Les Paul Reflects on Career of Innovation In Previously Unpublished Interview | Bacon's Archive

Editor's note: This post is part of a series of unpublished interviews from the personal research archive of noted guitar writer Tony Bacon. These interviews will be appearing on Reverb in the coming months.

Stay tuned for more interviews from Bacon's Archive coming soon. For previous installments, take a look at Tony's interviews with Tom Petty and Chet Atkins, as well as a deeper look into the recording of Sgt. Pepper's.

This is a compilation of the various interviews I did with Les Paul, from the first time we met in 1989, until the last time we spoke, shortly before his death at the age of 94 in 2009. His achievements were manifold, not least in determining the way pop music could sound, but also in the evolution of early recording techniques and in the development of the Gibson Les Paul.

As well as having an enjoyable chat, I wanted to get to some facts during our conversations that I could use in my books, and often it was hard to set apart what really happened and what was occurring largely in his vivid imagination. Les was always engaging and entertaining, always eager to be at the heart of whatever subject you cared to offer him, and I wouldn’t have missed our frolics through history for anything.

Les Paul

It’s three in the morning. Are you always up at this time?

Yeah. I work nights.

Should I call you Mr. Paul?

Call me Lest.

Short for Lester?

Short for Lester, right.

When did you change your name from Lester Polfus?

I changed that back when I was a kid. I started out as Rhubarb Red, as a hillbilly. Then I went to the name Les Paul, in 1934, because I didn’t want to confuse country with jazz and so forth. I was on NBC in the mornings, I was a hillbilly. Then the noon, afternoon, and evenings I was jazz. I played two different ways and had two different names.

Talking of names, how do you spell your original surname? I’ve seen it spelled lots of different ways.

Rhubarb Red And His Rubes - "Midnight Special"

It’s German. It’s P, O, L, F, U, S.

In those early days, what record company were you signed to?

The first label I went on was Montgomery Ward, in 1936.

What did you do with them?

I was Rhubarb Red. I sang and played on a song called "Just Because," and it was a hit, in ’36. The next was 1939 on Okeh Records, which was a subsidiary of Columbia. Then in 1942 I did all the Army transcriptions—I was in the Armed Forces Radio Service. So I did nothing but work with my group, my orchestra, for the AFRS, for the war.

That lasted 'til the end of the war, and then I made a deal with Decca Records and Bing Crosby, in ’45. Bing is the one who took me over to Decca, got me signed up with them. I owe a great deal to Bing—it was because of him that I became known around the world. He called me one day and he said Les, You gotta get on. He said, Would you make a record with me? I said, I'll be right over.

I made a record with him as fast as I could, "It's Been A Long Long Time," and to my surprise it went right to number one. And when it was number one all over the world, on the strength of that record I got a job in Needles, California, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, playing for four bartenders and an Indian, Bing got a job with Paramount, and it seemed to work out good for both of us.

Les Paul with Bing Crosby - "It's Been A Long Long Time"

Were you with Decca for long?

Until I started making the multitrack records with Capitol, in 1947, which went on to 1959. Then I went with Columbia, ’59 to ’61. In ’61 I retired, and then came out of retirement later in the ‘60s to make a record for London Records, on Phase Four [An arranging and recording technique the record label used to emphasize the possibilities of stereo sound. - Ed.]. And in 1976 I went with Victor [RCA] to make Chester And Lester, with Chet Atkins.

You must have been recording to disc to begin with.

Oh yeah, I started out with aluminum discs, and then wire, and then to wax, then to acetate, and then to tape.

What were the studios like when you first started to record?

When I first started recording they had a gravity feed, a weight that went down a shaft, and that’s what turned the motor. That was 1927.

What were you playing?

Country, and rhythm and blues. I was doing a lot of things that the Rolling Stones picked up on, and the Grateful Dead. I did a lot of rhythm and blues things. The Grateful Dead made “Deep Elem Blues.”

When did you first get interested in recording?

That started in the late ‘20s, when my mother got a player piano. I stared at that thing and wondered what would happen if I poked some holes in the roll, and when I found they played notes, the next thing you know I was doing a multiple. I found it was the first form of digital.

Les Paul - "Deep Elem Blues"

Because it’s binary, on or off?

Sure, an on-and-off switch.

What about recording guitar?

I started recording the guitar in 1928. And the first amplifier was that same year, 1928, where I took a phonograph pickup, jabbed it in the guitar, took a telephone apart, slid it it under the strings, and ended up playing at a roadhouse—which is a hamburger stand, you know? It was between Waukesha and Milwaukee, the two towns where I lived and where I worked.

I worked at this barbecue stand, and they couldn’t hear me in their cars, complained I wasn’t loud enough. So I took my mother’s radio, and I sang into that, with a telephone for a mike. Then I took the other half of the telephone, the part you’re listening with, pushed it under the strings, and used that to amplify the guitar. I robbed my father’s radio and my mother’s radio.

Were your customers happier?

The customers were happier. The tips went up, and I went up. It worked out real good.

You talked about how Bing Crosby fixed you up with Decca. I believe he also was important in your early recording experiments.

In the early ‘40s, I was in the army, and Bing said, What I’d like to do is build a studio for you in Hollywood. Bing and I, we’re riding up and down the street, and here’s a beautiful place, what about this? I said you know Bing, I gotta tell you, I really don’t want to get into the recording thing—I just want to play the guitar. And so he turned around the car and we went back to the parking lot at NBC, and that was the end of it.

I went home that day, and two friends of mine were sitting in the backyard. They said what happened? I said oh, I was recording with Bing for the Army, and he thought I should build my own studio because I had so many good ideas. And they says, Well, why don’t you do it? I told them I turned him down, and my two friends says, Well, why don’t we build it right here in the garage? So we built it in the garage. I backed the car out, we nailed the doors shut, climbed through the window. And [laughs] we made sure we had the piano in there before we dealt with that. We were smart enough to do that.

What did you do in there?

I started recording all kinds of people around the house, The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Gene Austin, Gene Autry, everybody. The next thing you know, I had a very popular studio, in Hollywood. By ’45 I was running all kinds of hits out of there, but none of my own. I was making them for other people and learning all about mixing and so forth. By 1946, I was on tour with The Andrews Sisters, and my mother came to see me.

She said, I heard you on the air last night and you sounded great. And I said mum, I wasn’t on the air last night—I’ve been playing seven shows a day at the Chicago Theatre. She says, Well then you’d better sue ‘em, 'cause there’s people out there that are stealing your stuff. She said, You ought to do something so that you’re different than anybody else. She got that in my head.

I gave notice to The Andrews Sisters in Chicago and drove back to California, and I said, I’m gonna stay in the studio until I come up with a sound where I’m completely different than anybody else. It was my mother that put the bee in my bonnet.

Presumably direct-to-disc was the regular type of recording method at the time?

It was, and I sold the patent to the machines to the Marx Brothers. They’re probably the most popular machines, called the Arcturus cutting lathe, and [speaking in 1989] there must be 1,500 alone in LA.

Really? The Marx Brothers?

I was building this machine in a hobby shop. I work nights, so I ran into the hobby shop from midnight 'til six in the morning. When I got done building part of this recording lathe, I didn’t know where to put it, so I put it in the window. And Groucho was next door. He was a nut on miniature trains, and one of the trains went off the track.

So he and his brothers, with their engineer's caps on and everything else, they couldn’t touch it with their hands. That was against the rules. They had to get a wrecker, so they went down to the shop, and they’re throwing rocks at the window. I walk outside and I see Groucho.

I said to Groucho, What the hell are you doing throwing rocks at the window? He says, My damned train’s off the tracks. I says, Well why don’t you pick it up and put it back on? And he says, You can’t do that [laughs]. Then he says, Hey, what the hell are you doing up at this hour? He thought maybe my train was off the tracks. I said, I’m building a recording lathe, out of the flywheel of a car, some other witchcraft going on [laughs]. He said, Geez, my brothers’d be interested in that—they’re in engineering. They came over and looked at it, said, What do you want for it? So I made a deal with them, gave them the rights to it.

OK… so The Marx Brothers were in the engineering business rather than show business?

At that time, only Groucho stayed in show business, the rest of them got out of it. In the meantime, this was my third attempt to make a professional lathe. The third one was the one that hit the bullseye.

Can you tell me what the first records were you made on Capitol Records with the New Sound, as they called it?

Les Paul - The New Sound

That would be ‘Lover,’ ‘Brazil,’ ‘Caravan.’ I made them in the mid '40s, but they didn’t come out 'til February of 1948. I signed the contract with Capitol in ’47, but they didn’t come out 'til ’48. I tipped my car over in ’48—I was in the hospital all banged up—so I never did hear the first couple of releases.

Tell me how you recorded “Lover.”

Well, it’s the same way I always record, I record backwards. I record the last part first. In doing anything like that, especially in the old days, where there’s a generation loss, I always made sure that the most important part went on last. Mary [Ford] had to sing them backwards, also: she sang the fifth part first, and so forth. We never wrote anything out, but we were so into it, from years of training, that we didn’t know any better.

Those Capitol cuts are fantastic records. They sound good today, too.

Thank you.

They have a great sense of humor about them, as well.

Well [laughing] I’ve always had a great sense of humor. That’s one of the things that God gives you. You don’t buy a sense of humor any more than you buy an ear.

I bet you can think of some players who have a good sense of humor but it doesn’t really come out in their music.

Yeah, and then I know great players that don’t have a sense of humor and that shows in their playing. They sound like machine shops. They play mechanically—they lack soul, heart, feeling.

There are some pretty unusual sounds on those records. How did you go about that? It sounds as if things are speeded up, played at half speed, that kind of thing.

When I was lying in the hospital, they were talking about amputating my right arm. It looked like it was going to come off. That’s when I made all the drawings for the first synthesizer. I pictured all the things that I could do with a synthesizer, and I thought of the guitar as an oscillator. I said, A note is a note, that’s all, and you add harmonics to the note, the fundamental, etc. I says, Now how do I vary the sounds of these notes? How do I change the shape, the waveform?

And that’s what I went after, so that’s where the fuzz came from, the echo came from, the delay came from, the flanging, the chorus, the sped-up, the slowed-down. All those different things came about from my mother saying, You’ve got to sound different. I surely took her seriously.

Les Paul - "Lover"

How would you get those effects?

Well, it took me two years to figure out how to get delay. It was so simple. All you had to do was to put a playback head behind the record head and turn the volume up. When the first tape machine came out—and I got that in ’48—the first thing I did with that was add a fourth head.

I said, If I erase the part I’m listening to and re-record it, and play another part along with it, I’ll have two—but I’ll lose the first one, and I’ll end up with two of them. And then when I play the third part, why, I’ll lose the two parts—and I’ll keep going down the line, each time, I’ll go a quarter of an inch farther along on the tape. So that was called "sound on sound."

Then, in 1951, I went to Westrex, I went to Western Electric—I went to three different manufacturers—and finally talked Ampex into making the multitrack machine. Course, that changed the whole world.

How many tracks was that, the original one?

The first one was eight.

And that really was 1951?

That’s when I approached them. It took them two years to build it, and when they sent it to me, it didn’t work. So I got engineers here from Bell Laboratories and we just took and rebuilt it and got it to run.

I was the inventor of the stacked heads, see, and that was the secret to the whole thing. They were trying it with staggered heads, but you couldn’t splice it, you couldn’t do anything, it kept moving along on the tape all the time. They did that because of crosstalk. My invention was to lessen the crosstalk so it was possible to make a multitrack machine.

How many of those Capitol records did you make with disc recorders?

I made the first, oh, nine records that way.

What was the last one?

The last one on disc was “Tennessee Waltz.”

And the first one with tape?

The first one with tape was "How High The Moon." That came out in ’51, but I made it in ’49.

Les Paul and Mary Ford - "How High the Moon"

And multitrack?

Oddly enough, no record with Mary and I was ever made on the multitrack that was a hit. None. They were all made with one head and what we call sel-sync—all made in that manner. We got our first chance at it when we went to Columbia in 1959, and then of course Phase 4 with London and everything, since then was all multitrack.

But there was a certain charm that happened with the records made sound on sound. There was a different sound, and you had to know what the hell you were doing, because if you made a mistake you had to go back to one.

Can you give me any examples of things you recorded multitrack on Capitol that weren’t hits, then?

"Time to Dream" was one. All kinds of things: "Teach Me Tonight," "Meet Mr Sandman," lots of ‘em. But none of them were big, big hits, like those we made with the sound on sound. It’s ironic that something like that should happen. We made tons and tons of records—I have a million records here of Mary and I—never released, multitrack, and they’re very good, but they are different. It’s different when you take each part and mix it later than it is when you do it right there and then.

When did Gibson approach you about the Les Paul guitar?

I approached them in ’41.

You approached them?

Yeah. They laughed at the idea, they called it the kid with the broomstick with the pickups on it.

Where did you go to see them?

Chicago. The factory was in Kalamazoo, Michigan—the offices were in Chicago. I worked on them for ten years. In ten years I finally convinced them to make an electric guitar. There was only one problem—they didn’t want to put the name Gibson on it. So they said what do you want to call it, and I said call it the Les Paul guitar.

You’d made a few guitars for yourself, including the Log. Was it because you wanted a louder guitar?

Well, not a louder guitar – what I was trying to do was to make one that sustained, and that reproduced the sound of the string with nothing added. No distortion, no change in the response from what the string was doing. I wanted the string to do its thing. No top vibrating, no added enhancement, advantageous or disadvantageous. I wanted to make sure it just gave you the string as the string was excited—you plucked the string, and that’s what you got.

That was my whole idea way back in the early 30s. I worked on it, worked on it, stuffing rags in guitars, then finally plugging ‘em up completely, making one-inch tops on them. Then finally saying look, I’m just gonna go on a log.

Les Paul's The Log

There were people trying different things at that time, Rickenbacker for example.

Oh yeah, Rickenbacker came out with their Frying Pan, and I looked at that, said, No, that’s not the way to go. That Frying Pan, you cannot hold it right. There were many things wrong—the pickup was in the wrong place, it was made of steel, and if you got under hot lights it would change keys—everything wrong with it.

So I just went on my way saying that it should be a Stradivarius, it should be the most beautiful instrument in the world. For years I’ve kept that foremost in my mind with the Gibson people, that when they pick up a Les Paul guitar they’re picking up the finest instrument that you can hug, you know? Like the finest automobile, it’s the finest guitar. And it would look like a guitar, it wouldn’t look like a bolt-on neck and just a piece of plywood.

Was it your Log that you took to Gibson?

That’s what I took to Gibson. I actually built it at Epiphone. I knew the people there, and I could have the factory every Sunday, there was nobody there but the watchman. So every Sunday I went and I worked there, from ’39 to ’41. Epiphone says what in the hell is this? I says, It’s a Log, it’s a solidbody guitar. And they says, Well why? And I says, Well, just 'cause I… But I was aiming at Gibson, I wasn’t aiming at Epi. I knew Epi was about to go under. Gibson was the biggest in the business, and that’s where I wanted to go.

Who did you take it to?

I took it to Chicago, to Mr. Berlin at the Chicago Musical Instrument company, and they laughed at it. I moved to California, went in the Army, went with Bing, kept playing my Log, and Leo Fender came in my backyard, and Merle Travis saw it—so did every other guitar player, every other manufacturer—they all saw it.

The vibrola, I started on that in the '30s, and then found out that a guy had already invented a vibrola, but it was dead, it was extinct, it died in its tracks. So I said, I’ll make my own vibrola, so I made my own, and Bigsby came in my backyard, with Fender.

You’ve had a lot of people in your backyard.

Oh, that backyard with that garage was something else. Not only was I making the multiples [recordings] and doing all this inventing, but here I am with a vibrola that I didn’t even think about. It made Bigsby a millionaire and it made Fender a millionaire, and it made Gibson a millionaire.

Vintage Gibson Ad

And are you a millionaire?

Sure.

I’m glad to hear it. You deserve it.

I don’t know. It was just a lot of persistence, a belief. You have to believe, you have to keep fighting for it, I tell my kids that. I tell them if you want it, you’ve got to fight for it. There’s always a guy trying to trip you—there’s a barricade up all the time. No matter what you do in this world, there’s always some opposition to it.

I never made a record that wasn’t that way. I took “How High The Moon” to Capitol and I fought them one year to get them to release it, and finally they said OK. You just have to believe in it.

You say Gibson took all that time to finally come around to this idea. What do you think convinced them?

Leo Fender. Leo Fender saw what I was doing and he started to make one. And when Gibson heard about it, they said, Find that guy with the broomstick with the pickup on it.

When did they come back to you?

They came 'round right away, soon as they heard what Leo was doing. They came over to me, and I says, Well, you guys are a little bit behind the times, but OK, let’s go.

Did they say they wanted to put your name on a guitar?

No. They wanted to sign an agreement, which I did, and they made the first guitar and they made it wrong—and I don’t know how many went out wrong, that weren’t playable. By the time they sent it to me, I went to my crank phone—it was an old time crank phone, three longs and two shorts [the ringing code].

I went to the bottom of the hill, and a gal that was down at the bottom of the hill had 12 people on the line. She’d listen to all the conversations, and I’d say get off the line will ya? All 12 were always listening—when I’m talking to Capitol Records, or to Gibson, they’d listen to everything. Anyway, I told Gibson that the guitar was incorrectly made and to rectify it.

The other mistake they made was when they finally sent me the black one [Les Paul Custom], the mistake that was made there was that it was supposed to have a maple top on it, and the gold one [Les Paul Goldtop] was supposed to have mahogany. They had it reversed. So when you bought the cheap guitar you had the best wood, you had the better guitar. The cheaper guitar was better than the Custom.

Les Paul Black Beauty

Where did you see the first Gibson prototype of the Les Paul? I believe it was in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, where you recorded sometimes.

Yep, that’s where the prototype was sent to me. It was a flat-topped guitar at that time—it was not an archtop.

How much of the Les Paul did you design and how much did Gibson design?

I designed everything on there except the belly, the arched top. I had a flat top. I sat there with the president of CMI, the Chicago Musical Instrument company, Maurice Berlin, and he said, You know, I like violins. And he took me through his vault and showed me his collection, and he says, Would you consider making it in an archtop? And I said I’d love it.

He said nobody else—Fender, nobody else—can do that, and we have the facilities to do it. So I said, By all means, let’s do it. So we made them.

Had anyone had their name on a Gibson before?

Only one, Nick Lucas. And he didn’t get paid for it at all. It was just a token, a thing where they gave him a guitar and put his name on it.

You got paid for the Les Pauls, presumably?

I got a royalty right from the beginning, yeah.

On each guitar?

On any guitar that had a pickup on it.

Really?

Not only a Les Paul, but any guitar, any banjo, any bass, any instrument that had a pickup on it, I got a royalty.

That… that must have been a good deal.

Yeah [laughs], I would say it was a great deal.

Why did you have Gibson make you flat-topped guitars, where the production ones were carved?

Some I did—not all of ‘em. If you look at the album covers and all the pictures taken you will see, for instance, when I was with the Andrews Sisters, I was using my headless guitar that I invented. On another one you will see me with the Log. On another you'll see me with the Epiphone, without the Epiphone name on it—had a Gibson name.

Gibson asked me if, until they made the model for me, would I agree to play my Epiphone but put the name Gibson on it? The plate that said Epiphone, you just pulled it off with a screwdriver—it was just a plate with two brad nails in it. I popped that off, and I suggested to [Gibson boss] Ted McCarty that he send me some decals and we’d put them on the guitars, so they would say Gibson.

That was prior to our first solidbody coming on to the market. That one was braced inside so that it was a solidbody guitar, a log running through that guitar—it was braced. Anybody looking at the outside you'd say it was an archtop, but it wasn’t.

Were you involved with Gibson’s first reissue of Les Pauls, in the late ‘60s?

Vintage Gibson Ad

Yes, in 1967 I called Gibson up again, and they were closing the solidbody part of the plant down. I called Mr. Berlin. I said, The reason I’m calling you, maybe we can renegotiate, put out the Les Paul guitar. He said, They’re dead. I said, Well, there’s a lot of guys like Eric Clapton, the Stones, different people, they’re paying $1,500, $2,000 for these Les Paul guitars. Don’t you think it would be worth doing something with?

And he said, Do you believe in the solidbody guitars? Just as much as I did the first time, I said. He said, Why don’t you come to Chicago? I went to Chicago. It was after working hours, five or six o’clock, I had a friend with me. Mr. Berlin had a lawyer with him.

This friend of mine was a real knockout accordion player—we were negotiating—two amateurs and two real pros. Finally we got into a deadlock, and Mr. Berlin says, What are you going to do? I said, I think we’re going to have a caucus. So we had a caucus. Two went to the ladies room—Mr. Berlin and his lawyer. We went to the mens room, stood in there. We negotiated, came back out. We said, We know what we want.

We were back with the Chicago Musical Instrument company, and that's the reason I happened to come out of retirement. I’d retired for ten years—I was inventing—and somehow I got roped into this thing. I guess I was itching to play. Started playing around the States and so forth, and it just evolved. Rolling Stone magazine once asked me how long I’d play, and I told them until they tell me they don’t want to hear me any more—then I’ll really quit. I’ll lay down under a rock and just get some sun and take it easy. Until that time I’ll play and write, invent, continue on.

A little bit later the low-impedance models came out, briefly—the Les Paul Professional, Personal, and Bass. Were they important to you?

Gibson wanted that from the beginning, and I wouldn’t give it to them, because I wanted to keep that sound to myself. I said that’s one thing I don’t want to give out. That’s my sound, and as long as I’m in the business, why, that’s something I just don’t want to disclose.

So why did you change your mind?

I didn’t change my mind. I retired. If I’m not playing any more, then I can give it to everybody, and I did.

Were you more interested in those guitars than the reissue Les Pauls?

No, no, no. There are several differences with the low impedance guitars, which I play all the time now [speaking in 1993]. One is that you can get a higher level to come out of a high impedance pickup than a low. And with low impedance you have no problems with length of cable, all the hums and noises you have with high impedance. There are so many advantages to it. I learned that from the telephone company, and from broadcasting.

No one’s gonna run a long line in broadcasting. You look at recording studios with their microphones, you never see any high impedance mics. Nobody would go high impedance unless you’re crazy.

Vintage Gibson Ad

Or you’re playing a guitar.

Well [laughs], when you get to ceramics, that’s one of the big drawbacks of the ceramics. You’re having to put a pre-amp in there, and you have to deal with some things that are just nasty. My first ceramics were in 1942. When the Navy came over to the Armed Forces Radio Service and asked Meredith Willson [director of the AFRS orchestra] if they had someone who knew electronics that had a good ear, Meredith points over to me and says that guitar player there.

They put me in a diving bell off of Long Beach in California, I’m down there deep in the water, making a subterfuge box for the enemy. This box—they dropped it in the water and got the Germans and the Japanese to chase this box. So they needed a person with a good ear to say how close they were to the real sound of an engine, so the enemy would go chase it.

I asked them what they were using to transmit this signal, and what they were using to receive it back, and they said to me, "Barium titanate." I says, What in the world is that? They said, It’s like a quartz crystal, a crystal element, only it’s man made. I says, Where can I get ‘em? They says, Well, here, we’ll give you a whole fistful. I could have patented that thing and made another fortune. And didn’t. I fooled with them 'til, oh, the mid '50s.

I finally said I’ve got too many things to do, and I tossed it aside. I knew the problems with them for years. You’ve got to realize that if you go back to 1942, there were no transistors. If you put a pre-amp in a guitar like they’re doing now [speaking in 1993], it was mighty impractical in ’42. By the time ’65, ’66 came around, it was practical. So another great idea slipped through my fingers, you know?

Do you ever think about the thousands of Les Paul guitars being played out there every day?

I have to go back to Maurice Berlin. He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and he said to me, Let's go to dinner. We were donating some money to the Mayo Clinic: nothing wrong with either one of us, and we’re sitting there eating dinner. Mr Berlin says to me Les, in your wildest imaginations, did you ever think that the Gibson Les Paul guitar would be this successful? And I said, sure! I believed in it all the way through.

To have inspired so many people to play music must be a good feeling.

It’s amazing. It’s beyond belief. I thank God I’ve got it. What other thing can do what music does? Everybody enjoys it so much and it makes so many people happy. I cannot wait to get up and get out of bed, and I can’t wait to get to my guitar and play it. I love it so much. It’s so personal. And yet it defies explanation. It makes the fella who’s playing the guitar work like hell, because you can get better, but it’s not easy. There are so many ways of expressing your feeling. It’s an awesome instrument.

If you had the chance again, would you do anything differently?

Oh gee, when you’ve got a classic like the Gibson Les Paul, I don’t think I would have done it any differently. There were a lot of little things that I fought for and never got—there were things probably that were more important, small things. If you look at the guitar, it is beautiful, something that you want to hug and hold. I see the young guy out there – young guy, old guy, doesn’t make any difference – and you see him with the same affectionate feeling for that instrument that I have. They love that guitar like a mistress, a bartender, and a housewife, you know? It's the best psychiatrist out there, that guitar. To this day, if I’ve got a problem I’ll probably pick up my guitar and solve it.

Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians, and music. He is a cofounder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. His books include The Ultimate Guitar Book, The Les Paul Guitar Book, and Sunburst. His latest book is Electric Guitars: Design And Invention (Backbeat). Tony lives in Bristol, England. More info at tonybacon.co.uk.


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