Campus DJ Celebrates Les Paul’s 100th Birthday

By Janelle Abad
Local Music Director

Photo courtesy of the Les Paul Foundation
Photo courtesy of the Les Paul Foundation

Guitar legend and musical innovator Les Paul would have celebrated his 100th birthday this past June. Campus DJ and the Les Paul Foundation is honoring his impact on the music industry with a 1000 square foot interactive state-of-the-art trailer tour to college campuses nationwide. The tour is dubbed as the Les Paul Big Sound Experience and tells narrates Les Paul’s life as a pioneer for music. The tour will celebrate its first birthday this June.

Texas State Sound Recording Technology major Jacob Reynolds attended the Les Paul event last Friday at the Village at Telluride and participated in the interactive experience.

“I thought it was really cool because it walked you through the history of Les Paul and how he changed the recording industry – not only his guitar innovations, but how he created the whole tape thing going on,” said Reynolds. “They had cool interactive stuff where you could mix in a way that Les Paul had it going. You could add delay or compression or an EQ or something and put it together like one of his personal songs. Then they send you an email of your personal mix afterwards.”

Les Paul’s impact, however still lives outside of the interactive trailer. With the help of Gibson President Ted McCarthy and others, the Gibson Les Paul solid body guitar has become a household name for guitarists worldwide, most especially being one of the first mass-produced electric solid-body guitars to go out in the market. Guitarist Juan Magana in the Houston-based garage-rock group A Tribute to the Sun said, It’s funny, I watch a lot of guitarist gear rundown videos and see a guitarist from a band with an instrument with a price tag equal to my yearly college tuition. They express how every detail is meticulously inspected, and expand in depth on the pristine unattainable mojo in that specific guitar. After that they reach over and say ‘this is my #1,’ and pick up a Les Paul.”

Not only did the pioneer bring the solid-body guitar to this world, but also a basic design of a flip-able harmonica holder that has been used by music legends John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and more. This makeshift version of the harmonica holder was crafted simply by a metal coat hanger and a small piece of wood that would sit on the chest.

With the belief that the radio was the most important thing in his home as a child, he grew to become the innovator of eight track machines for multitrack recording. Before mastering his technique, Les Paul went through his own trials, tribulations and moments of defeat. “I took away [from the Les Paul Big Sound Experience] that it’s okay to screw up and experiment with new ways of doing things,” Reynolds said. “There was a part where they ask ‘How many records does it take to create a new sound?’ It said something like 500 records because back in that day, there was no undo. If you were recording a tape, that was it. It was kind of a nice reassuring thought to know ‘hey this guy is a pro and he screwed up plenty of times.'”

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