Les Paul: Inventor, Musician, Educator, Legend

Les Paul was an inventor, an award-winning musician, an innovator and a creative genius. Like Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs changed their worlds, Les Paul changed the world of music. He was the creator of the solid-body electric guitar, multi-track recording, echo, over-dubbing and other musical technologies. Les never stopped exploring and his curiosity led to innovations that musicians still use today. He is known as the “Father of Modern Music” and the “Wizard of Waukesha.” Famous musicians, producers and engineers alike owe their careers to Les Paul and to this day, pay homage to him. Every time we hear an electric guitar shred or download our favorite music, we owe it to Les Paul. 

The Inventor

Acclaimed as the “Father of Modern Music”, Les Paul is known for numerous inventions that changed both the individual lives of musicians and the mechanics of the music industry in the twentieth century. His influence is still profound, having been a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar as well as numerous techniques including multi-track recording, digital delay, reverb, and more.

The Musician

Les Paul’s technological wizardry and inventions transformed the music industry. His legacy as a consummate musician has had a global impact on countless artists from Paul McCartney, Eddie Van Halen, and Slash to Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, and Chet Atkins. Les’ musical technique and virtuosic playing extended across all genres including jazz, country, R&B, and Rock. His multi-generational influence and contributions speak to his status as a legendary artist.

Education

Les Paul created the Les Paul Foundation in 1995 to extend his spirit of innovation through grants to educational organizations and institutions including, Little Kids Rock, Soulsville Foundation/Stax Music Academy, Notes for Notes, Guitars For Vets, and many others.

The Foundation

The Les Paul Foundation inspires innovative and creative thinking by sharing the legacy of Les Paul through support of music education, recording, innovation and medical research related to hearing. It’s also a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the Wizard of Waukesha. Click here to see the list of our grantees and to apply for grants.

grantee spotlight

Guitars for Vets had a booth at Discovery World in April 2009. When Les Paul heard about the organization, his response was, “Go find out more and get back to me.” The nationwide organization, based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, provides free guitars and guitar lessons to injured military veterans.

Les had been drafted during WWII. Though he did not see “action,” he always was mindful of the trauma many vets face. In fact, whenever Les visited his family in Waukesha he would make time for Mary and him to visit the veterans’ hospital. They would go from bed to bed and serenade the vets. That is why Guitars for Vets is important to the Les Paul Foundation. They are carrying Les Paul’s legacy forward. Check out the handout created for the vets (and others) that shares how Les faced some of his many challenges.

The Les Paul Foundation continues to support the work of Guitars for Vets.

guitar showcase

Django (Jean) Rheinhardt was a stellar jazz guitarist and composer, a gypsy with a distinctive playing style who lived in France. Les had listened to Django’s music since 1934, but didn’t meet him until 1946. Django’s technique was inspiring and Les was impressed that Django played with a permanently injured left hand. The two became fast friends. Mary and Les went to France for Django’s funeral. When Les learned that Django had not been paid for a number of his performances, he set out to recover the missing payments for Django’s widow. In recognition of the friendship, Django’s son gave his father’s prized Selmer guitar to Les.

The guitar has been on exhibit at the Mahwah Museum in New Jersey. 

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