So maybe you’re less than 30 years old, you are a millennial and you don’t yet know that the lovely signature on the head of your precious Gibson Les Paul isn’t exactly the president of the company, but rather it belongs to the man who designed it over 60 years ago. And it might even surprise you if I say that he was not just one of greatest innovators in electric guitar history and recording techniques of the 21st century, but a wonderful guitarist on his own and best seller in the 50s. He is none other than Lester William Polsfuss, more commonly known as Les Paul.
We have talked at length here at Guitars Exchange about the marvelous idea Les Paul had of making solid body guitars, without the hollow bit, so we’ll let you sort through our past articles if you would like to know more about the story of this legendary guitar he designed together with the Gibson crew and is living history of popular culture, so we will focus on reviewing the gear he used to record his songs. The first thing is to point out that he had a visionary’s mind of someone who was never satisfied with the means at his disposal as far as both playing and recording. As for the guitars he was playing he saw a snag of the feedback they generated when he added a pickup to amplify the sound, so how did he solve this? Well, he created his own guitar. And as far as recording techniques he got tired of listening to the whole world sounding the same, so he followed the same path and decided to set up his own ‘home studio’ in his garage...just like today except 70 years ago, without Protools, nor Logic, nor computers, nor listening monitors, or Thomann to provide whatever tool we need...
The guitars of his collection would be heard in that studio, even the precious Selmer Maccaferri he used, a guitar that Django Reinhardt’s widow gave him out of admiration and the friendship he had with the gypsy genius (he even paid part of the funeral expenses).
The Belgian’s musical influence in Les Paul is undeniable, but as for his guitar, Les Paul always wanted more. That’s why he created ‘The Log’, a guitar that was born with the desire to be more brilliant and have more ‘sustain’ than hollow-body guitars of the day and offered it to the Gibson people, who replied with the great line, “This is a broom with pickups”. Only after Leo Fender introduced his Broadcaster project did Gibson start to get interested, once again, in the broom and its solid body that Les Paul held in his hands, and together they had just become what we know today as the Gibson Les Paul.
Since then, there are many Les Paul prototypes that he used, and we say prototypes because he never stopped making his own modifications to the series models that the American brand was putting to market. In fact, in 2012, there was an auction of some of these models along with other guitars of his collection such as a 1951 Fender Nocaster, an Epiphone Zephyr Emperor and a Gibson L-5. What we can also assure you is that we would never find a Gibson SG among his guitars, and this was because he himself changed the name of that guitar originally named a Gibson Les Paul, one he despised from the first minute he set eyes on it.
That was Les Paul, a nonconformist to whom we owe a lot.