Guitar hero Les Paul ready for Rock Hall tribute

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- When Les Paul's grandchildren are jamming on the video game "Guitar Hero," it's not lost on him that he made it all possible.

Paul, known as the "Father of the Electric Guitar," will be honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's annual American Music Masters series, a weeklong event that starts Monday.

Paul is a rock 'n' roll da Vinci, part artist, part inventor, and at age 93 still performs weekly at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City.

"It's therapy," Paul said Thursday.

Paul recalled that the first time he heard a guitar on his mother's radio he knew he had to have one. By age 13, he was performing semiprofessionally as a country-music guitarist.

He built a solid-body electric guitar in 1941 - an invention born from his frustration that audiences were unable to hear him play.

Paul remembers the moment when inspiration hit. He was playing at a barbecue stand somewhere between his hometown of Waukesha, Wis., and Milwaukee when a man told him his guitar wasn't loud enough.

It took Paul 10 years to sell the Gibson guitar company on the concept.

"They thought it was a crazy idea to make a guitar come through an amplifier," he said.

In 1952, Gibson introduced the Les Paul model, which became the instrument of choice for musicians such as Duane Allman and Jimmy Page.

"We now could be king because you could turn the level up and you could be heard and you could play things that you could never have played acoustically," Paul said.

Paul's other innovations include recording techniques like close miking, echo delay, overdubbing and multitracking. He also made his mark as a jazz-pop musician, recording hits like "How High the Moon" with his second wife, singer Mary Ford.

Paul was inducted into the early influence category of the Rock Hall in 1988.

He said he still tinkers with new ideas and is busy designing four new amplifiers and two new guitars for Gibson, including a model that beginners can afford but still fall in love with.

"Most of the people that I know that have a guitar love that guitar like they do their wife," he said.

Paul will perform at a tribute concert Nov. 15 that caps the American Music Masters series. He will be joined by a legion of guitar virtuosos, including Slash, Duane Eddy, Billy Gibbons and the Ventures.

"I'm very grateful to the generation that came after me and picked up the instrument and carried on with it," Paul said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am."


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