Les Paul: The Search for the New Sound | Wisconsin Biographies

Les Paul: The Search for the New Sound | Wisconsin Biographies

January 23, 2020 0 By Kailee Schamberger


cc [guitar strums]>>This is a cherry Les Paul Sunburst guitar. It’s one of the greatest rock and roll guitars ever made. [crowd cheers] I just wonder if Les had any idea what kind of noise we’d all be makin’ with these things. His involvement in recording, and in guitar recording he’s probably the number one man. [slide guitar]>>To begin at the beginning, I was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin. About the age of seven something happened to me. I became interested in music and electronics. I noticed this one fellow was winding this wire around this toilet roll, and I says, “Hey, what in the world are you doin’?” He says, “I’m making a crystal set. That’s the newest thing, you know.” You can hear radio without no batteries, no nothing. That led my into electronics very headily. So what I did is I stole my mother and father’s radio, and I took to using this as PA system. Then I gabbed the pickup needle into the top of the guitar and turned it on. I started playin’ a record and I played my guitar. [electric guitar strum] I put that on a hollow-bodied guitar. An unwanted condition developed. So you’ve got a string doin’ this and a pickup going up and down on the top of the guitar. I’m saying, hey, only one thing should move, just the string. No matter what I played from the early ’30s on, I was totally convinced I had to pick something close to a solid-body instrument. ♪ Somewhere there’s music ♪ ♪ I’ll play the tune ♪ ♪ Somewhere there’s heaven ♪ ♪ I’ll hire the room ♪ ♪ There is no moon above ♪ ♪ And love is far away too ♪>>I went to the Gibson people and it took me about seven, eight years to finally convince ’em that this is the way to go. And I said, “Okay,” and we signed. He said, “With one stipulation, we won’t use the name Gibson. What do you suggest?” And I said, “Well, why don’t you call it the Les Paul Guitar?” [electric guitar riffs]>>Until Les Paul came into the picture up, until he really started experimented with recording techniques, the only way you could record was with several mics, live, on to tracks of tape. And the entire session had to be balanced accordingly. If horns were used and they were loader than the bass player, well that meant you put the horns farther away from the mic than the bass player. And after the record was done there was nothing to alter it. [guitar strums]>>Bing Crosby asked me one day if I’d record a song with him. Bing says, “Sounds fine to me.” And he says, “Les, what do you think?” And I says, “I don’t like it.” Bing says, “What’s wrong with that record?” And I says,”Aw, it’s technical, Bing.” I says, “There’s a lot of things that I desire that are not there.” [electric organ plays] Then the idea hit me, and I says, “I know where it’s at. It’s to stack up this machine with all eight tracks. I can record each part individually.” Let’s see, I’ve got my wife, Mary.>>Hi. Why don’t you grab a guitar and show the people what you can do?>>All right. I’ve got a lot of ideas. Here we go. [guitar plays] Now that’s one guitar. Now if you want two I just throw a switch. [switch clicks] [guitar doubles]>>How ’bout three?>>Easy. [switch clicks] [three guitar sounds play] Now if you want four, switch. [switch clicks] [guitars play]>>How ’bout five?>>It’s a cinch. [guitars play] Now if you want six here’s a half a dozen, an easy one. [switch clicks]>>He was really an innovator in modern recording techniques. It’s almost like he was the person who invented the sound of today’s pop records. This is it, this is the sound. [electric guitar plays] ♪ ♪