Thursday, September 10, 2009

And in Memoriam Les Paul

After the death last month of Les Paul, my VOA colleague David Byrd shared his thoughts with friends on Facebook. While I had earlier rhapsodized in a posting on the joys of the acoustic guitar, I have never had the experience of playing a solid body electric guitar. But clearly Paul's inventive mastery is proven by the Standard and Studio models manufactured by the Gibson Corporation, which has created a high reputation among electric guitarists equal to that of the C. F. Martin Corporation among acoustic practitioners.

Here is David's tribute, reprinted with his kind permission:

"The man who invented the solid body electric guitar - Les Paul has died [at 94]. I had one of his Gibson guitars when I was a teenager. It was the heaviest piece of wood I ever strapped on - and I loved it. Sweet Home Alabama for the Gong Show at Union Pines High School - never forget it - and never forget Les Paul, a true Guitar Hero. . . .

"I remember meeting the man about 15 years ago at the Smithsonian Museum of American history. My girlfriend at the time was interviewing him, and even then, he had the spark of creativity which made him such an innovator.

"He also flirted with my girlfriend. But his mind was still thinking of things, new things, new ways to make sounds. Ironically, Epiphone turned down his original design for the solid-bodied guitar. So he took it to Gibson and they bought it. And the rest they say is history. I will never forget his crystal clear blue eyes, alive with creative energy.

"I even asked him why Les Paul guitars were so heavy. "Oh for the sustain, you see," he said. "We used heavy wood to get that screaming sustain up near the body in the high notes." Anyone who has ever listened to Jimmy Page, the Eagles, Lynard Skynard, or anyone else who rode on this man's LARGE coattails, knows exactly what he means. Thanks Les. RIP."

Another VOA colleague, Doug Levine, produced a radio feature on Paul, richly seeded with musical samples and interview excerpts.

And finally, Kane Farabaugh in New York also created his own lively VOA radio piece on the master inventor.

No comments: