The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


2008: Les Paul

The Wizard of Waukesha:

The Life and Legacy of Les Paul

 

Extraordinary musician and inventor Les Paul is the honoree for the 13th Annual American Music Masters® series.  Les Paul performed with the  “Les Paul Trio” during the tribute concert.  As a player, inventor and recording artist, Les Paul has been an innovator from the early years of his life. Born Lester William Polfus in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the first instrument he learned to play was actually the harmonica at age eight. After brief experimentation with the piano, Paul picked up the guitar, not knowing he would one day shape the sound of songs composed by countless musicians around the world. Because of his pioneering work, Paul is often called the “Father of the Electric Guitar.” The Les Paul guitar has become a staple instrument among discerning rock guitarists. This list of musicians associated with the Gibson Les Paul includes Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons and Jimmy Page. 

Events celebrating Les Paul''s life and career included interviews, film screenings, Rockin' the Schools classes, a Teachers Rock session, a conference and performances.

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Professor Steve Waksman, author of Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience was the 2008 American Music Masters keynote speaker and essayist for the collector's program.  You can read his thoughtful essay about Les Paul here.

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Tribute Concert Performers at the State Theatre

Saturday, November 15 at 8:00pm

 Learn more about the 2008 Tribute Concert

Wilbert's Performers

The night before the Tribute Concert, Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks performed at Wilbert's in Cleveland. 

Conference at Case Western Reserve University

On Saturday, November 15 from 9am until 4pm at Case Western Reserve University's Wolstein Auditorium, scholars, artists, journalists and fans gathered at a conference to reflect on the career of Les Paul and his impact on recorded music and the development of the electric guitar.  Participants included Les Paul himself, producer Bob Cutarella, author Robb Lawrence, film producer Glenn Aveni and director John Paulson, musicologist Steve Waksman, and David C. Barnett from Cleveland's WVIZ/PBS Ideastream.  The conference also included a guitar clinic with the Ventures.

Guitar Clinic Featuring Jennifer Batten

Sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at CWRU, this hour-long program in Harkness Chapel on Friday, November 14 featured a live guitar workshop by Jennifer Batten who played with Michael Jackson on his Bad tour.  Batten discussed guitar techniques in an interactive multimedia presentation.

Film Screening: Chasing Sound (2007)

On Thursday, November 13, Case Western Reserve University screened the documentary Chasing Sound that explores Les Paul's rags-to-riches story featuring a wall-to-wall soundtrack of greatest hits and includes interviews with B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Tony Bennett, Jeff Beck and more.  Director John Paulson and producers Glenn Aveni and James Arntz introduced the film and participated in a Q&A session afterward.

Gibson Guitar Presents the Les Paul Guitar: An Evening with the Luthiers at the Rock Hall

On Wednesday, November 12, luthiers Michael McGuire, Frank Johns and Ren Ferguson took us behind the scenes into the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into building a Gibson guitar. 

Teachers Rock: Guitars in the Classroom at the Rock Hall

On Wednesday, November 12, Rock Hall educators and Gibson luthiers talked about the history of the Les Paul Gibson guitar with local guitar teachers, music teachers and other educators from the Northeast Ohio area.  

An Evening with Henry Juszkiewicz and Special Guest Ace Frehley

On Tuesday, November 11, Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar led the audience through the story of Gibson Guitar's history and leadership in music innovation.  Special guest Ace Frehley talked about playing the guitar and demonstrated some of his signature riffs.

Rock and Roll Night School: The Les Paul Sound

On Monday, November 10, Case Western Reserve Professor of Music Dr. Mary Davis, Rock Hall Vice President of Education and Public Programs, Dr. Lauren Onkey and Rock Hall Director of Education Jason Hanley discussed the life and music of Joplin at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.

 

Selected Song List

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Students learn about Les Paul's innovations in Rock Hall K-12 programming


Additional Resources