Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vaya con Dios, Les Paul

A giant of the music industry has passed. Les Paul has died at the age of 94. If you are a lover of popular music of ANY genre and are not familiar with the contributions of Les Paul, it’s time to do some studying. If you are a fan of the guitar as a lead instrument and marvel at the variety of sounds and nuances the instrument offers, AND you are not familiar with the work of Les Paul- SHAME ON YOU!

If there truly is a “Guitar God,” it is not E.C., it is not Jimi, it is not Duane, it is not Stevie Ray. It most certainly is Les Paul. There is not a rock and roll guitarist who ever lived that does not owe gratitude to Mr. Paul. The man was the primary innovator of the solid body, electric guitar, which allowed guitarists to play out front as lead instrument, rather than being content to remain in the background as strictly accompaniment. That would be enough of a contribution. But Mr. Paul also developed the 8-track recording equipment which allowed multi-track mixing. This allowed the recording artist more freedom in developing his “sound,” limited only by his imagination.

I used to have a couple records by Les Paul. One was “Chester and Lester,” a duet with another innovative genius, Chet Atkins. Both men were quite witty and funny, so they not only exchange brilliant guitar riffs throughout the recording, but jokes and good natured insults, as well. I’ll not only not forget Les Paul’s unparalleled guitar talents, but will also happily remember his robust laughter. Here was a man who truly enjoyed life.

A documentary I would recommend watching is “Les Paul-Chasing Sound.” It not only adequately covers Les’ great music, but his electronic and technical contributions to the art.

I’m a fan of a number of guitarists, all with their own style and sound. But I’ve never heard one who could play with Les Paul’s smooth fluidity. Even when playing runs at his patented breakneck speed, every note could be clearly heard. May those wonderful notes play forever.

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