Les Paul

I know that every time someone dies, it’s now customary to intone about what a hero they were, how much they were always had a smile for everyone, how they were great family men, husbands, fathers, etc. etc. etc. Speak no ill of the dead, I get it.

Les Paul who died last night in White Plains, NY was one amazing pioneer of both the electric guitar and recording techniques like overdubbing, phasing, multi-track recording, use of delays have all, for better or worse, become a very regular parts of making records. He is also the brains behind prodding Ampex into building the first 8 track recorders and of course, Gibson’s iconic Les Paul guitar. One of the most memorable moments in a two hour interview I had with him in 2005 was Paul’s description of his first guitar, dubbed “The Log” which was a piece of lumber, fitted with a guitar neck, a bridge and a pickup. It will be interesting to see who mounts the first Les Paul museum exhibit.

That piece that I did on him in the October 2005 issue of Stereophile was pure pleasure. Hanging with him backstage at the Iridium in Times Square was special, although I’ll always remember it as one of those interviews where you sit down with someone and suddenly the enormity of what they’ve done in their career washes over you and you don’t know where to start. I could have written five different Les Paul pieces. The other thing that stands out in my memory is what fun the man was still having into his 90’s, mostly via really hilarious and bawdy stories that he recounted from the stage at the Iridium. Most involved females in various states of undress and the man was not shy about naming parts. As those old Wendy’s commercials used to say, “Parts is Parts,” and man, could old Les make up or recount, it doesn’t matter which, some funny things about those parts. Blessed with such a long life, he went out not only revered for his art but also having a hell of a good time. What a guy.