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Happy Birthday Les Paul

This month-musician/innovator extraordinaire Les Paul, inventor of the solid-body electric guitar and multitrack recording, marks his 90th birthday. Born June 9, 1915, Lester William Polsfuss (later changed to Lester Polfuss and eventually Les Paul), shows no signs of slowing down. He still consults with Gibson on new guitar designs, as well as playing two shows every Monday night at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club. On June 19, Carnegie Hall partners with the JVC Jazz Festival to present “All for Paul, a special birthday concert salute to the master, with the Les Paul Trio joined by a huge lineup of world-renowned musicians.

Some Essential Les Paul Links

Les Paul & Recording Technology

The Les Paul Guitar Story

A Les Paul Essay on Multitracking

Gibson’s original patent for the Les Paul Model

The TEC Les Paul Awards

Les Paul’s 2001 Technical Grammy Award

Gibson Les Paul Guitars

Rare Les Paul Photo Gallery

Some Birthday Greetings…

In keeping with the festivities, we offer our own nod to Les. We asked some industry friends to offer their birthday greetings. But the fun doesn’t stop here. Through June 19, 2005, we’ll upload your message to Les Paul here. If you’d like to be included, just send an e-mail with your greeting (25 words or less) to [email protected]. Please include your name and put “birthday” in the subject line.

“Les, I first saw you and Mary playing a nightclub in Winnipeg in the late ’50s. I was amazed at your double-tracking techniques, and how you and Mary created a great ‘stacked’ sound right in front of our eyes! Unreal! Years later, CSN and I used your techniques to create Deja Vu and After The Gold Rush. At the time, I was playing a 1952 Les Paul through an old Fender Deluxe amp and I still am today. I use an Echoplex as well! Thank you for all of the things you’ve done so far and I hope you’re enjoying yourself. You sure have given a lot. Happy birthday. May the Great Spirit guide you on your way.”

—Neil Young

“Les, you were so nice to me at my uncle’s studio [Harry Smith Recording] when I was growing up. It’s one of the reasons I’m in this business. Happy birthday and many more!”

—Al Schmitt

“Happy birthday, Les! It’s been great knowing you, and I look forward to being with you on the 19th. Here’s to many more, young man-you inspire me to keep playing!”

—Neal Schon

“Les, in 1951, I heard you and Mary Ford doing ‘How High the Moon’ on the radio and ran out and bought a copy. Other than Mary’s voice, there’s not one truly natural sound on this fantastic recording, which forever changed the way we experience popular music. Les, you’re a brilliant musical and technical talent who’s much more than merely ahead of your time. You’re a visionary-and you’ve got soul!”

—Bruce Swedien

“Dear Les, it’s a huge b-day. I can only wish and hope that I am as cool as you are when I grow up. Great thing is, you never have! Ha ha! Happy birthday and God bless.”

—Steve Lukather

“Les, you are the chairman of us all. Happy birthday, with love.”

—Phil Ramone

“Les, you changed the quality of all our lives. If they put an electric guitar in a spaceship time capsule, it would be a Les Paul. Also, I never thought I’d know a person 50 years my elder who can kick my ass so hard on that damn thing. With the deepest of respect and gratitude from all your six-string children.”

—Steve Vai

“Les, it’s been one of the highlights of my career to have met you and make music with you on a few occasions. Thanks for the privilege and congratulations!”

—Larry Carlton

“A big happy birthday to someone who’s such an inspiration
to so many guitarists and music lovers around the world. It is truly
incredible that you are 90, so I’ve still got a chance to play some
tricks on you. Thanks for making guitars sing! Love,”

—Steve Howe

“Les, It is your lifelong example of fusing musical genius with technological innovation that led us to establish the Les Paul Award in your name. You have been a beacon to music people everywhere and we thank you for your unstinting support-not to mention the best speeches at the TEC Awards!”

—Karen Dunn and Hillel Resner

“Happy birthday to a (founding) member of the Sapphire Group and a true tube geek! The audio world would be a very different place today if not for your many contributions. Rest assured, the Sapphire Group you helped start continues to meet monthly for audio fun and keeping those corporate guys honest. Les, you are always welcome… in fact, you’re way overdue for a visit!”

—Aspen Pittman

“Les, you are truly an amazing wizard. It has been more than an honor to know you. Your work developing multitrack recording and your Les Paul guitars are the fountain of inspiration which will always fill my empty cup. Happy Birthday!”

—Mike Lawson

“Best wishes to the father of multitrack recording. Your harmony lives on!”

—John Oram

“Happy 9-0! And infinite thanks for opening the doors to a world of creative possibilities. You da man! Love,”

—David Schwartz

“Forty years ago, I was inspired in your basement studio and was dazzled listening to the playback in your car. I had to have my own. Thanks!”

—Vinnie Nappi

“Les, because you I’m still playing guitar. You are the best. I hope I get to be 90 years young. You are the genious of our lives. Happy Birthday!”

—J. Viorella

“Les, a very happy birthday to you. I still remember the interview I did with you and Mary Ford when I was a disc jockey in 1954 at KORK, Las Vegas, at the Thunderbird Hotel. Wishing you a very happy year!”

—Len Ross

“Les, You don’t know me from Adam, but happy birthday! I recently had the pleasure of transferring some 48-year-old tapes with your recordings on them. Great stuff!”

—dj wayne

“Les, thank you for everything, everything, everything! May you have the happiest of birthdays and many, many more. You are truly an inspiration to guitarists everywhere. God bless!”

—Michael Staertow

“What could it have been like to not only have pioneered the heyday of analog but have made so many people happy in the process with your music? One can only dream. Thanks Les, especially for my Gold Top.”

—Ken Fordyce

“Happy birthday to you Les Paul… We the people thank you for giving the world your musical creativity. Les Paul forever!”

—David Peel

“Les, you have made my life in music so much better; creating a design that is beyond time. You inspired me to invent a new fingerboard! You are living proof that Les is more!”

—Aaron Wolfson

“To the guitar playing and recording worlds you have given us the century of Les Paul! May God forever bless your ‘gas-guitar.’ Happy Birthday Red Hot Red. And may you have many more.”

—Charles Dubé

“On Memorial Day, I brought my father to see you at the Iridium. He knew every song. Thanks for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

—John Bolles

“Les, it was the greatest thrill of my life, to present you with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award last year. You have been my hero since I was a little girl; it is an honor to know you, and to wish you a big Happy Birthday and many, many more! With all love and respect,”

—Cristy Trembly

“A Gibson guitar is like a garden in the pocket. The best place to explore when you feel like getting out and away… and I can take it anywhere. Thanks again, Les and keep on cruisin’ at 90!”

—Steve Repetti

“Physics had Einstein. Painting had Van Gogh. Sports had Michael Jordan. But when the moon rises on a Monday night we can still hear Les play guitar.”

—Aaron Luis Levinson

“For years, I’ve been hearing about u and your music–but my dad didn’t tell me u were born on a great day! Happy birthday!”

—Diana (June 9, too!)

“How do you celebrate 90 years of rockin’ in the USA??? 1-Design a 90th Edition of the Les Paul Custom. 2-Have a jam session with the who’s who of guitarists. 3-Blow out 90 candles but be careful not to set your guitar on fire. 4-Live like there is a tomorrow. God bless you and happy birthday!”

—Don Cole

“Happy birthday, Les! I was completely astonished when I first saw your documentary ‘The Wizard Of Waukesha.’ You have mixed genius and humor like no other.”

—Mark J. Tomorsky

“Your guitar rocks, it sings, it does so many things. You’re honored from all of our heartfelt strings. Thanks, Les for everything. Happy 90th!”

—Devin Hefley

“Happy birthday, Les! You’ve been such an inspiration to my musical ambitions. God bless you!”


“Les, you are my musical idol. I’ve loved your music since I first heard you and Mary when I was in high school. Whenever I’m in a music store I go see if there’s anything I haven’t got by you. I hardly ever find anything, but there’s always hope. I recently got the Fred Waring stuff, and loved it.”

—George Boley

“Hey Les: I just wanted to say happy 90th. Hopefully, I shall be able to one day find Thorne’s old lathe for you.”

—Ray Schlesinger

“Les, you continue to inspire a world of musicians! Thanks for your great contributions to the electric guitar and multitrack recording. It’s been an honor to meet you in New York and see you at your Lifetime Achievement Awards dinner in Madison, WI. Your autograph on my Les Paul guitar continues to inspire me to ‘Keep Pickin!’.”

—John & Jamey Masino

“Happy birthday, Les! Thank you for everything you have given the world of music. And a special thanks for writing the foreword for my book ‘Famous Wisconsin Musicians’. Not only is it a great honor, but it makes me so proud that you’re a Wisconsin boy!”

—Susan Masino

“Les, happy birthday and warm wishes. Hope you have fun trying to blow out all those candles this year!”

—John Kaebitzsch

“Happy birthday. And a huge “thank you!’ for everything you’ve done for music and musical instruments. Hope to meet you someday.”

—Henry “Dixie” Howard

“Mr. Paul, many guitar designs have captured the spotlight but only one is revered by all genres of guitarists, and personally I think you are the reason.”

—Rick Montoya

“Happy birthday, Les! You got me started when I was about 10 years old. I have one of the original Les Pauls and I’m still playing at age 55. Thanks for your big music contribution and best wishes.”

—Jerry Tew

“Happy birthday, Les! Thank you for your gifts to us. Keep on pickin’!”

—Gary Elliott

“Happy birthday, Les. I am the son of Esther Summers. I was five the last time we met; I’ve never forgotten it.”

—Joe Askey

“May you have a blessed birthday and enjoy it with friends and family. You’re a wonderful man and I’m thankful to have met you and played with you. Long live the tube!”

—Jann Klose

“You are truly one of a kind, Uncle Les, and deserve all the accolades you receive on this birthday. Love,”

—Suzee Williams

“Happy birthday! Hope it’s a humdinger! Thanks for all the great music and thanks for making it possible for people like me to make music!”

—Vic Lund

“Happy birthday Les Paul! Thank you for …well …just about everything! You remain the genius of the industry.”

—Pat Keogh

Through June 19, 2005, we’ll upload your message to Les Paul here. Just send us an e-mail with your greeting (25 words or less) to

[email protected]

. Please include your name and put “birthday” in the subject line.