Les Paul (Lester William Polsfuss) was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 09, 1915, and lived in the proximity of the 300 block of West St. Paul Avenue.
Les is known throughout the world for his development and perfection of the first solid body electric guitar, otherwise known as the Gibson Les Paul.
Les Paul passed away on August 12, 2009. His resting place and monument are located at Prairie Home Cemetery in Waukesha. The Les Paul Parkway around the city of Waukesha and the Les Paul Performance Center in Cutler Park are named in his honor and memory.
The Gibson Les Paul was first produced by Gibson Guitar Corporation in1952, and has remained among the largest sellers for more than five decades. The Les Paul is recognizable for its sunburst mahogany wood, a bottom-cutaway design and a sustained tone.
In the early1960’s, Gibson experienced a decline in electric guitar sales and discontinued production due to their high prices and strong competition from Fender’s comparable but much lighter double-cutaway design, the Stratocaster. However, British rock heroes such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page restored the brand’s luster and the instruments experienced a sales boom in late1960, influencing Gibson to put the Les Paul back into production in 1961.
Les Paul the Inventor
In addition to the guitar, Les Paul innovated multi-track recording, echo, tape delay, and phase shifting. His work on amplification and recording paved the way for modern techniques used by numerous musicians across the globe.
Les Paul the Musician
Paul first became interested in music at age eight when he began playing the harmonica. After attempting to learn the banjo Paul ultimately began playing the guitar, and by the age of 13 he was performing semi-professionally as a country-music singer, guitarist, and harmonica player.
At the age of 17 Les Paul had played with Rube Tronson’s Texas Cowboys. It was soon after this that Paul dropped out of high school to join the Wolverton’s Radio Band.
In 1934 Paul decided to migrate to Chicago where he continued to perform on radio, eventually releasing two records in 1936. His early music career moved forward as he left Chicago with his sights set on New York where Paul played with many artists and forged his musical career.
In 1949, Les Paul and Mary Ford debuted at the Polfuss family tavern, currently known as the “400 Club” located on historic Williams Street in the city of Waukesha.
Throughout his career Les Paul achieved many awards:
- In 1977, Les Paul and Chet Atkins received a Grammy for the best Country Instrumental Performance.
- In 1977 Les and Mary Ford received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
- In 1979, Les and Mary’s 1951 recording of “How High the Moon” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
- In 1983 Paul received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements.
- In 1988, Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Jeff Beck.
- In 1991, the Mix Foundation established an annual award which honors “individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio technology”.
- In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of the solid-body electric guitar.
- In 2007, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Other recognition and accomplishments include: the Hollywood “Walk of Fame Star”, induction into the “Hall of Fame” for the Wisconsin Area Music & Industry, and Waukesha County Arts & Alliance. Collectively, Les Paul’s musical accomplishments included stage, radio, recordings, movies, television, and night clubs.