Les Paul

Guitar legend Les Paul has died after a battle with pneumonia. He was 94. The father of the electric guitar passed away with his family and friends by his bedside at White Plains Hospital in New York today, after suffering complications. Born Lester William Polfuss in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the star rose to fame in the 1930s as a jazz guitarist. After a brief stint with The Les Paul Trio, formed in New York with pals Jim Atkins and bassist Ernie Newton in 1938, Paul moved to Hollywood where he landed his big break playing alongside Nat King Cole as a last minute stand-in for Oscar Moore. The 1944 performance in the inaugural Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in Los Angeles California, led Paul to appear on Bing Crosby’s radio show, a partnership that would later produce a number of hit records, including 1945 song It’s Been A Long, Long Time. Paul also scored a string of chart successes with his wife Mary Ford, whom he was married to for 13 years until 1962, such as How High the Moon, Nola, Lover and Vaya Con Dios, which became number one records for the duo in the U.S. pop charts. But Paul is perhaps best known for being a pioneer in the development of the electric guitar - building The Log, one of the first solid-body axes, in 1939. He landed a deal with the Gibson Guitar Corporation in the early 1950s to produce the Les Paul model, which has since become the trademark instrument for artists like Jimmy Page, The Who’s Pete Townshend and jazz great Al DiMeola. He was also noted for his innovations in overdubbing, delay effects and multitrack recording. During his lengthy career, Paul received a host of accolades including a Grammy Trustees Award in 1983 in honour of his lifetime achievements. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame alongside Ford in 1978, and later, in 1988, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Jeff Beck. Les is survived by his three sons Lester (Rus) G. Paul, Gene W. Paul and Robert (Bobby) R. Paul, his daughter Colleen Wess, son-in-law Gary Wess, long time friend Arlene Palmer, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. A private Funeral service will be held in New York. A service in Waukesha, WI will be announced at a later date. Details will follow and will be announced for all services. Memorial tributes for the public will be announced at a future date. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Les Paul Foundation, 236 West 30th Street, 7th Floor, New York, New York 10001.

Editors Extra: Having met Les Paul many times, this guy had class. He was always friendly, and always had a huge smile on his face. He worked just about to the end, appearing every Monday night at Iridium Nightclub in Manhattan. For many years I was called to photograph him celebrating his birthday at the famed Jazz Club. From Tony Bennett to Jose Feliciano, they all helped pack the club every week to see this master at work. The world has lost one of the most important innovators in music.