14 Aug 2009

Legendary guitarist, inventor Les Paul dies

4:21 pm on 14 August 2009

Legendary guitarist and inventor Les Paul has died of complications from pneumonia at a New York hospital, at the age of 94.

The rock 'n' roll icon was playing regular gigs at a New York City nightclub as recently as a few months ago.

Paul had been a dominant force in the music business since World War Two. He and wife Mary Ford enjoyed a string of hits in the 1940s and 1950s that included Mockin' Bird Hill and the influential How High the Moon, which featured some of Paul's recording innovations, such as multi-layered tracks.

A passionate tinkerer, Paul created one of the first solid-body electric guitars in 1941, but it took nearly 10 years before he, working with Gibson Guitar Corp., perfected it.

In 1952, the Les Paul Goldtop became an instant sensation. In the years that followed, Gibson released Paul's Black Beauty, the Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Junior, and 1958's Les Paul Standard, with its revolutionary humbucker pickups and sunburst design that has remained unchanged for 50 years.

Tributes from the music world poured in as news of Paul's death spread.

"He was one of the most stellar human beings I've ever known," said former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who described Paul as a friend and mentor.

American guitarist Joe Satriani called Paul "the original guitar hero and the kindest of souls."