Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009) was a musician and inventor. He was a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar, which "made the sound of rock and roll possible." He is credited with many recording innovations, including overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects, and multitrack recording.
His innovative talents extended into his playing style, including licks, trills, chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing, which set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired many of the guitarists of the present day. He and his wife Mary Ford had many hit records in the 1950s.
Les Paul is well known for his collaboration with Gibson to form the Gibson Les Paul, one of the most famous solid-body guitars in the world. It has been used by many guitar legends including Slash, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Pete Townshend, and Rick Hallenback.
Paul was the godfather of rock guitarist Steve Miller of the Steve Miller Band, to whom Paul gave his first guitar lesson. The close family ties with Paul and the Millers were evident again, as Steve Miller's father served as the best man at Les Paul's wedding to Mary Ford. Paul resided in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Paul married Virginia Webb in 1938. They had two children: Les Jr. (born 1941) and Lester (born 1944); they divorced in 1949. Later that year, Paul married Mary Ford. They adopted a girl, Mary, in 1958; their son Robert was born the following year. They divorced in 1963. Paul is survived by his four children, and his companion Arlene Palmer.
Les Paul was an Honorary Board Member for Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing free musical instruments and music instruction to underfunded schools across the United States of America.
On August 13, 2009, Les Paul died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York. His family and friends were by his side. His attorney stated to the media that Paul had been "in and out of the hospital" because of illness.
On hearing of his death, many artists and musicians paid tribute by expressing their sorrow in various news media. Among those who paid tribute to Les Paul were Saul "Slash" Hudson, Trey Anastasio, Joe Satriani, Tom Morello, Ace Frehley, Brian "Head" Welch, Tad Kubler, John 5, Keith Richards, Randy Bachman and BB King.