Music as we know it would not be possible without Les Paul. Not only was he an immensely influential guitarist, but he also did extensive early work on the electric guitar. Originally he attached the components to a railroad tie to prove that it could be done. Later he designed the guitar that bore his name and became hugely popular among musicians. Even now people who play electric tend to choose either a Fender or a Gibson Les Paul.
But his biggest contributions may have come in recording technology. Paul invented multi-track recording and close-mic recording, among other innovations.
He suffered a major setback in an auto accident and the doctors wanted to amputate his left arm, which would obviously end his career as a working guitarist. He persuaded the doctors to instead set it at a permanent angle and retaught himself how to play.
He is the only person enshrined in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In this video, he explains his recording technique to Alistair Cooke of the BBC. The panel is astonishing and all the technology now fits in your shirt pocket. He and then-wife Mary Ford demonstrate how it works. When you turn on any music, you’ll hear how he changed things forever.
In case you don’t understand what he did, here’s an example of earlier recording technology: quite a bit different!