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Les Paul

Les Paul is a unique blend of musician and inventor. His performing career started at the age of 13 and by the early 1950s he was the greatest jazz guitarist of his generation. As an inventor, Les Paul's breakthrough creation of the solid-body electric guitar paved the way for electric music made the sound of rock and roll possible. In 1953 while performing with Bing Crosby, he perfected the first multi- track recording machine, allowing separate lines of instrumental music and vocals to be blended together. His many recording innovations--including sound-on-sound, overdubbing, reverb effects, and multi-tracking--greatly accelerated the advancement of studio recording.

One of the most influential figures in the development of modern music-making, Les Paul developed an interest in both music and electronics very early in his life. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1915, by the age of nine he started teaching himself the guitar (having already tackled the harmonica and moved on from the piano and the banjo) and constructed his first crystal radio; within a year he had fabricated a primitive recording machine out of parts culled from a Cadillac and a dentist drill. By 13 he was performing semi-professionally as a country musician and began pursuing experiments to electrically amplify his instrument. Initial attempts involved the use of a record player needle, the earpiece from a telephone, and cannibalized radio components. Years later, the system was perfected with the replacement of the hollow guitar body with a solid block of wood: one of the earliest designs for what eventually came to be known as the solid body electric guitar.

During his high school years Paul became a member of Rube Tronson's Cowboys, and shortly afterwards dropped out to work full-time with Wolverton's Radio Band on radio station KMOX in St. Louis. By the 1930s he had relocated to Chicago, where he began his recording career using the hillbilly persona of 'Rhubarb Red', maintaining at the same time a parallel career in jazz as Les Paul. His first trio was assembled in 1937, but the following year he moved to New York to work as a featured player on the radio broadcasts of Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians -- a job that was brought to an abrupt end in 1941 when he was nearly electrocuted during a session in his basement. On a more positive note, 1941 also saw the creation of the "The Log", the culmination of his efforts to create an electric guitar. The formation of a new trio and another change in his base in operations (this time to Los Angeles) and had taken place by 1943, the latter resulting in a fortuitous, last-minute enlistment as guitarist for the first of the Jazz at the Philharmonic events in 1944.

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