• 0
    June 9, 1915
    Les was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin to Evelyn and George Polsfuss and lived in an apartment above George's business at 109 North Street until 1919.
  • 1
    1925
    While working on his newspaper route, Les noticed one of his fellow newsboys wrapping wire around an oatmeal box. The kid said he was making a crystal radio set. Of course, Les had to make his own and that was the beginning of Les' career in electronics.
  • 2
    1927
    Given this name by his mother, Les was now performing for tips and was well known by everyone in town. This fame led to his first paid gig at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee.
  • 3
    1928
    Les used a piece of rail from a railroad, two railroad spikes, a guitar string, and a telephone microphone and wired it into his mother’s radio. He used this devise as a reference point for all of his guitar experiments.
  • 4
    1929
    Les wanted to record himself so he could study his performance. He took the flywheel from an old motor found behind his father’s garage, combined it with an endless belt from his dentist, an aluminum disk and a nail and made his first recording.
  • 5
    1932
    Les’ mother knew he was destined to do great things. She wanted him to finish school, but when Sunny Joe Wolverton called asking Les to join him in St. Louis, she rode the bus with him to St. Louis and off he went. He joined the musicians union, became a member of The Scalawags and Sunny Joe changed his name to Rhubarb Red.
  • 6
    1934
    Les and Joe became staff musicians at WBBM Radio, performed at the Chicago’s World’s Fair and did commercials for Peruna, Sendol and Big Yank work shirt company.
  • 7
    1934
    After Sunny Joe Wolverton move to Australia, Les remained in Chicago and began playing jazz piano, but after meeting and hearing the great Art Tatum, Les went back to playing guitar. He jammed with all the greats and started using the name Les Paul when he played jazz. On the radio, he still was Rhubarb Red.
  • 8
    1935
    Les was thinking about heading to New York. At an event, Jimmy Atkins (Chet's brother) introduced himself to Les. Jimmy was a singer and rhythm guitarist and his friend Ernie Newton was a bass player. Both wanted to go to New York. When the three rehearsed there was great chemistry and they became The Les Paul Trio.
  • 9
    1938
    In the hallway of NYC's 53rd Street Theatre, Les' Trio ran into Fred Waring waiting for an elevator. Mr. Waring said he didn't have time to audition them, but before the elevator arrived they played a quick rendition of After You've Gone and he signed them on the spot.
  • 10
    1939
    Les, Ernie and Jim cut four sides for Columbia: "Out of Nowhere", "Swanee River","Where is Love" and "Goodbye, My Lover, Goodbye".
  • 11
    1941
    Les built “The Log” by attaching a standard Epiphone neck, strings and wings to a 4x4 board and adding a pickup. Many consider this to be the first solidbody electric guitar.
  • 12
    1943
    Les moved to California and was drafted into the Army. He became a member of Armed Forces Radio Service, where he made V-Disc recordings and produced the AFRS radio shows. That summer, Les played with Nat Cole during the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in Los Angeles.
  • 13
    1945
    Les had the trio rehearse in a small room at NBC that he knew Bing used to visit before every show. After overhearing Les and the trio, Bing hired the group to be part of his radio show. Shortly after, they made this first recording together, which became a number one hit.
  • 14
    1945
    When Les was looking for a female singer Gene Autry suggested he audition Colleen Summers. Les had converted his garage into a recording studio. When Colleen arrived, Les was mowing the lawn. She thought he was the gardener.
  • 15
    1947-48
    Les signs with Capitol Records and introduces the technique of multi-tracking when he releases his New Sound recordings with multiple overdubbed gLPFRed8892uitars including his first solo hit Lover
  • 16
    1948
    Returning to California from Waukesha, Les and Mary’s Buick convertible slid off an ice-covered overpass in Oklahoma. Mary suffered minor injuries. Les broke his collarbone, nose, shoulder, six ribs, fractured his pelvis, punctured his spleen and shattered his right elbow. Les nearly died, then a doctor wanted to amputate Les’ right arm.
  • 17
    1949
    A year and a half after his car accident, Les had his final cast removed and was ready to play again. His father and brother were opening the Club 400 in Waukesha and Les agreed to be the opening act. His buddy Warren Downey played bass, but Les needed a rhythm guitar player. He told Mary, "I've got a guitar in the car, you're my rhythm guitar player."
  • 18
    1949
  • 19
    1949
    Les enjoyed being with his family during the holidays. On December 29th , with rocker Steve Miller’s parents as witnesses, Les and Mary were married at the Milwaukee County Courthouse followed by a celebration with family and friends.
  • 20
    1950
  • 21
    1951
    Les had been working on different arrangements of this song for over a year. Jim Conkling, head of A and R at Capitol Records, didn’t want to release it saying there were already many versions that hadn’t made it. Les recorded it and sent it to Jim with a note saying, “Here’s your next number #1.” He was right.
  • 22
    1952
    Gibson released the Gold Top, the first commercial Les Paul model solid-body electric guitar.
  • 23
    1953
    The popular program of singing and banter ran for 5 minutes, 5 times a day, 5 days a week. Filming was done at Les and Mary’s New Jersey home.
  • 24
    1956
    Les initially introduced the Les Paulverizer on the Les Paul and Mary Ford radio show to explain his sound on sound recording technique. Les invented a little black box that allowed him and Mary to reproduce their multiple guitar and vocal magic live on stage.
  • 25
    1957
    Les worked four years modifying his design of the eight track recorder before he recorded any song on it.
  • 26
    1958
  • 27
    1960
  • 28
    1964
    Though Les decided to retire after he and Mary divorced, saying, “Let the young guys play the hot guitar now,” he continued working on various inventions and designing ideas for a new line of Gibson Les Paul guitars.
  • 29
    1975
    Catherine Orentreich, an NYU film student, produced a documentary about Les. It included, interviews with Les, footage from a live concert of Les performing with son Bobby on drums as well as interviews with some of Rock’s top guitar players.
  • 30
    1976
    This was Les first recording in many years. Down Beat Magazine said: 'It is a vivid one-volume history of the electric guitar, a bonafide super session, required listening. Both a popular and critical success.' It won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
  • 31
    1977
  • 32
    1983
  • 33
    1984
  • 34
    1985
  • 35
    1988
  • 36
    1988
  • 37
    1990
  • 38
    1994
  • 39
    1996
    Les played every Monday night to within a few months of his passing.
  • 40
    1996
  • 41
    1996
  • 42
    2001
  • 43
    2004
  • 44
    2005
    Les received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • 45
    2005
  • 46
    2005
    Les wins a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (“Caravan”) and Best Rock Instrumental Performance (“69 Freedom Special”) for Les Paul and Friends (Capitol), his first new album in almost 30 years. Among Paul’s musical partners were Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Guy.
  • 47
    2007
    This award winning documentary is regarded as the definitive portrait of Les the musician, inventor and American legend. It captures him in his final ribald and roasting-toasting performances, hilarious interviews and a privileged behind-the-scenes tour of his museum-like New Jersey home.
  • 48
    2007
    When the President gave him the medal he shook his hand asked Les how he was. Les replied that he was hungry. So President George W. Bush and Les Paul went to the White House kitchen and the President made a peanut butter sandwich for each of them.
  • 49
    August 12, 2009
  • 50
    April 18, 2010
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