Lester William Polsfuss was born on this date in 1915. We all knew him as Les Paul.

My favorite technological device (and probably yours, too) growing up and during my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, was the electric guitar. Not just any electric guitar, either. A ‘59 Les Paul Standard plugged into a stack of Marshall amps. That’s what Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, Peter Green, Joe Walsh, Buck Dharma, Gary Richrath, and so many others played to get “that sound.”   

Les Paul was known as the Thomas Edison of music. He invented multi-track recording. He was the first to utilize echo and delay in recording. In fact, his first invention was when he was only thirteen. See, Les wanted to be able to play the harmonica and guitar at the same time. So he took an old-fashioned metal hanger, shaped it to go over his shoulders, and designed it so he could flip his harmonica with his chin. (You’re welcome, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.) 

Although he didn’t invent the electrification of instruments, he was the one who perfected the electric guitar. What else can you think of that has not changed at all, not the design, the mechanics, the simplicity, and is still revered 70 years later? (The Les Paul Deluxe was developed in 1952.).

Paul’s Les Paul with Les Paul

No wonder Les is the only inductee in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  A true American original. And a bad-ass guitarist going back a long, long time. Our musical palette would be far less colorful without him.

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