Lester William Polsfuss, stage name "Les Paul," was born in Wisconsin, North America in 1915. His interest in music sparked at the age of eight when he began playing the harmonica and banjo, by the time he was thirteen he was playing country music at drive-ins and roadhouses, this led to his first invention, a neck-worn harmonica holder, which allowed him to sing, play harmonica and the guitar all at the same time. However, he wanted his guitar to be louder and heard by more people at the venues he played, so he wired a phonograph needle to a radio speaker, attaching this to his acoustic to amplify the sound.
By 1934 Paul had moved to Chicago, he was playing Jazz guitar and was performing regularly on the radio. His first two albums were released in 1936. His jazz playing was largely influenced by the virtuosic gypsy - jazz guitar player Django Reinhardt, whom Paul would eventually became close friends with.
Unsatisfied with the current acoustic-electric guitars, Paul began experimenting with ideas of his own. First he created "The Log," which was a piece of 4x4 piece of pine wood with a guitar neck, bridge and pick-up attached. Continuously re-inventing it he would come to attach two sides of an Epiphone body to each side of the log for the sake of appearance, the acoustic body would also solve the two main issues with electric guitars which were feedback and sustain. Paul would continue to use these early models throughout most of his years as a recording artist. What was first known as "The Log," was also one of the first solid body electric guitars and Paul approached the Gibson Guitar Corporation with his new idea of a solid body guitar, initially they showed no interest until Fender released the "Esquire" model, later to become the "Telecaster." So Paul went on to create the Gibson Les Paul as it is known today, with its round shape and cutaway horn.
Paul's first contract with Gibson lasted until 1961, when Paul came across the new model of the Les Paul in a shop window, which had been re-designed and released by Gibson without his knowledge due to the declining sales of the original model. The new instrument was thinner, lighter and had two cutaway horns instead of one. Paul disliked the new model, claiming it was not "his" design and asked Gibson to take his name off the headstock. Paul ended his endorsement with Gibson and they would re-name the new model the "Gibson SG," which stood for "Solid Guitar," the model would become one of Gibson's best sellers.
The original model of the Les Paul would regain recognition when guitar players such as Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton began playing them. This led to Paul resuming his contract with Gibson. The Gibson Les Paul Guitar is now famous worldwide and has a fantastic reputation as one of the best electric guitars available; a less expensive copy of the original model has been released by Epiphone.
To this day Les Paul stands as one of the key developers in the evolution of the electric guitar.