Les Paul was born on June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. At the age of eight, he began his music career by learning to play the harmonica. Soon after, he attempted the banjo, but abandoned it to play the guitar. He had an obvious talent and was playing with a skilled country music group by the age of thirteen. In 1932, Les played with Rube Tronson's band, the Cowboys, and dropped out of school to pursue his career in music.
He found a job playing guitar in a radio band for the station KMOX in St. Louis, Missouri. He later moved to Chicago, where he mainly played jazz music for radio programs. He was able to secure a recording contract and released his first two albums in 1936. Les found the electric guitars of the time inadequate and began experimenting with his own designs in an attempt to improve the instrument.
In 1938, he moved to New York, where he was given a position on Fred Waring's radio show, "Pennsylvanians". He moved to Hollywood in 1943, where he was allowed to play with Nat King Cole at the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" show in Los Angeles on July 2, 1944. That same year, he was chosen to appear on a radio show run by Bing Crosby. Crosby was very impressed by Les' performance and decided to sponsor his new recordings, even performing with Les on a number of songs. One of the songs, "It's Been a Long, Long Time" became a number one radio hit in 1945.
In 1941, Paul had convinced Gibson to manufacture some of his guitar designs. His designs were solid-body with a unique shape and became very popular with music artists. Gibson continues to manufacture the Les Paul signature guitar line today, with artists from Jimmy Page to Paul McCartney using it as their guitar of choice.
In 1947, Les released an experimental album named "Lover", which was the first recording to ever use multi-tracking. All of the songs featured Les playing up to eight different guitar tracks simultaneously.
In 1948, he was nearly killed in an automobile accident in Oklahoma. He was left with a shattered right arm and elbow, which made him unable to play guitar. He spent over a year recovering, but was able to have his arm cast such that he could still pick guitar, although not as easily.
In the 1950s, Les teamed up with his wife Mary to make several musical recordings. He used the technique of overdubbing, which was made possible by his recording inventions. In 1954, his technology was licensed by Ampex to create the first eight track cassette recorder, which became known as the "Sel-Sync". The technology of multi-track recording is still used in modern recordings to great effect.
His career began to slow down in the 1960s, but he continued working on small projects and designing guitars. In 1978, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He continues to perform on occasion and is still experimenting with guitars.