Les Paul remembered as music visionary 100 years on
Asked to name music superstars, few in the general public would immediately think of Les Paul. But 100 years after his birth, his many admirers are hoping to promote him as one of modern music’s indispensable figures.
Paul, who died in 2009, was an acclaimed jazz guitarist but also a prolific inventor. He paved the way for the rock era by pioneering the electric guitar and revolutionized how artists record music.
On what would have been his 100th birthday Tuesday, a foundation dedicated in his legacy set up a mini-museum for the day in New York’s Times Square with a tribute concert in the evening.
“We’re reintroducing Les. We sometimes joke around that Les is the most famous person nobody knows,” said Michael Braunstein, the executive director of the Les Paul Foundation.
“When you ask children, or a certain generation, they think Les Paul is (only) a guitar,” he said, referring to the Gibson instruments that bear his name.
Braunstein — who, along with his grandfather and father, served successively as Paul’s manager — argued that the guitarist’s impact was unique for its wide scope.
“We argue that Les is the most influential and important individual in the music
industry ever,” Braunstein said.
Musician and Inventor
Even if one does not rank Paul using such superlative terms, he is the only person enshrined in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Paul’s key innovation as a luthier was to create a solid-body electric guitar.
Unlike an acoustic guitar, whose hollow body let the sound reverberate, the solid instrument sustained the plucking of the strings — which could then be amplified.
In this Feb. 26, 2007 file photo, Guitar legend Les Paul performs at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York. A yearlong celebration marking guitarist Les Paul’s 100th birthday kicked off in Times Square in New York on Tuesday, June 9.