Music industry has seen quite a few guitar virtuosos. Their performances and creations have mesmerized and inspired a lot of us, motivating us to take our guitars and start playing. This is the truth that we all are aware of. However, there are some people, who were not content with mere performance. They strived for something bigger and did everything to achieve their goal. One of those legendary people (and brand) is, of course, Lester William Polsfuss (a.k.a. Les Paul). Not only was he an amazing jazz, country and blues guitarist, but he also was an inventor who built his own solid-body electric guitar. This creation basically revolutionized the musical instruments and laid fundament for further development. This article will briefly discuss the history of Les Paul’s first solid-body electric guitar.
During his teenage years, Les created his own electric guitar. He would perform at a local drive-in restaurant and that is where he came up with the idea. He started thinking of ways to amplify his guitar. For this, young Lester took some parts of his father’s phonograph, attached them to his instrument and created his first electric guitar. However, it still was not what he was looking for and he knew that the problem was the hollow body of the guitar. He tried filling his instrument with different stuff but nothing seemed to be working. So Les continued his search for the sound he always desired.
The main leap in the development of Les Paul’s electric guitar took place in 1940s. This is when “the Log” was born. With the ability to work in the Epiphone factory and the access to their tools, Les finally had the chance to design his electric guitar. He constructed the instrument with small piece of pine, strings, handmade pickups, the bridge, Virola tailpiece and the neck of Epiphone Broadway guitar. He could finally get the sound he wanted.
However, not everybody agreed with him. When he first performed with the “Log”, the audience did not really like the sound. Lester took a step further and attached wings to his instrument without changing anything about the sound. This way it would look more like a guitar. The feedback was way better this time, which led Les Paul to think that people pay more attention to the looks of something, rather than the sound.
It took Lester quite some time to find the companies that would be interested in his creation. Around the same time when Leo Fender was developing Telecaster (which is considered the first commercial solid-body electric guitar), Gibson got into Les Paul’s idea and decided to produce the electric guitar. The very first Les Paul hit the market in 1952 and became one of the most famous and ubiquitous electric guitars. The most special and beloved thing about this instrument was its pristine sound and the lack of undesirable noise. Even though Lester was not the one who invented a solid-body electric guitar, he contributed to its development a great deal. Even the fact that he built it from scratch speaks volumes about the craftsmanship he possessed.
Even though the development of solid-body electric guitar is considered as Les Paul’s biggest creation, it was not the only novelty. In early years he created a Harmonica holder with a coat-hanger. Since radio was a big part of his life, he also created his own crystal radio and later even developed a simple radio station. Lester was 14 when he built his first recording apparatus and perfected it through the years. Les Paulverizer was also one of his inventions. This guitar genius experimented with guitar effects (such as overdubbing, tape delay, phasing…) and contributed to their widespread utilization.
For me, Les Paul is one of the greatest musicians. It is not the playing skills he possessed or the compositions he wrote that makes me so affectionate about him. Neither are his inventions (even though I appreciate him for that as well). His constant search of the perfect sound, his interminable desire to create more is what inspires me the most. Whether you are a guitarist or have no connection with music at all, the main thing in life is to always strive for creation. The core meaning the humankind is based on this phenomenon. Creativity, open-mindedness and the unending desire are the driving forces that have brought the humankind to the heights we are at now. Les Paul was truly someone to look up to. Even reading about his life fills you up with hope that anything is possible. Yes, he invented his own solid-body electric guitar but his footprint is way bigger than that. He left the heritage that will always be remembered.