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YOU SAVED MY LIFE, LES

August 19, 2009

LesPaulLOGO

I decided I was going to play music for a living when I was 15 years old. Although the instrument that I was trained to play was piano, I actually started a band playing a cheap acoustic 12-string with an even cheaper electronic pick-up. (I was a fan of The Byrds.) It took longer to tune the guitar than it did to play the entire Beatles White Album.

One night, I had the house to myself and I decided to hold rehearsal in the living room, using our spinet piano, a Baldwin Acrosonic.

MeSpinet

While rehearsing with the piano instead of the 12-string, I realized I was wasting my time trying to learn guitar. Eric Clapton, I’m not. I made the decision then to save up my money and buy an electric piano.

So how does Les Paul fit into this picture?

Yes, he invented the solid body electric guitar.

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It’s true, that along with his wife, Mary Ford, he was a very successful performer and recording artist. They were one of the best known singing acts of their time.

LP Cover

But none of this directly affected me. I’m thanking him for something else – something that many electric guitar fans don’t know about him. Les Paul  invented the tool that saved me from a “normal” life:

The multi-channel audio recorder.

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His first recorder (1948) did not use tape, but acetate discs. He eventually contracted the Ampex corporation to build the very first multi-channel tape recorder. Here’s Les in 1949 using his invention – with audio tape.

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Les Paul and his wife, Mary Ford had a home studio. Many very popular songs were recorded here. 

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By the time I was able to afford the “luxury” of recording, stereo (2 channel) reel-to-reel tape recorders for home use were common. I started collecting equipment in 1968. By 1972, I had my first “studio.”

Studio01

I was actually able to record 3 channels of sound by taking the stereo recording of one tape recorder and “mixing” down to one channel of a second stereo recorder, leaving the other channel to record something else.

I went through the “bigger is better” stage in the late 70s and early 80s. I look at this picture now and say, “What the hell was I thinking?” In order to accurately listen to those speakers, you have to be at least 30 feet away.

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Finally, in the late 1980s, I managed to pull the funds together for a true 8 channel recording system. Note the much smaller speakers. 🙂

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My desire to create recordings has never diminished. It’s on an even par with performing. Today, my recording studio is a combination of analog and digital. I’ve also incorporated video production.

 AerialShot

Les was 93 years old when this picture was taken in 2008.

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That smile tells you everything you need to know about how great it is to experience something other than a “normal” life.

Thanks, Les.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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