Electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul has been chosen as the honoree for the 13th annual American Music Masters series, presented by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Case Western Reserve University and Gibson Guitar Corp.
“Les played a big role in the pervasiveness of the guitar in popular music and in rock ‘n’ roll particularly,” said Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock Hall.
Paul’s search for “this golden sound” changed the course of music history, Stewart said.
“The Wizard of Waukesha: The Life and Legacy of Les Paul” is set to culminate at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, with a tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theatre in Cleveland.
Organizers hope Paul, 93, will be able to attend. Performers will be announced in a few weeks.
Also on the agenda for the week-long salute are film screenings, panel discussions and an academic conference.
Paul, a native of Waukesha, Wis., designed and built one of the first solid-body electric guitars in the early 1940s. His name has graced a line of Gibson guitars since 1952, played by everyone from Eric Clapton to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend of the Who.
Paul also developed the first eight-track tape recorder and a variety of other effects, including being the Inventor of the Les PaulVerizer, (make sure you check the Les Paulverizer video out, EVH makes a special appearance) that have stood the test of time, and enjoyed success as a recording artist too. He and his then-wife, singer Mary Ford, topped the charts in the 1950s with “How High the Moon” and “Vaya Con Dios.” They divorced in 1963; she died in 1977.
Paul became a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in 1988, enshrined in the early influence category. He is the subject of a permanent exhibit at the museum, where he gave a sold-out show in 2004.
Paul is only the second living musician to be included as part of the American Music Masters series; the first was Jerry Lee Lewis last year. Other past honorees include Woody Guthrie, Sam Cooke and Roy Orbison.
Many folks (Leo Fender) have been major contributors to the electric guitars development over the years. The evolution of the electric guitar will never stop, that is the nature of the beast and I like it. Most readers know by now I’m a Fender guy, specifically Stratocasters, but we at Guitar Players Center would be foolish and trivial not to give the credit to this great man, Les Paul. Enjoy.