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Les Paul Dies at 94; updated

Matt Schudel

Les Paul, the long-lived musician who invented the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track recording, has died at 94. Check out Adam Bernstein's obituary here.

He became famous in the 1960s for the eponymous Les Paul guitar, a solid-body electric with a distinctive rounded shape that powered many of the popular pop and blues bands of the day. He may very well be the only person who is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In his day, Les Paul was a bigger star than most of the people who played his guitars later on. He was a jazzman who could play country and rock-and-roll and every other style in a fast, pyrotechnic way that has to be heard -- and seen -- to be believed. He was born in Wisconsin and was self-trained as a musician and electronics engineer and was always experimenting with guitars and recording technology. He was a true American original.

In the early 1950s, Paul and his wife, singer-guitarist Mary Ford, were huge stars, with 16 Top 10 hits in a four-year period, most notably their rocket-ship, multi-tracked version of "How High the Moon." For seven years, they had a TV show broadcast from their home in New Jersey. Les kept making music almost to the end and even had to adapt to playing with severe arthritis in his hands. Even then, as you can see in this lovely, slowed-down version of "High How," he was still amazing.

For a taste of Les Paul's playing and his inventive mind, here's a short documentary introduction to Paul's musical wizardry:

By Matt Schudel |  August 13, 2009; 12:17 PM ET  | Category:  Matt Schudel , Musicians
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Comments

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A loss to the musical community and to the world. A great person, a great player, and a technical wizard. I'm glad I got to see him play. He sat five feet in front of me and dazzled the audience with his playing and his personality. I'm happy that he lived a long and productive life. Heaven has a new man in the band.

Posted by: tojo45 | August 13, 2009 12:47 PM

Les Paul did not invent the electric guitar even though he did contribute to the development of the solid body electric guitar. He did however invent some of the the first multitrack recording equipment along with many other inventions in other fields as well.

Posted by: mudpiemusic | August 13, 2009 12:48 PM

Les was great and all the encomia, deserved, but when the electric guitar is talked about there was only one Charlie Christian.

Posted by: HassanAliAl-Hadoodi | August 13, 2009 12:49 PM

R.I.P., Les Paul. You will be missed but never forgetten. I will always think of you when I look down at the headstock of one of my guitars that bears your name.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | August 13, 2009 1:04 PM

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