If you had to pick the one person who was most responsible for modern music, from instruments to performance to recording, who would you pick? My pick would be a man who practically invented the electric guitar, created his own style of playing that influenced numerous other guitar legends, and revolutionized music recording by creating the first multi-track recording process. Les Paul was a musical renaissance man, and his death today at age 94 closes the book on a career that spanned 81 years.
Despite the string of hit records and the innovations both on stage and in the studio, the general public probably knows Paul for the line of guitars that bear his name. Gibson worked with Paul to design the guitar, which was first released in 1952. In the 50+ years since the Gibson Les Paul has become one of the most popular lines in the world, played by greats like Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Slash, Jimmy Page, and Muddy Waters.
It’s safe to say that without Les Paul music, as we know it today, would be very different. Before he created his “log” electric guitar amplifying a guitar was tricky at best. So you could say rock n’ roll wouldn’t have been possible without him. Before his innovations in multi-track recording musicians had to record entire songs in single takes. Modern music is rarely recorded this way, with artists and producers taking advantage of the flexibility to create new and different sounds. In short, the entire landscape of music today would look very, very different if Les Paul hadn’t come along. For that we are all in his debt.