Les Paul’s “LOG” Guitar, Circa 1939 – Birth of the Les Paul

September 5, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

Les Paul Passes Away August 13, 2009

Les paul The Log Guitar
Continued from: Les Paul’s journey to Gibson Guitars in 1951

Les Paul’s “LOG” Guitar, circa 1939 is the guitar that came to bear Les Paul’s name. Seeking to develop an up-market alternative to the plain, slab-body Telecaster, Ted McCarty [another towering figure in the early development for the electric guitar] came up with the idea of building a solidbody guitar with a carved maple top or “body cap.” He knew that the Fender factory didn’t have the machinery to do this kind of work. In 1950, McCarty brought this guitar to Les Paul, who approved the design, feeling it was right in line with what he’d been trying to achieve. He reportedly said to his wife and musical partner, Mary Ford, “They’re getting too close to us, Mary. I think we better sign up with them.”

So great were Gibson’s reservations about getting into the newfangland solidbody electric guitar market that the company at one point considered leaving its name off the guitar and just putting Les Paul’s name on. But they plucked up their courage, and in 1952 the first Gibson Les Paul model appeared on the market. It was very similar to the Les Pauls that are around today, with a few key differences. For one, it had a trapeze-style tailpiece. This was a source of some contention between Les Paul and the Gibson company: Gibson wrapped the strings under the tailpiece’s crossbar in order to achieve lower action; Les wanted the strings wound over the crossbar so he could better execute the palm muting technique that became important element of his playing style in the Fifties. Read more

Les Paul’s journey to Gibson Guitars in 1951

September 3, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

Les Paul Gibson Guitars Paul McCartneyAround the same time that George Beauchamp and the other early electric guitar pioneers were active in southern California, a guitarist and radio personality named Les Paul was in Hollywood working out his own vision of what the electric guitar should be. Born Lester Polfus, he became an established guitarist in the Thirties, performing country music under the names Red Hot Red and, later Rhubarb Red, and jazz as Les Paul. In 1939, Paul began to put together what he called “The Log,” a four-by-four length of solid pine to which he attached a Gibson neck, homemade pickups, a crudely fashioned bridge and vibrato tailpiece. Like many other innovators of the guitar, Paul wanted to eliminate the uneven harmonic response produced by an amplified hollowbody guitar.

Although he sawed an Epiphone hollowbody in half and attached the two sides of his four-by-four block of pine, this was more for aesthetic than acoustic reasons—to make the thing look like a real guitar. This supremely quirky instrument, now enshrined in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, is another sacred relic of the electric guitar’s evolution, the product of an inveterate tinkerer and one of the century’s most original musical inventors. Paul also pioneered multitrack recording and anticipated the home recording boom by a good 30 years. Read more