Brief Story of the Gibson Les Paul
If you know a little about guitars, then it’s safe to say you are familiar with the Gibson Les Paul. To talk about the Gibson Les Paul, however, we have to go way back to June 9th, 1915 when Lester William Polfus was born.
Les Paul, the innovator and musician, is known not only for his guitars, but also for many other inventions he carries under his belt. From his famous feed multiplier called “Les Paulverizer” to wicked recording devices, he’s recognized all over the world for being a top notch inventor and talented music innovator.
Les Paul: Beginnings
An electronics prodigy and creative genius, ‘Les Paul’ grew up with an instinctive talent to build things and an inherent interest in all things musical. At the age of 9, he designed his first ever invention with great success, and it was at around this age that he began playing the guitar, quickly establishing a notable reputation by his late teenage years.
During his late 20’s, in 1941, Les Paul built a solid body electric guitar in an attempt to minimize the vibration losses that occur with a resonating chamber. The result was an instrument that sustained sound better, with vibrations that were reproduced electrically through an amplified current- but that didn’t look quite like a guitar.
Gibson Says No
Disregarding aesthetics and happy with the achievement of his goal, Les Paul submitted his guitar idea to Gibson, only to be turned down in air of it looking like “a broom-stick with pickups.”
Shortly after, Leo Fender beat Les Paul to the marketplace, and released his original Fender Broadcaster – an almost identical prototype to the Les Paul, and parallel to the original release of the electric Rickenbacker in the 30’s. The broadcaster was the first solid-bodied guitar to be mass produced and commercialized, and underwent enormous success upon release. Had Gibson taken a second glance at Les Paul’s creation, they’d be the ones holding that title today.
Back then; Gibson paid the price of ignorance by experiencing a significant decline in sales to the increasing popularity of Fender guitars. To get back the edge over consumers, Gibson took Les Paul’s design, and tweaked it to release the new Gibson Les Paul.
Gibson’s Les Paul marketability was restricted due to high competition from Fender and other brands, but it wasn’t long until Eric Clapton picked it up that it was the guitar of the moment. Fast forwarding to today, Les Pauls are probably one of the best known guitars in the world, having been endorsed by most, if not all, of the music legends that we devotedly admire.
Next time you pick a Gibson Les Paul you might just not look at it the same. To think that it was once called a ‘broomstick with pickups,’ from Gibson themselves…Today, it’s probably one of Gibson’s bestselling guitars, ever!