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Les Paul dies at age 94


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God bless Les. One of the last of the great self-taught American inventors.

When, as an impressionable lad, I heard his (and wife Mary Ford's) early '50s recording of "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise," I was literally stunned by the jaw-dropping solo in the middle, and then overtaken by the knowledge that I would never be the greatest guitar player in the world. If you have iTunes, you can use this link to hear just part of this amazing bit. Still sends a chill down my spine. And no, it was not recorded at half speed.

One thing that I didn't learn until recently was that his first multi-track recordings from the 1940s were NOT done with tape (he didn't get his 8-track tape machine until the latter 50s), Instead, he would simply record himself on acetate disk, then record himself on another acetate disk playing along with the first acetate disk, then -- well, you get the idea. He built his own turntables for this system using a flywheel from a 1948 Cadillac.

Later, he got a one-track Ampex (serial number two, right behind his boss Bing Crosby) and used it for destructive overdubbing (i.e., turning off the erase head and recording over and over on top of the same material). Bing used his Ampex to "timeshift" hs radio show so as to get better tee times on the golf course, Les used his to revolutionize the recording industry.

In his radio/TV appearances and his live shows, he often displayed a gadget called a "Les Paulverizer" that supposedly allowed real-time reduplication of singing or playing -- silly me, I thought it was for real, but it was in fact a stage prop (there was a giant tape console hidden backstage somewhere).

Les had been playing I think until very recently, doing a regular monday night gig in Manhattan. He'd had to re-learn how to play due to severe arthritis. I regret that I didn't get a chance to see him live for all the Manhattan traveling I'd been doing over the last couple of years.

-- rick

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He'd had to re-learn how to play due to severe arthritis.

And that was only one 'handicap' ...

http://www.aarpmagazine.org/lifestyle/Arti...ag-lespaul.html

Paul's right arm was so horribly crushed in an automobile accident in 1948 that there was talk of amputation. But a surgeon reconstructed the arm and put it in a cast at a 90-degree angle, pointing at Paul's navel.

"This arm is fixed in this position," Paul says as we talk in his crowded dressing room. "It doesn't go anywhere. I can't move it, but I can hold a guitar."

.....

Paul has also suffered a stroke, a broken eardrum, Meniere's disease and acute arthritis that has crippled the fingers on both hands. "They're frozen," he says. "I can't bend them." But he can hold a pick and he has revised his playing techniques to compensate for the loss of agility.

"Tonight, for instance, we were rehearsing "Deed I Do," and I said, 'I can't do this.' Then I stopped and figured out how I could."

Once a five-pack-a-day smoker "with terrible eating habits," Paul began suffering from heart problems in the 1970s. In 1980, he underwent a quintuple bypass operation, one of the first of its kind, at the Cleveland Clinic.

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...

When, as an impressionable lad, I heard his (and wife Mary Ford's) early '50s recording of "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise," I was literally stunned by the jaw-dropping solo in the middle, and then overtaken by the knowledge that I would never be the greatest guitar player in the world. If you have iTunes, you can use this link to hear just part of this amazing bit. Still sends a chill down my spine. And no, it was not recorded at half speed. ...

Or

Vale Les Paul - stronger in adversity than most are in their prime, what was remarkable went on to be sublime.

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Vale Les Paul - stronger in adversity than most are in their prime, what was remarkable went on to be sublime.
Can't escape the parallels with another great guitar hero of the 20th century -- Django Reinhardt, who didn't take up the guitar seriously until after he had lost the use of much of his left (neck) hand in a fire. He created a whole new way to play, and you can hear a lot of Django in Les Paul.

-- rick

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