December 30, 2014

row of Les Paul Gibson guitars

A row of Gibson guitars. Credit: Sigfrid Lundberg / Flickr Creative Commons

In 1948, Lester and his girlfriend Mary were driving through Oklahoma. Their Buick veered off the road, and left Lester's arm permanently mangled.

Lester's marriage was ending, so Mary moved into his Los Angeles home and nursed him back to health.

It took more than a year, but, amazingly, Lester – a professional musician – taught himself to play the guitar again.

Soon, the couple tied the knot and recorded chart-topping hits, including "Tennessee Waltz" and "How High the Moon."

But Lester wasn't just a guitar player. He was also an inventor – always searching for a way to make music sound even better.

He put microphones all over his house – even one to record Mary singing in the kitchen. He also helped create multi-track recording and built his own guitar.

When the guitar manufacturer Gibson enlisted Lester to create a guitar for them, his work became the inspiration for generations of musicians. Les Paul won a Grammy at age 90 and, although he passed away just four years later, the sound he created lives on.

In this interview, Paul McCartney talks about the eminence of the Les Paul guitar – and the musician who electrified music.

music, Culture, history, Les Paul

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