14 August 2009

Guitar Hero

This is a story that the sadly missed BigBulkyAnglican would definitely have recorded on his blog. And even though I posses the guitar skills of an otter (despite owning two guitars), I thought I should mark the passing of Les Paul on this blog.

I played in a band for a while when I was at school, and although I was a keyboard 'player', I was inevitably exposed to electric guitar culture - all bands have guitars! It appears to me that Les Paul was much more than just a person who played and made guitars. He was an icon in the world of rock music.

He was an innovator in musical technology and developed one of the first solid bodied electric guitars. The move away from a resonant sound box opened up massive stylistic possibilities that hadn't existed before! He and his contemporaries changed the course of rock and roll music with this innovation. Les Paul's 'log' (yes that's what he called this guitar) was the forerunner of the Gibson Les Paul; a guitar that nearly all your favourite rock musicians will have played on stage at some point in their career. This is what many people mean by a 'Les Paul'; in my teenage years, I remember the dawning realisation that a 'Les Paul' wasn't just a guitar!

Lester William Polsfuss (to give him his full name) wasn't just a guitar maker though. He continued to innovate with musical effects and recording techniques which have gone on to shape modern music even more than his guitar design! He experimented with multitracking well before there was a convenient, all-in-one machine that would do the hard work for you! Les Paul will go down in musical history for his contribution to music. I just hope that future generations of musical geeks have the same realisation I did. There was a man behind the guitar, and he was great!

The final thing to say is that in reading about his life today, I discovered that I've spent some time in his neck of the woods. He was born and raised in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Just down the road from New Berlin, where some good friends of ours live.

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