Off the Record

Remembering Les Paul's Sound and Vision

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Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 11:09 AM

It is a rare occurrence that a person could become a successful musician, an influential inventor, or a household name in their lifetime. But Les Paul, legendary guitarist and inventor of the iconic Les Paul guitar did it all. Paul passed away last night, he was 94.

The Les Paul guitar and the Fender Stratocaster are the most recognizable guitars in the world, (Rock Band enthusiasts may have a Les Paul in their house right now) but Les Paul's contributions to studios revolutionized the process of making and recording music. Paul developed multi-track recording and built the legendary echo chambers at the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. When Brian Wilson's harmonies or Frank Sinatra's voice were piped into these rooms below Capitol's parking lot, echo produced by the ten-inch thick concrete walls, and twelve-inch-thick ceilings was rich and warm. The Beatles reportedly would feed parts of their albums via a telephone hookup into these chambers to get that Capitol sound.

Then there's that guitar. The Les Paul was one of the first solid body guitars, with the curves of a sportscar and that versatile sound that could be gentle as a stream or as fierce as a freight train. That beautiful resonance produced by the guitar's thick wooden body, lovingly dubbed "the log," channeled Slash's soaring guitar solo on "November Rain" and Jimmy Page's crunchy riffs driving Led Zeppelin.

From a design standpoint, the Les Paul is unstoppable in its effectiveness. Your iPhone will become obsolete in a year. The Les Paul guitar has endured for over half a century.

RIP Les Paul, thank you for your sound and vision.

Read more in our exclusive interview, "Slash Remembers Friend and Mentor Les Paul, A Total Fuckin' Maverick."

Here's some clips of his axe in action:

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