A rock and tech legend passed away today. I charted his influence in short form on Wired, mostly because words can’t express one man or woman’s influence, especially one like Les Paul. He will be missed by many more than his family.
Late, Great Les Paul’s Gibson Coded Rock’s Genes
On Thursday, music and technology lost one of its finest innovators in Les Paul, who passed away at the age of 94 in New York. Although he was a musical artist in his own right with over 40 full-lengths and compilations to his name, it is the guitar that bears his name that has changed the sound of music as we know it.
In 1939, the late, great Les Paul built “The Log,” one of the first solid-body electric guitars, using not much else besides lumber, a pickup and his wits. That experiment eventually metamorphosed into the Gibson Les Paul in the ’50s, and in the ’60s it went viral after Eric Clapton popularized the model. According to legend, Clapton played the Les Paul exclusively with Cream, and even used it to lay down his blazing solo for The Beatles’ immortal “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” before handing off the ax to George Harrison for good.
Although Clapton later switched to the Fender Stratocaster, the Les Paul nevertheless gained no shortage of superstar adopters. Probably the most famous of these disciples is Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page, whose sunburst model is practically inseparable from the band’s sonic legacy. Same goes for the virtuoso Jeff Beck, who bought his first Les Paul in 1959 and starred, like Page and Clapton, in The Yardbirds.
“It had a deep powerful sound,” Beck recalled in Tony Bacon’s 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul, “and you could use it to imitate just about anything — violin, sax, cello, even a sitar.” MORE @ WIRED