Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Les Paul Foundation launches website on late guitar innovator's 95th birthday

Twenty-three years ago today, when Les Paul turned 72 years young, Jimmy Page turned up at Fat Tuesday's jazz club in New York for a jam session attended by stars including Jeff Beck.

On Monday nights between 1984 and 1996, Paul played weekly sets there. From 1996 on, he moved those gigs to his own New York jazz club, the Iridium. The innovator of modern guitar and recording was just that accessible to fans long after he was said to have "retired from performing" all the way back in 1964.

Last night, Beck returned to New York, performing at the Iridium the first of two shows, in part to celebrate the first Les Paul birthday since his death last summer. Beck's second show takes place tonight, on the same day a foundation established in Paul's name officially launches a new, interactive website,

One section of the site is "The Les Paul Legacy," regarding his achievements in life, such as an attempt to create the first "solid-body" guitar in 1928, his assembly of "The Log" in 1941, and invention of the "sound on sound" multitracking tape machine in 1949, one year after a near-fatal car accident involving him and his touring partner and future wife, Mary Ford. His design of the first eight-track tape recorder came in 1954.

It is for innovations like these that Paul is highly regarded by numerous musicians such as Led Zeppelin's own Jimmy Page. He said in the July 2008 issue of Q Magazine, "Les Paul was so far ahead of the time, he was like a scientist." A few months ago, Page repeated the same idea to Mojo magazine, saying, "He was a scientist, a creator as well as a musician. He was a sonic architect."

The Les Paul Foundation, through its new website, is announcing some newly formed community programs. According to an announcement released today:
In the spirit of the lifelong contributions of Les Paul, the foundation will provide grants to institutions to conduct medical research including research related to hearing impairment. Additionally, the foundation is in the process of creating scholarships and grants for studies in electronic, mechanical and aural areas of music to stimulate the advancement of technical aspects and pleasures of music.

Another focus of the foundation will be to catalog the instruments, inventions and other Les Paul memorabilia to create exhibits displaying the accomplishments of Paul's life and his achievements in the advancements of sound. Exhibits are currently on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The foundation website also contains a "Community" section, which hosts a fan forum with photos and videos. Foundation trustee Jeff Salmon said in a statement, "Les was such a people person that this intersection of community outreach and interactive website is very much his persona."

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