The music world is in mourning. Guitarist and guitar designer Les Paul died today at the age of 94. The Los Angeles Times obituary is here.
In the early 1950s, the Gibson Les Paul, an electric guitar designed with input from Mr. Paul himself, came on the market. It would have a huge impact on rock ’n ’ roll. (Les Paul had designed one of the first solid- body electric guitars back in the ’30s.)
Among the legendary musicians who played Gibson Les Pauls are Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Carlos Santana, Peter Framton, Eddie Van Halen, Rosetta Tharpe, Bob Marley, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny and Frank Zappa.
Les Paul’s name is so thoroughly associated with those Gibson guitars, his own career as a musician tends to be overlooked. Especially his early jazz work.
Click here to hear a version of “How High the Moon” that Paul recorded during World War II while serving with Armed Forces Radio.
And click here to hear a live 1944 recording from the very first “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert. It’s a jam session anchored by Nat King Cole on piano and featuring Illinois Jacquet and J.J. Johnson along with Les Paul. Paul starts cuttin’ up about 7 minutes in.
This has been called “one of history’s most famous jams,” and Les Paul has referred to it as his favorite gig ever. Listen to the crowd (and the other musicians) go nuts when Nat Cole and Paul get to trading licks.