Lester “Rusty” G. Paul loses long battle with diabetes.
Courtesy of Les Paul Foundation
Known to friends as “Rusty”, Les Paul Jr., son of musician and innovator Les Paul, passed away on December 31, 2015. He is survived by his children Stephen, Gary and Beth Anne, as well as his former wife, Glori. He had seven grandchildren. Rusty also had three other siblings: Gene W. Paul, Robert (Bobby) Paul, and his sister Colleen Wess.
The eldest of two sons that Les Paul had with wife Virginia Webb, “Rusty” Paul was born in 1941.
Throughout his life, Rusty worked alongside his father to spread the family’s contributions to music. He was also a popular musician in his band, “The Rusty Paul Band, and he actively performed at various venues around the country.
For those who knew or met him, Rusty’s number one objective was to carry on the legacy of his father to make certain that nobody ever forgot Les Paul and the enormous contribution he gave to the musical industry during his lifetime.
In the Studio courtesy of the Les Paul Foundation
Following in his Fathers Footsteps
Les Paul Jr. grew up surrounded by the emerging technology of sound recording, and was himself an experienced sound engineer. He often credited his father for giving him the inspiration to explore music and technology. During his life Rusty worked diligently to keep his father’s legacy alive. Rusty could also be seen sitting in with legendary musical artists including Les Paul’s godson Steve Miller. He called many famous musicians, including Slash, Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, and many, many others his friends. Later on in life, he often performed at New York City’s Iridium Jazz Club, carrying on a regular Monday night gig his father held down for decades.
In the days following the announcement of his passing, hundreds of friends and fans have shared their experience and respect for Les Paul Jr at his Facebook page. Rusty is truly going be missed by many people whose lives he touched.
UPDATE 01-10-2016: Here’s some more pictures of this truly awesome man.
See him Play:
His 2010 Interview with Gibson
Probably one of the most inspiring reads about “who Rusty Paul is,” was his interview with Gibson back in 2010:
Were you aware of how loved you father was?
I always knew dad was a special man but it really hit home when he passed away. Boy, when he passed away, I had over 800 to 850 calls on my cell phone alone. And it was just people calling because they wanted to give their condolences.
Slash, when I saw him at the funeral, told me, “Don’t even mention your dad’s name.” I said, “Why?” and he said, “Because I will bawl like a baby.” He said, “I lost a friend, a great musician and somebody I looked up to.”
I couldn’t get in touch with Eddie Van Halen for three days. He would not talk to anybody. He just shut down. He said, “I just cannot believe this.”
That’s as nice of a tribute you can get for your dad isn’t it?
Oh, boy yes, I’ll tell you… I miss that man so much, you have no idea. You know? It is so hard. He left a big plate with a lot of goodies on it and he said, “Now you have to eat ’em because I’m not here to tell you.” He sat down at the table, many times often at night, and he would say, “How come all my buddies are gone and I’m still here? And I’m in my 90s already and I’m getting older and I don’t understand how all my buddies who are much younger are gone and I’m still here. What is the reason?” He couldn’t figure that out. I used to tell him that his name was just not on the list, so don’t worry.
He was famous for a long time. Was that difficult for you growing up?
I knew he was important, but it’s like everybody, the reporters, ask me that very same thing. They say, “How was it growing up in your time with your dad?” What was it like when I was a little teenybopper? I hung out with Bing Crosby’s kids and we would be throwing stones and stuff in the backyard while Dad and Bing were recording in the studio.
So that was normal to you, to be around famous people?
We have one of the photos of the L.A. studio in our archives and it just so happens, it has the tape machine in it that Bing Crosby brought over. Bing actually brought the tape machine to our house. So they dragged it in the back room and then put it in the studio in L.A. And it sits there no more than a few weeks and Dad has the thing set as a sound on sound machine (The beginning of multi-tracking technology that would revolutionize the record industry). That’s where his head was at. He was already out planning this machine that was far surpassed what was initially brought over.
Was he the kind of guy that would run downstairs and show you what he was working on or did he keep it all to himself?
Oh no, he was coming up with things all the time like the sound on sound machine or the little black box (a remote control box for a tape recorder mounted right in the guitar). He had that little black box laid all over the house and studio and he would do some tinkering with it and change speeds and all this stuff. And Mary said, “You ain’t going to get me to do anything with this. It ain’t going to work.” And she pretty much had him convinced for a short period and that it may not work out.
Our neighbor was going to have a Boy Scout gathering and so, the first night he tried it out was at a Boy Scout meeting by our house, and it worked perfect. Then, the next day they were due to play for the President. Mary said it worked here but it isn’t going to work there and Les said, “I guarantee it will work.” And he got there and it worked fine. I mean he was an inventor, a tinkerer, a musician, and an actor, writer – all of that rolled into one guy. And his head was going in a million directions at one time. All this stuff came out of freak things.
When he was a kid and a train went by, he would put his hands on the window and feel the vibration. And then would go to school and ask his teacher if he could learn more about vibration. And he got into that… it was one thing after another… he never stopped.
Do you think he was a genius like Einstein?
I would say so; it’s hard to pin it on him… I mean I would say he was. He would say no, that he had so much to learn, but his head was far more advanced than what anyone else was capable of. He wanted to know how the electricity went to the switch and how the electricity got to the bulb and how the bulb would light. This is where his head was at. Everywhere he learned. He built his first cutting blade from a Cadillac flywheel and a switch from his mother’s barn and stuff like that. He built two of them. He would experiment with mics and he would say I want to put a trumpet on there and have the singer touching their lips right on the microphone and people would say, “You can’t do that.” The engineer would say, “You’re going to blow the ribbon,” and he would say, “No, you won’t and if you do, I’ll put another one in.” But he was one that didn’t let the norm bother him. If it was a challenge, he did it or fixed it or had it fixed and continued on.
Until he passed away did he follow all of the innovations we have today like the Internet and e-mail?
Yeah. He used all the new technology but didn’t want to get stuck with it because he felt that if you spent so much time behind the screen, looking at a box all day, you wouldn’t get anything done. He used the Internet a lot to look up guitars, inventors, or a certain type of formula or whatever; get the information or print it out and go.
Right before he died, he was working on a Les Paul hearing aid…
Do you have a story about Les Paul that really captures the man?
Dad, the first time he met Django Reinhardt, was at the Paramount and he was there playing and Dad was upstairs shaving and he got a knock on the door. He says, “Who is it?” and security said it’s Django Reinhardt. And he says, “Sure, send him up with some beer.” A few minutes later there’s a knock at the door and there was Django and right behind him was Johnny Smith, who was Dad’s idol. And they just sat down and played the two guitars that were there. And I was talking to Johnny a couple of months ago and ask if he remembered, and he said he did. And Johnny is still around to remember that. Django, when he died, told his wife on his deathbed that the person who should get his guitar was Les Paul. He had nothing, no running water, totally broke. Yet he was considered one of the best guitar players in the world. To have somebody you respect so much and who plays a monster guitar and yet had nothing was real sad to Dad. So he wanted to make sure that Django’s family were taken care of. He got money from all the people that owed Django, about $75,000, I believe, and got his family electricity and a gravestone and took care of his wife.
Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha and father of modern music and solid body electric guitar, would have been 100 years old this past June 9th.
The “Big Sound Experience” will be featured at Les Paul Middle School from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. this Thursday and Friday as part of the 2015 100th Birthday celebration tour. Admission to the exhibit is free. (See exhibit pictures from Thursday – below)
To share his creativity, innovative spirit, and love of sound, the Les Paul Foundation has created an intriguing mobile exhibit – a 76.5 ft-long, by 28 ft-wide trailer that expands to a 1,000-square-foot.
Les Paul’s Big Sound Experience was unveiled June 9 for the Les Paul 100th birthday celebration in New York City, and has made stops in Boston; Nashville; Washington D.C.; Dearborn, Mich.; Indianapolis; Cleveland; Mahwah, N.J., and more. It visited Milwaukee’s Summerfest in July, and was also at the Good Neighbor Festival in Middleton.
This week’s stop in Waukesha will be the last planned in Wisconsin, but the Big Sound Experience will roll on around the country into next May, including visits to Nashville, Memphis, San Francisco and Texas.
I took the opportunity to stop by the #BigSoundExperience Thursday afternoon and snapped a few pictures. Inside this exhibit is a truly amazing entourage of gadgetry and historic WOW!
Kelli & The Soul Mates to perform for Les Paul’s 100th birthday
The city is commemorating the 100th birthday of Les Paul, musical genius and native son, with events kicking off on Tuesday. There will be personal tributes, food and live music from 6:30 – 9pm at the Waukesha County Museum.
One of the musical acts is Kelli & The Soulmates. The seven-piece band plays old school Stax/Volt sound and style of the 1960s. Lead vocalist Kelli Gonzalez said of the band, “Our music is high energy, people get up and dance.”
The vocalists have a soulful range complimented by a hip-swaying rhythm section and horns. Previously known as Torn Soul, the group has played all over the Milwaukee and Waukesha area.
Gonzalez said, “We have played big festivals. We are fortunate to play high profile events.” They have performed at such festivals as Bastille Days, the State Fair and Jazz in the Park.
Pete Saia, guitarist and vocalist, joined the band late last year. He said, “The band does deep cuts and as a musician it is very appealing.”
The music maker
Les Paul is a musical icon to musicians. Gonzalez said, “How didn’t he influence anything? He invented the electric guitar!” Gonzalez lives in the Waukesha area and has observed the beautiful GuitarTown artwork around downtown.
Saia, a Carroll University alum, is equally excited about playing this occasion. He said, “This birthday party is going to be huge!”
Saia has a connection to Les Paul. He previously lived in Waukesha but moved in 2004. As a resident he lived in the Mountain Village Apartments. Les Paul’s mother’s home was torn down in the late eighties to build the apartments.
The Wizard of Waukesha paved the way for those in the rock and soul genre. Saia said, “For me personally, lots of guitar players are influenced by him or by the people he influenced. His contribution for multi-track recording directly or indirectly impacted everyone.”
Keep it fresh like Les
Gonzalez, a 25-year music veteran, is eager to play for new faces. She said, “I learn something new every day.” She enjoys a variety of musical styles. Her feeling is to keep it fresh and new so she doesn’t get bored or burnt out.
Gonzalez believes music is what makes her who she is. However, she uses her role as a vocalist to provide a history lesson to fresh-faced listeners. She said, “Younger people are not exposed to some of the older music, it is our job to get it out there.”
Saia hopes to have a great turnout to liven up the event. The band is humbled to be a part of the 100th birthday milestone. He said of Les Paul, “Without his creativity and genius we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Today, June 9th, would have been Les Paul‘s 99th birthday. Les changed the world with his inventions, his guitar playing and more importantly, his insatiable curiosity. I had the good fortune to meet Les and work with him while I was at Ensoniq in the 80s and 90s. He used our products and was always interested in what was coming next. When I moved on to Sonic Foundry, we had discussions regarding sampling and looping and the effects it would have on the music creation process. After Broadjam was launched, the topic moved to mp3s and the compression algorithms to create them. He was always inquisitive and full of ideas.
Les at home with many of his inventions & instruments
My favorite Les Paul story. He was traveling back from the west coast with Mary Ford when his car skidded off the road and nearly killed both of them. His right arm was shattered and he instructed the doctors to position it in a way so he could pick a guitar. To the day he died, his right arm was always bent like he was holding a guitar.
He played the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City right up until his death. It was a ritual to go see Les when traveling to NYC. He was always gracious and made you feel li
ke you were the most important person in his life.
While he is widely known for his innovations, those who knew him remember his friendly, humorous, engaging and inquisitive personality. Below is a link to a blog for your perusal written shortly after his death.