Ralph’s contribution to Les’ first invention

You probably have seen several photos of Les Paul’s first invention. Young Lester had been singing and playing his harmonica for several years before he got his first guitar. Although he relished playing the guitar, he wanted to continue to play the harmonica and sing. Other people had racks that held harmonicas, but their harmonicas had to stay in one position. Les wanted access to both sides of his harmonica without having to stop playing his guitar.

As with his later inventions, Les tried many versions before he was satisfied.

“Why did you choose a wire coat hanger to build your first harmonica holder?”

Les laughed as he explained that his older brother Ralph worked at Waukesha’s Bell View Dye Works, Dry Cleaning and Pressing. “There always were plenty of wire coat hangers in the house,” Les explained.

Les’ brother Ralph and Les

Les described how it took experimentation to get the rack to stay in place. He added the wood slats to the back and front to stabilize the rack.

Les kept his harmonica rack. A few years before passing, he demonstrated how his unique design allowed him to flip the harmonica with his chin while still playing the guitar. Hmmm, perhaps this first invention was a foreshadowing of Les’ desire to produce multiple sounds in his performances. Foreshadowing or not, from the time he was around 14 years old Red Hot Red used his harmonica rack regularly.

See Also:
Les Paul’s Multi-Track Tape Recording Concept Provided a Powerful and Enabling Tool in the World of Science
The Les Paul Legacy: Technological Innovations

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