Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul (1915-2009)

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.


Anonymous said...

My grandfather took me to an after-hours club in New Orleans when I was about five. I kept wiggling in my seat to the music. Mr. Paul, who was jamming with two other fellas, placed his fingers in position and asked me to come over and strum the chord. I did not understand why the group of men laughed and then applauded, so I bowed.

I shiver at the thought. In a very good way, unlike my mother who still cannot believe that my grandfather had me out at a bar so late...

Edshugeo The GodMoor said...

I always thought (over the last decade or so, anyway) that I might make it over to that Monday night spot where he performed before he died. Never did, though.

Don't think I've ever played a Les Paul guitar either.

Ill said...

I heard about this on KPFK this morning. Looks like he had a good run.