Les Paul: A Music Legend

An interactive journey through more than eight decades of Les Paul's music career, from "The Log" to Carnegie Hall.

1915-06-09 00:00:00

A Legend is Born

On June 9, 1915, Les Paul is born Lester William Polsfuss in Waukesha to parents George and Evelyn Polsfuss.

1923-11-05 00:00:00

First Instrument

Paul picks up his first instrument, the harmonica, at 8 years old.

1928-06-09 00:00:00

A Sears, Roebuck Troubadour

After receiving his first guitar, a Sears, Roebuck Troubadour, Paul starts performing in Waukesha as "Red Hot Red" at age 13.

1932-06-09 00:00:00

Drop Out

Paul drops out of high school to team up with his mentor and guitar tutor, "Sunny Joe" Wolverton. They perform in Springfield, Mo., and St. Louis for "hillbilly" radio stations.

1934-06-09 00:00:00

No more Rhubarb

Paul changes his stage name from "Rhubarb Red" back to "Les Paul," which he continues to go by for the rest of his career.

1935-06-09 00:00:00

The Les Paul Trio

At age 20, Paul forms his first band with Ernie Newton and Jimmie Atkins. He begins another electric guitar experiment.

1939-06-09 00:00:00

Electric Coast to Coast

Paul introduces the nation to the sound of the electric guitar on an NBC radio broadcast with Fred Waring, a popular musician and radio-television personality, and the Pennsylvanians.

1941-06-09 00:00:00

"The Log"

Now living in New York, Paul creates "The Log." This guitar consists of a 4-by-4 piece of wood, strings, a standard Epiphone neck and "wings." He eventually braces the guitar with a thin steel bar, makes his own pick-ups and turns "The Log" into "The Klunker." He uses his new guitar for more than decade.

1944-06-09 00:00:00

World War II

After moving to Los Angeles, Paul is drafted into the U.S Army. He works for the Armed Forces Radio Service where he produces radio shows and a series of V-Disc recordings - music recorded by big names to boost military morale.

1945-06-09 00:00:00

Bing Crosby's Idea

Bing Crosby hears Paul's impressive accompaniment of his hit “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” and urges him to open a recording studio. Paul soundproofs his garage in Hollywood, where he records various artists.

1945-06-09 00:00:00

Meeting Ford

Paul is introduced to Colleen Summers, his future wife. They return to NBC to perform "hillbilly" radio shows together as "Rhubarb Red" and "Mary Ford."

1946-06-09 00:00:00

A Mother's Love

Paul's mother tells him every other guitar player sounds just like him on the radio. He returns to his garage for two years to research recording effects, such as dubbing and echo, to create a new sound.

1947-06-09 00:00:00

Capitol Records

Paul and Ford sign with Capitol Records.

1948-06-09 00:00:00

New Sound & (An Almost) Crushed Career

After two years in his garage, Paul finally comes out with 22 recordings of a new sound - overdubbed guitars. Over dubbing means to record additional sounds on an already existing record.

1950-06-09 00:00:00

The Gibson Les Paul

Gibson Guitar Corporation finally begins building a solid-body guitar and asks Les Paul to endorse it.

1953-06-09 00:00:00

The 8-Track

Paul envisions the 8-track tape recorder. He works with Ampex, an American electronics Company, to manufacture the product, which is eventually delivered to him in 1957. Paul and Ford's biggest hit, "Vaya Con Dios" is released.

1956-06-09 00:00:00

The "Les Paulverizer"

Paul comes up with a new invention for his guitar - a remote control switch that allows Paul to play and change pre-recorded tracks off stage.

1957-06-09 00:00:00

Rock 'N' Roll

The emerging rock 'n' roll scene, using Paul's own guitar invention, forces Paul and Ford to leave Capitol Records and sign with Columbia Records.

1960-06-09 00:00:00

Seeing Stars

Paul and Ford receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California.

1964-06-09 00:00:00

Retirement

Paul retires from performing for more than a decade.

1976-06-09 00:00:00

"Chester and Lester"

Paul returns from retirement to record the album "Chester and Lester," with Chet Atkins, which receives a 1977 Grammy Award for "Best Country Instrumental Performance."

1979-06-09 00:00:00

How High The Moon

Paul wins the The Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame Award for the song "How High The Moon," which he recorded with wife Mary Ford.

1983-06-09 00:00:00

A Trustee

The Recording Academy presents Paul with the Trustees Award.

1985-06-09 00:00:00

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame

Paul is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the "Architect of Rock 'n' Roll."

1997-06-09 00:00:00

"What's Your Name?"

Paul is featured in a pretty awesome Coors beer commercial.

2001-06-09 00:00:00

Another Grammy

The Recording Academy awards Paul with a Technical Grammy.

2005-06-09 00:00:00

The Big 9-0

Paul celebrates his 90th birthday at Carnegie Hall in New York with a tribute concert.

2009-06-09 00:00:00

A Legend Dies, But Not Forgotten

Les Paul passes away on August 13th, 2009 in White Plains, N.Y. He was 94 years old.

Les Paul: A Music Legend

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