Les Paul turned 93 this week.
I’m guessing a lot of you..especially those of you under 40..haven’t the remotest idea of who Les Paul is. That’s too bad because he changed music forever.
In 1941, Les Paul pioneered development of the solid body electric guitar which made rock and roll possible. He also invented the 8 track recording machine which revolutionized the industry by making it possible to record on one track..listen to it played back and record more voices or instruments on each additional track.
With his wife, Mary Ford, Les Paul rolled out hit after hit in the fifties using this multiple dubbing technique. Songs like How High the Moon, Bye Bye Blues and The World is Waiting for the Sunrise sounded like a big band when it was just Les and Mary overdubbing harmonies.
In the early 50’s Les signed a deal with the Gibson Company and lent his name to a few models of guitars which he helped design. Les Paul still wowing audiences with his guitar magic at age 93
A couple years ago, I noticed an early Les Paul Gibson Guitar being appraised on the Antiques Road Show. It was a solid body from the late 50’s and it was valued at something like 20 to 30 thousand dollars!
That got me to thinking that I might just have a treasure tucked away in a dusty beat- up case that’s been sitting in the garage for over 30 years!
In 1963, I needed a guitar upgrade. Our rock band, The Couriers, were actually getting quite a few bookings and my cousin, Grouse, was getting tired of me playing his Fender guitar instead of the cheap Silvertone model I’d gotten at Sears. I’d heard about a guy in Aurora who had a Gibson electric for sale so I gave him a call. Oh, it was beautiful.A Les Paul Special cherry red solid body double cutaway duel pick-up guitar in its original fake alligator-skin case. I had to have it and somehow came up with the hundred bucks he was asking. It played great and with Grouse now happy to have his Fender back we finally looked and sounded like a real band.
We had worked a dance clear up in Selby, South Dakota. It was a bitter cold night and when we finally got home, I went right to bed and left my guitar in the cold car. Next morning when I opened the case, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; the neck on my red beauty had snapped right at the heel. Words can’t describe my devastation. I was so distraught that even my dad took pity and me and didn’t chew my butt for leaving it out in the cold. Instead, Dad..a pretty darn good cabinet maker..offered to try fix it with a couple of wooden dowels. It worked. Or at least I thought it did until I tried to play the thing. Tears rolled down my cheeks when I discovered that the least bit of pressure on the neck sent the strings out of tune. My Gibson Les Paul Special The guitar was hardly played at all and is in pretty good shape considering. The serial number is branded into the rosewood neck. The first number (9) means that the guitar was made in 1959The Gibson went into the case until sometime in the 70’s when a guitar-playing friend said he’d take a look at it. Three years later, I finally got it back only to find a few parts, like the bridge, one pick-up, back plate and a tone control knob were missing. And that’s the way it’s been ever since until the Antiques Road Show appraisal. I started doing some research and discovered that mine is a rare 1959 model and that it was only made for a few months because it had a major flaw. The necks broke on nearly ALL of them. Gibson solved the problem by moving the top electrical pick-up a couple inches lower. So it wasn’t my fault after all!Here’s the busted neck that shows my Dad’s valiant attempt at repairing the damage with a couple dowels.
What is it worth..even in its present condition? I’m not sure but I do know that guitar collectors and players absolutely love these old rock and roll axes..so maybe I’ll try find the missing pieces..put it on E-Bay and hope someone is willing to pay enough to make Linda and my retirement less dependent on our monthly social security checks.
A guy can dream can’t he?
Les Paul turned 93 this week.