Lester William Polsfuss, the man who revolutionized music and changed how we think about guitar forever, had a journey that began on June 9th 1915, and ended on August 12th, 2009, at the age of 94. Les Paul was a master of his craft and pioneered many techniques that are still used today, and his influence remains throughout every facet of popular culture.
He was one of the most innovative and influential electric guitarists in history. His unique style and tone left a lasting impact on the music industry. But his story is about much more than just his music career. He also had an interesting personal life, marked by many ups and downs.
From his humble beginnings to his legendary status as a musician and inventor. You’ll learn about all his accomplishments and the relationships he formed along the way. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who loves music or wants to know more about one of its greatest pioneers. So sit back, relax and enjoy learning about one of music’s greatest legends!
Early Life of Les Paul: The Beginning
Les Paul’s story starts in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he was born to George and Evelyn Polfuss. He is of German ancestry through his mother, who also came from a family linked to Stutx automobiles and Milwaukee’s Valentin Blatz Brewing Company.
After his parents separated, his mother altered their family’s Prussian last name first into ‘Polfuss’. Then finally transformed it into ‘Polfus’. When eight-year-old Paul began playing the harmonica, it wasn’t long before he had mastered the guitar. But his innovative ideas for holding both instruments hands-free while performing on stage gained attention.
During his childhood, Paul performed as “Red Hot Red’ and ‘Rhubarb’ before taking the stage name Les Paul. By thirteen, this talented young singer/guitarist was crafting country tunes that would make anyone want to get up from their seat and listen closely.
The Career of Les Paul: A Monumental Journey
Les began his career in Chicago, where he learned to play jazz from the great performers on Southside. He spent his daytime hours playing country music as Rhubarb Red for WBBM radio station and his evenings were at local fairs around town. It brought him together with other talented musicians where he played jazz.
It was during these sessions that Les added sounds & create something new himself! But it wasn’t until 1936 that Producer/Studio owner Jack Kapp decided to put out records that were credited simply ‘LES’ instead of using one name across multiple genres. This would become known among fans later down through history as Les made the Epiphone Les paul standard a trend.
After forming a trio with rhythm guitarist Jim Atkins and Ernie “Darius” Newton in 1937, they left Chicago for New York City, where Paul formed what would later be known as “The Les-Paul Trio.” The group had their first big break on Fred Waring’s radio show.
With his program, the Les Paul Show aired on NBC Radio in 1950, he introduced listeners to a new style of music that would be incorporated into jazz and popular culture. His sense of humor, combined with Ford’s bridging musical selections, made this show an enjoyable experience for all!
Les went into semi-retirement after he and his wife Ford divorced in 1964. He returned to recording music occasionally, most notably with an album for London Records/Phase 4 Stereo that came out in 1968; it features updated versions of earlier hits like “Hobo’s Blues.”
One track on this release was played by him alone. The Epiphone Les paul studio playing is recognizable even though no vocals or other instruments are involved. He also recorded two more albums in 1976 and 1978.
Les Paul’s Personal Life and his Love Interest Mary Ford
Les Paul’s life was an interesting journey that spanned not only his musical career but also his love interests and family. He married Virginia Webb in 1937, and together, they had two children, Gene and Les Paul Junior (Rusty).
When Paul first had his eyes on singer Iris Colleen Summers in 1945, they collaborated on his radio show. They were known as The Ozark Apple Knockers with Mary Lou before he suggested it be called “Mary Ford.”
They recorded multiple songs in which Ford harmonized, and Paul played different guitars, and it was a great Les Paul deal. Les and Mary were a handsome couple with their whole life ahead of them. After divorcing Virginia Webb in 1949, Paul and Mary Ford married in Milwaukee.
Their marriage went well for 15 years till Les and Mary decided to divorce. After splitting up, Paul had a house in Mahwah, New Jersey, and Mary lived there for her remaining life. Paul’s legacy lives on through the Les Paul Foundation.
It was intended to remain inactive until his death. The foundation inspires creative and innovative thinking by sharing what it has learned about music education as well as medical hearing research.
Remembering The Legendary Les Paul
Les Paul was a musician, songwriter, and inventor who had a huge impact on the development of modern music. He was one of the first people to experiment with sound recording and multitrack technology. His guitar playing style is always influential, and he helped to create some of the most popular songs of all time. If you’re interested in learning more about such fascinating figures, be sure to check out our blog posts.