In Memoriam: Guitar Legend Les Paul

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Published on: August 20th, 2009


AP Photo/Richard Drew
Les Paul (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

On August 13, one of the most influential men in the history of the electric guitar passed away at age 94: the inimitable Lester William Polsfuss, better known as Les Paul. His musical career, which began in the 1930s, didn't stop despite a semi-retirement in the late 1960s. In fact, he continued recording and performing well into his 90s, with a weekly gig at New York City's Iridium jazz club and winning a pair of Grammy awards in 2006 for his album Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played.  

Aside from his astonishing talent as a guitarist, which he maintained even after a 1948 accident that resulted in his arm being permanently fixed at a 90-degree angle, the Wisconsin-born entertainer was an avid tinkerer and inventor. He is credited with building one of the first solid-body electric guitars (later known as the ubiquitous Gibson Les Paul), as well as the first 8-track recording system. He also pioneered the use of overdubbing and several other recording techniques.

We've collected a few of our favorite YouTube video clips of Les Paul performing in the 1950s with his then-wife Mary Ford, more recent clips from his New York City gigs, and a beautiful three-part tribute called "Les Paul: Guitarist Extraordinaire". 

And when you're done browsing the clips below, go check out the feature film about Les Paul, Chasing Sound, available for free streaming online!


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