Lester William Polfuss
b. June 9, 1915
d. August 12, 2009
Les Paul was born Lester William Polfuss. Les started playing music on harmonica at the age of eight. By the time he was thirteen, he was playing guitar in a country band. By the age of seventeen, Les dropped out of school to join a radio band at KMOX in St. Louis.
In the mid 1930’s Les decided he needed to make his acoustic guitar louder, and extracted the magnetic receiver from a telephone, used it as a pick up in a 4” X 4"
log, inserted into his instrument, and helped create the solid body electric guitar. In 1947, Les invented a system of sound -on -sound recording using eight different guitar parts to create “Lover (When You’re Near Me).” He did the recording with shellac disks. Les would record a track onto a disk, and then record himself playing another part, recording layer by layer until he was satisfied. This is the first known example of multi- track recording.
In the 1950’s Gibson incorporated this design and created the Gibson Les Paul, one of the best selling guitars of all-time. Les continued to develop this technology by commissioning Ampex to build the first eight-track tape recorder, at his expense. From this point, he was known as the father of the modern-day recording studio. Les also made a number of revolutionary recordings with his wife, Mary Ford. These records were unique at the time for their heavy use of overdubbing. Their hits included "How High the Moon," "Bye Bye Blues," and "The World is waiting for the Sunrise.”
In 1978, Les was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1983. In 1988, Les was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1991, The Mix Foundation established an annual award in his name; the Les Paul Award, which honors "individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio technology." His other honors are too numerous to mention; there has been no one else who has had a larger influence on the music industry than Les Paul.