2004 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Musician and Innovator
Wisconsin Foundation for School Music presented its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Les Paul in 2004. Les returned to Wisconsin to receive the award and was celebrated by many, including musicians Steve Miller and Ben Sidran, State Superintendent Libby Burmaster, Governor Jim Doyle, and other music enthusiasts across the state.
Born June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wis., Les Paul has fostered a lifetime of musical achievements. His performing career began at the early age of 13 and by the 1950s, he was recognized as one of the greatest pop and jazz guitarist of his generation. Les Paul produced hits with his talented wife, Mary Ford, as well as with The Les Paul Trio. Such hits included “Vaya Con Dios,” “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “How High the Moon” and “Tennessee Waltz.”
As an inventor, Les Paul’s breakthrough creation of the solid-body electric guitar paved the way for rock and roll. He also perfected the first multi-track recording machine, allowing separate lines of instrumental music and vocals to be blended together. His many recording innovations – including reverb effects, sound-on-sound, overdubbing and multi-tracking – have contributed immensely to the world of music.
Les Paul gave a donation of $25,000 to WFSM in 2007 for support of music education in Wisconsin. He is honored by WFSM at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education in the Les Paul Atrium.
Les Paul will always have a special place in our hearts, and we are forever grateful that we had the opportunity to know him, honor him and welcome him back to Wisconsin.
“When I got my first guitar my fingers wouldn’t go to the sixth string so I took off the big E and played with just five strings. I was only 6 or 7.”
“And there’s a big bay window in my house, and that window stayed perfectly still until that train started to chug. At a certain speed, I could reach up and feel the pane, and that glass pane would vibrate. I said, Doggone, there’s got to be a reason for this. So I go to the kindergarten teacher, and she takes me to the science teacher, and the science teacher takes me to the library and reads it off to me — “This is called resonance.” That was the beginning.”
Les Paul: American musician and innovator, regarded as the father of the electric guitar. Born Lester William Polsfuss on June 9, 1915, he died on August 12, 2009.