Published On: August 13, 2009

Musical Innovator and Guitarist Les Paul Dead at 94

Published On: August 13, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Musical Innovator and Guitarist Les Paul Dead at 94

The world of luthiers - that is, makers of guitars - lost a giant with the passing of Les Paul, whose instruments have brought glory to their players. Paul, who was famous as a jazz guitarist in addition to his skill as a guitar-maker, died at the age of ninety-four.

Musical Innovator and Guitarist Les Paul Dead at 94


Jazz-rock guitarist Les Paul died today from complications related to peneumonia. Paul was 94 years old.

As an inventor, Les Paul was the first to make popular the solid body guitar, which brought a sound and power to the instrument that, when amplified, set up the basis for rock and roll. His signature Les Paul guitar made by Gibson is one of the most noticeable icons in music history. From its shape gleaming in neon from the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas to the image of Jimmy Page hammering out a solo with Led Zeppelin - the Les Paul guitar is truly an American icon and defines the essence of rock and roll. This design made Paul a wealthy man, but far from defined his incredible career.

Musically, Les Paul came to prominence in the 1940s playing with the likes of Nat "King" Cole, and was known for covering genres that ranged from blues, jazz and even a hint of country. Paul is best known for his work with his second wife, Mary Ford, whom he divorced in 1964 just as the rock and roll craze was about to ignite. Les Paul entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and won numerous Grammy awards.

Amazingly, Les Paul played nearly every Monday night at the Iridium jazz club in Manhattan up until right before his death. Les Paul was a true rock and roll legend, but was never above talking about music with his fans, signing a pick guard on a Les Paul guitar or sharing a few chops with a fellow player.

Many argue that Les Paul's legacy is most impactful for his role in helping to invent and make popular the concept of multi-track recording and overdubbing. With a keen interest in electronics, audio and recording, Paul convinced Ampex to make and then market an 8-track tape recorder that simply changed the way music was recorded forever and ushered in all-time classic records of the 1960s, from the likes of The Beatles, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin. Not only did Les Paul (along with Leo Fender, the inventor of the Stratocaster) define the rock and roll guitar - Les Paul also created the technological foundation for the way music was to be recorded for generations to come.

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