Monday, August 17, 2009

DJ Les Paul

Les Paul was a gearhead. It's more common to think of his as a guitarist now, but in his heyday, he was a gearhead tried and true. it's a term we often don't use now as the technically includes are off writing computer code and not handing hardware with any actual gears. He was born Lester William Polfuss at Waukesha, WI in 1915. He became a teenager during the rise of radio. that's just about perfect timing for a gearhead.

But since you all know him as a guitarist.. i'll start there and segue awkwardly. He started on banjo but quickly moved to guitar. It's no surprise to anyone that he was a prodigy. he was playing semi-professionally at the age of 13. a local drive-in restaurant at the age of 13. It was as a guitarist that his gearhead inclinations became more pronounced. He wanted his guitar louder. Using a phonograph needle wire and a radio speaker he did it. It was the beginning of the electric guitar. This you should already know. there are other claimants. They are just jealous currs.

He dropped out of high school. He started playing with country & western bands and they played on radio stations throughout the midwest including WHAD-AM in Milwaukee, and WRJN-AM in Racine. He played unnamed station in Appleton, Iron Mountain, etc. The WLS Barndance in Waukesha, WISN-AM in Milwaukee, KBGA-AM and KWTO-AM in Springfield, IL.

In 1931 he met Sunny Joe Wolverton who got him a gig in Rube Tronsons Texas Cowboys. Then he got a gig on the "Farm Folks Hour" on KMOX-AM in St. Louis. In Chicago he began playing under the name Rhubarb Red on account of his red hair. In Chicago they played on WIND-AM and WJJD-AM. He was offered a steady gig at WBBM-AM still as Rhubarb Red but now with the Ozark Appleknockers.

In Chicago he formed the first of the Les Paul trios. They moved to New York where they were discovered by Fred Waring of Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. They toured together. It gave Les actual connections but Waring and Paul fell out a bit over all the attention that exotic electric guitar got. Les went back to Chicago to MD at WBBM but the office didn't suit him. he moved to the Ben Bernie Orchestra.

During the war Les was recruited into the Armed Forces Radio Service where he made trascription recordings. Even after he was discharged he continued to make AFRS recordings through C.P. MacGregor. After the war he the Les Paul Show debuted on NBC. It was a 15 minute program featuring himself Mary Ford and Eddie Stapleton. I wont rehash all that. I'll let Easy Ace do what it does best. He's got some Les Paul programs from the 1950s posted here.