Rollers that went before him.
Tony Ponce Jr.
August 19, 2009
Sleep sweet Les, your timeless invention has made it possible for you to reach so many individuals through the music played by great musicians such as Paul McCartney and Keith Richards....you will be missed...you are in a better place.... God Bless
Barb Willett
August 18, 2009
Very Familiar with Les,s music for I was in my teens in the early 50,s
Alan Rasmusson
August 18, 2009
Richard H. Herrick
August 18, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this time! What a wonderful inventor and truly genious person. What a difference and impact he has made in the music world. He will be remembered for his talent! May you have peace in your memories of him, and knowing that he has touched so many lives! God Bless! Laurie McKenzie (Woodburn, IN)
Laurie McKenzie
August 18, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this time! What a wonderful inventor and truly genious person. What a difference and impact he has made in the music world. He will be remembered for his talent! May you have peace in your memories of him, and knowing that he has touched so many lives! God Bless! Laurie McKenzie (Woodburn, IN)
August 18, 2009
you are the greatest muscian i have ever heard. thank you for offering to the world what you knew.
Billy Glasgow
August 18, 2009
Your grief is shared by every music lover in the world.
Ferrand Lee Cumpton
August 18, 2009
A loyal fan, since 1951. I was 10 years
old at the time, when I first heard
"How High The Moon". AMAZING!!!

P.S. For his Family, I Am Very Sorry
For Your Loss.
Ed Smith
Edward Smith
August 18, 2009
I'll never forget May 17, 1999. I had gone to New York City to shoot a couple of university graduations a couple of days earlier. But, the real reason I was in "The City" was to see a diminutive, 84-year-old Jewish guy who was an absolute giant of popular music; the legendary guitarist and inventor, Les Paul.

Mention the name "Les Paul" to most folks these days and you're likely to get a stare as blank as copier paper. But, mention Les Paul to anyone who's spent any time plinking and plucking a six-string, and their eyes grow wide and their voice reverential. I am of the latter persuasion.

I had read in The New Yorker magazine that Les played every Monday night at The Iridium Club just north of Columbus Circle. My father had helped me buy a 1998 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar in January 1999. So, once I knew I was going to have a photo job in New York, I made plans to make the journey - no, pilgrimage - to see the master live.

Explaining to the flight attendants that I could not check such a valuable instrument, I flew up to New York, stashed my prized guitar at a friend's apartment, and did my photo jobs over the weekend.

That Monday might as well have been Christmas, New Year's Day and the Fourth of July all rolled into one as far as I was concerned. My dad was in town to go the show, as was my long-time friend and musical colleague, Arthur Cohen. My wife at the time, who loves country music and wouldn't know Les Paul from Les Brown, had also flown in.

I took the train in from Queens - the whole time clutching my guitar I hoped would be signed by Les after the show. We met at a restaurant, but I couldn't tell you which one. I had a mission that evening and I was as focused as a John Smoltz fastball.

After dinner, we walked the few blocks to The Iridium Club. At the door, the attendant asked to take my guitar, which made me just the least bit nervous. However, he assured me it would be well-cared for, so we dutifully paid our $35 dollars to descend the stairs to the club (I called it "The Stairway to Heaven," even though it went down).

I was in Nirvana! Finally, I was going to see and hear the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, the man who invented tape-delay and was the father of multi-track recording. The man whose namesake guitars have been played on almost every rock 'n" roll song of merit since rock 'n' roll began!

Suddenly, the lights dimmed and there was Les Paul and his trio. They broke into the jazz standard, "Caravan," and from there the magic just grew. "How does that little old guy with the crushed elbow and arthritic fingers make all those beautiful notes," I said to myself, mesmerized by the effortlessness of his playing. But, then again, the masters always make it look so easy, don't they?

After two hours of brilliant playing, occasional banter with the audience and a few off-color jokes, the set was over. I don't remember my guitar being delivered to me. I was in another dimension of sonic splendor and pure bliss. I stood in line with the other acolytes and waited as Les patiently signed everything that was thrust in front of him. When it was my turn, I remember saying how he had inspired me to really learn the instrument and not just plunk around with power chords. I asked if my friend could take a picture of us while he signed my guitar, to which he laughingly replied, "yes!" I scooted around the small table and handed him my guitar upon which he wrote "To Phil, play hard, Les Paul." Guitar signed, mission accomplished, I shook those gnarled hands that had produced so much genius and walked out into the New York night a contented musician and man!

Rest in Peace, Les! You gave me a night I'll never forget!
Phil Manson
August 18, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Jon Lowder
August 18, 2009
Talent...pure, genious and talent...God bless (Rhonda B. in NC)
Rhonda Breed
August 18, 2009
I meet Les @ his debut of chasing sound
He was the most polite and friendly man I have ever meet. I am saddened by the lose to humanity. This man had a great drive and love for life. The world of music will feel his loss for many years to come. Love you Les.
Kirs Seals
August 18, 2009
his legacy lives on. i alway,s wanted a guitar with his name on it i really believed i could play better using it,rest in piece and you will alway,s be remembered for your talent.
david shipley
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