There are few musicians more universally recognized, admired and loved than Les Paul.
The Year of Les Paul is Gibson’s opportunity not only to revisit Les’s greatest designs but also to forge ahead with the spirit of invention that he championed. For decades, Gibson was Les’s inspiration. Today, he is Gibson’s.
Les is one of the most significant figures in modern music, as integral to a musician’s life as Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell are to modern society. Les felt one of his greatest achievements was his induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame at the age of 90. Les Paul was that rare person in life, a true renaissance man.
Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Les showed a love for music at an early age. At 8 years old he taught himself how to play the harmonica, piano and banjo and was performing on guitar at 13, billing himself as “Rhubarb Red” with a homemade harmonica holder. All his life he experimented with improving every instrument he played. Les’s passion for recording drove him to invent equipment that would allow him to translate his ideas into music. He made one of his first solidbody guitars by attaching pickups to a railroad tie. Les even created a recording lathe made from a Cadillac flywheel and a dentist drill — producing recordings good enough to land him a contract with Capitol Records in 1948.
Les’s stories, and he loved to tell a story, could all be movie scripts on their own — driving to Oklahoma to check out Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, hanging out in New York City with Charlie Christian, trading licks with Django Reinhardt, playing with Chet Atkins, designing multi-track tape machines and broadcasting national radio and television shows from his living room.
Throughout his life, Les Paul loved Gibson guitars. The Gibson factory was his personal laboratory, and Gibson instruments were his inspiration for innovation. Few musicians can claim to have truly made history. But starting in the 1950s Les Paul — with help from Gibson — did just that.