Pivotal guitar legend Les Paul died at a hospital in White Plains, NY today. He was 94.
Paul and second wife Mary Ford (who died in 1977) had a string of hits in the 40s and 50s, including “How High the Moon,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Vaya con Dios” and “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise.” Paul designed guitars and promoted many for Gibson, with Eric Clapton, Wes Montgomery and Pete Townshend among famous users of the Les Paul line of guitars. Paul built solid body guitars, free of the sound distortions common in acoustic versions.
The Washington Post quoted Paul on why the he reinvented the guitar.
“I wanted people to hear me,” he told the publication Guitar Player in 2002. “That’s where the whole idea of a solid-body guitar came from. In the ’30s, the archtop electric was such an apologetic instrument. On the bandstand, it was so difficult battling with a drummer, the horns, and all the instruments that had so much power.
“With a solid-body, guitarists could get louder and express themselves,” he said. “Instead of being wimps, we’d become one of the most powerful people in the band. We could turn that mother up and do what we couldn’t do before.”
Paul is survived by a companion, Arlene Palmer, and four children.