Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guitarobit: Les Paul

Les Paul - the man, not the guitar - has died at the age of 94.

Starting out with big bands in the 1940s, it was Bing Crosby who inspired his approach while Django Reinhardt influenced his style.

Although best known for the guitar which bears his name, Paul's real gift to modern music was multitracking - cooked up using a tape machine gifted by Bing. It allowed him to play most of the tracks and his then wife Mary Ford to sing most of the vocals on the hits they had together.

It took Gibson a long time to accept Paul's designs for a solid body guitar, and even when they did take him up it was as a me-too product to compete with Fender.

Although Les Paul went into semi-retirement in the 1960s, he was actually still playing live until recently. Troubled by arthritis, Paul had to develop his style to cope: something he did successfully, as he explained to CNN:

"If you only have two fingers [to work with], you have to think, how will you play that chord? So you think of how to replace that chord with several notes, and it gives the illusion of sounding like a chord."

Les Paul died earlier today from the complications of severe pneumonia.