-----… he died on August 13, 2009 from complications from pneumonia.
-----Lester William Polsfuss was born June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin near Milwaukee. The Prussian family name was first simplified by his mother to Polfuss before he took his stage name of Les Paul. He also used the nicknames Red Hot Red and Rhubarb Red.
He first became interested in music at age eight when he began playing the harmonica. After an attempt at learning the banjo, he began to play the guitar. It was during this time that he invented a neck-worn harmonica holder, which allowed him to play the harmonica hands-free while accompanying himself on the guitar.By age thirteen, Paul was performing semi-professionally as a country-music singer, guitarist and harmonica player.
While playing at the Waukesha area drive-ins and roadhouses, Paul began his first experiment with sound. Wanting to make himself heard by more people at the local venues, he wired a phonograph needle to a radio speaker, using that to amplify his acoustic guitar.
At age seventeen, Paul played with Rube Tronson's Texas Cowboys, and soon after he dropped out of high school to join Wolverton's Radio Band in St. Louis, Missouri, on KMOX. Paul migrated to Chicago in 1934, where he continued to perform on radio. Paul formed a trio in 1937 with singer/rhythm guitarist Jim Atkins - older half-brother of guitarist Chet Atkins - and bassist/percussionist Ernie "Darius" Newton.
They left Chicago for New York in 1939, landing a featured spot with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians radio show. Paul was dissatisfied with acoustic-electric guitars and began experimenting at his apartment in Queens, NY with a few designs of his own.
During that time, he created several versions of "The Log," which was nothing more than a length of common 4x4 lumber with a bridge, guitar neck and pickup attached. In 1945, Richard D. Bourgerie made an electric guitar pickup and amplifier for professional guitar player George Barnes. Barnes showed the result to Les Paul, who then arranged for Bourgerie to have one made for him.
While experimenting in his apartment in 1940, Paul nearly succumbed to electrocution. During two years of recuperation, he relocated to Hollywood, supporting himself by producing radio music and forming a new trio.
Paul met country-western singer Colleen Summers in 1945. They began working together in 1948, at which time she adopted the stage name Mary Ford. They were married in 1949. The couple's hits included "How High the Moon," "Bye Bye Blues," "Song in Blue," "Don'cha Hear Them Bells," "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," and "Vaya con Dios." These songs featured Ford harmonizing with herself.
In 1965, Paul went into semi-retirement, although he did return to the studio occasionally. Paul's most-recognizable recordings from then through the mid-1970s were an album for London Records/Phase 4 Stereo, Les Paul Now, on which he updated some of his earlier hits; and, backed by some of Nashville's celebrated studio musicians, a meld of jazz and country improvisation with fellow guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins, Chester and Lester.
In 1987, Paul underwent heart surgery. He then returned to active live performance, continuing into his 80s even though he often found it painful to play the guitar because of arthritis in his hands. In 2006, at age 90, he won two Grammys at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards for his album Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played.
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