NPR logo

Guitar Hero: Les Paul, 1915-2009

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/111888401/111888577" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Guitar Hero: Les Paul, 1915-2009

Guitar Hero: Les Paul, 1915-2009

Guitar Hero: Les Paul, 1915-2009

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/111888401/111888577" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Les Paul tinkers with a control board at his New Jersey home in December 1963. Paul died Aug. 13. Dan Grossi/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Dan Grossi/AP

Les Paul tinkers with a control board at his New Jersey home in December 1963. Paul died Aug. 13.

Dan Grossi/AP

How High the Moon

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/111888401/111851504" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Guitarist and inventor Les Paul — who invented the device that made the electric guitar possible — died Aug. 13 at the age of 94.

Paul's contributions to rock 'n' roll went well beyond one gadget. He designed guitars — vintage models were selling for thousands of dollars even before news of his death came — and made the first multi-track recorder. He introduced innovations that established the recording studio itself as a legitimate musical instrument. And in doing so, he shaped much of the genre's sound.

He was himself a gifted musician, moreover, with his own radio and TV shows and many a Top 40 hit in the mid-century years. Fresh Air remembers him with an archived interview from 1992.