You have probably heard the name “Les Paul” in one way or another. It is one of the most well-known electric guitar types in the world.
The guitar was designed by Gibson Guitar president Ted McCarty in collaboration with Les Paul, a popular jazz guitarist and electronics inventor whom Gibson hired to endorse the new model.
Electric guitars became a craze in 1950, when the Fender Telecaster was introduced to the music industry. McCarty brought in Les Paul as a response, since he was a respected innovator who had been experimenting with guitar design. He had created a prototype known as “The Log,” considered to be the first solid-body Spanish guitar ever built, but was rejected by Gibson, which later became the famous collaboration.
The two parties agreed that the new guitar would be expensive and well-made, in Gibson tradition, however it has not been known exactly who contributed what to the design. Some believe Les Paul had a say, but McCarty himself says the corporation simply approached Les Paul for the rights to put his name on the instrument, and then showed him the final product once it was finished. The first one of its kind to be sold was in 1952.
By the late 1950s, the Les Paul was widely considered old-fashioned, too heavy and too expensive, and by the early 1960s Gibson stopped producing it in favor of a lighter redesign. However, when famed musician Eric Clapton came around in the mid-1960s, interest in the Les Paul made a comeback, setting the tone for a new generation of guitar players in blues and rock and roll, such as Keith Richards, Peter Green and Michael Bloomfield. By the end of the decade, Gibson released an updated Les Paul and a variety of other instruments in its mold.