Les Paul is recognized as the inventor of the solid body electric guitar, which he designed in 1941. Gibson introduced models based on his design a little over a decade later in 1952.

photo gallery

video gallery

Solid Body Electric Guitar Is Born

Broomstick with Pick-ups on it

The Rail

The Les Paulverizer

Les Paul: In His Own Words


Something terribly important developed in 1941 as I continued my efforts to create and electrically amplified guitar who is acoustical properties didn’t cause feedback. The facts were pointing the way and I was realizing more and more that for electric guitar the solidity of the neck and body and the way the strings attach were the critical factors I needed to pursue. When I stripped the problem down to that simple understanding, I realized what I needed to do was to put the railroad rail into the guitar. Working on Sundays I took a length of 4 x 4 Pine, put an Epiphone neck on it, wound a couple of homemade pickups and mounted them on the wood. Then I added a bridge and a Vibrola tailpiece, strung it up and I had the log. I went back to the Epiphone factory took the sound box of an old Epiphone arch top and sawed it in half right down the middle. Then I braced up the two have so they could be attached to the sides, and two Sundays later the Log had its wings and looked a lot more like a lot normal guitar.

The Rail – Electric guitar beginnings

Les Paul began experimenting with electrifying his guitar when he was in his early teens. He connected a radio as an amplifier to his acoustic guitar, but he wanted to hear just the strings vibrate and he wanted the strings to vibrate longer.

Using a short length of steel railroad rail and two railroad spikes, I invented a device that could give me a consistent reference point for my experiments. I took a guitar string and fastened it at each end of the steel rail, using the spikes like a bridge and nut to raise the string so it could be plucked. Then I took a telephone microphone, wired it into Mom‘s radio for amplification, and placed it on the rail under the string. I soon figured out that the tremendous solidity of the rail allowed the string’s vibration to sustain for a longer time, and there was no feedback.

Excerpted from Les Paul: In HIs Own Words