Les Paul: The Passing of a Legend
By now the passing
of Les Paul comes
to all of you as
However, I feel
compelled to share
my personal sentiments and to pay
homage to such an
The inventor of the
solidbody electric guitar, the pioneer of multitrack recording—so essential in developing the
field of audio recording—as well as an accomplished musician and guitar player in his own
right, Les Paul was a true Renaissance man and
more than an innovator. Les’ direct impact on
the instrument will never be surpassed.
The accolades are numerous, the achievements
undeniable, but for me, it was Les’ inspiration
and spirit that is the true celebration of his life.
For guitar players, Les Paul provided the greatest gift in the history of the instrument: the six-string solidbody guitar. Not just a guitar, the Les
Paul. It’s been like Christmas ever since.
It was November of 2000 when the former
Musicians Hotline showcased our first interview
with Les from the Iridium Jazz Club in NYC. Les
was celebrating his 85th birthday. I can vividly
recall the issue, for I proudly display it in my
office, framed as a keepsake. The dedication,
“To Trent, Best… Les Paul,” that he was kind
enough to scratch on the cover makes this issue
a cherished pillar in my industry memorabilia
collection. I walk by this framed memento every
day, and it reminds me of the depth of his contribution, which has forever changed the evolution of the instrument.
We can all recall the quest for our very first Les
Paul. I’m sure that like me, many of you settled
for knock-off copies until we could achieve the
real deal. I remember my first experience with a
real Gibson Les Paul like it was the first time in
the backseat. Ironically, it was an original ’ 52—
the very first year the Les Paul was available—a
Goldtop with a trapeze bridge, P-90s and
baseball bat neck. Now there’s a story behind
this. The guitar was not mine. It belonged to the
father of a bass player bandmate in one of my
very first bands when I was in junior high. My
bass player’s father had purchased the Goldtop
new in 1952 and has had the original guitar
with the original case ever since. Talk about
your guitar show fantasy story. I can recall his
father letting me play the guitar at rehearsals in
their basement. It was several years later that I
acquired my first Les Paul, a 1974 Black Beauty
Custom. This guitar is still in my collection today.
More than just an inventor and innovator, Les
dearly loved the instrument and obviously
dedicated his life to the making of music. Les’
résumé boasts twenty-five top 40 hits with his
wife, Mary Ford, and Grammys for his 1976
album Chester & Lester with the legendary
Chet Atkins, and Les Paul & Friends in 2005,
on which he collaborated with Keith Richards,
Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, to name
a few. Until June of this year, Les packed the
house for Monday evening shows at the Iridium
Jazz Club. The cat simply loved to play. That
spirit will forever be an inspiration to us all. I
hope I can still get out when I’m in my nineties
and throw down with my boys.
This issue celebrates Les Paul’s life and legacy.
The entire staff here at Premier Guitar will never
forget August 13, 2009, as a day that a star
fell from the sky. In my opinion, the industry
should acknowledge this day as Les Paul day.
Guitar players would all take the day off and
do nothing but play guitar, throw back a few
drinks and exchange “My First Les Paul” stories.
Something tells me Les would think this was a
pretty groovy idea.
This issue of Premier Guitar is also, as always,
a testament to your relentless pursuit of tone.
Two cats who have spent years on this quest
are Steve Vai and Tommy Emmanuel, both
undeniable giants of tone, each with his own
unique genius. We also take a fresh look at
one of the most controversial topics of tone,
amp modeling, offer advice for the home
recording studio. And of course, there are
plenty of gear reviews to satisfy your inner
gearhead. Life is too short not to play more
guitars. Live it up, throw it down.
Trent Salter, Publisher