The Entertainer

1. Red Hot Red & Rhubarb Red 1929-1933

By age 14, Les began performing as Red Hot Red, building on his childhood nickname which was based on his hair color.  He began performing at the local Bar-B-Que stand.  It was there that a customer made him aware that his guitar could not be heard which lead to the search for the electric guitar.   He soon was appearing on local radio station WTMJ.  He’d already made his first record-cutting lathe out of an old Cadillac flywheel. “The first thing recorded on it was me as Red Hot Red singing ‘Don’t Send My Boy To Prison’ on WTMJ,” Paul recalled. “My mother recorded it for me off the air.  I still have that disc, too!”  Red Hot Red got his first break when Sunny Joe Wolverton, a regional country star, caught Red’s act and the following summer, the two formed a duo billed as Sunny Joe and Rhubarb Red.  They toured the Midwest, ultimately landing in Chicago in the early ’30s.  They also made their first recordings, cutting 111 songs on transcription discs for a company headed by Jack Kapp. The sides have long since been lost.       


To hear Les tell his story, in his own words, of how it all started at seven years old and to listen to his music from those times click the button - More of the Story


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On August 18, 1988, a horde of name-brand musicians got together to celebrate the life and music of guitar great Les Paul, who was 73 at the time. Eddie Van Halen, David Gilmour, BB King, Stanley Jordan, Steve Miller and Les Paul Play "Blue Suede Shoes" with Stray Cats

5. All-Star Guitar Jam

Paul formed his first jazz trio in 1933 with Jimmy Atkins (Chet’s older brother) on guitar and Ernie Newton on bass. He developed a solid reputation jamming with the greats of the day, including Art Tatum and Louis Armstrong.  In the late ’30s, making it big meant going to New York or Los Angeles, and a flip of the coin sent the trio to Manhattan.  Les and the Trio stayed in New York working for Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians until 1941 when they headed to California to pursue work with Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters.  Paul made it to Los Angeles just in time to be drafted into the Army in 1942, which proved to be another big break.  He was assigned to entertain the troops on the Armed Forces Radio Services which put him in almost daily contact with a who’s who of the entertainment world at the time: Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, and Kate Smith.   Paul served for about a year before entering the world of recording, joining Crosby and working as an NBC staff musician.   Through the mid-’40s, Paul and his trio appeared on several of Crosby’s hit records, including Paul’s semi-signature tune “It’s Been A Long Time” (Decca L3890A) and  Norman Granz’ first Jazz at the Philharmonic session, a now-legendary session that matched Paul with Nat King Cole.  From 1944 to 1945 he played almost exclusively on the road with The Andrews Sisters.  

Dad would tell these stories all the time, and the more I got to know who he was referring to, the more I wish I would have been born earlier.  To hear about this era in dad's own words and to listen to his music from those times click the button - More of the Story


2. Les Paul And His Trio  1933-1948

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LP: I always looked at work as a privilege and how lucky I am at 87 years old that I can go to work, make people laugh, make people happy, and they, in turn, can make me healthy and happy. It’s the greatest therapy in the world, is to be able to go to work, and enjoy your work.


Les and his trio held court at Fat Tuesdays and then the Iridium Jazz Club for many years, playing two sets every Monday night.  On any given night Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Steve Miller, José Feliciano, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis', Jeff Beck, Keith Richards or Tony Bennett can be seen in the audience paying homage to a man that deserves all the accolades bestowed upon him.


GP: For 25 years dad entertained New York City. It's the longest he ever played in one place and he cherished every moment.

4. Les's Monday Night Show 1984-2009

3. Les Paul & Mary Ford  1948-1963

Les fine-tuned his multiple-layered recording techniques, turning to pop music rather than jazz for his new sound.  After more than two years of research and development, Paul emerged from his studio with his first solo hit single - "Lover," and 20 more sides recorded direct-to-disc using his multi-layered technique and landed a recording contract with Capitol Records.  Paul went to work with Mary Ford to bring his new sound to the next stage. In 1949, Bing Crosby gave Paul one of the first reel-to-reel mono magnetic tape recorders. Before long, Paul figured out a way to modify the machine to record multiple tracks and stopped recording on discs altogether — the portable tape recorders fit his lifestyle perfectly.  Paul and Ford create a string of 14 consecutive pop hits, including “Mocking Bird Hill,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “Bye, Bye, Blues,” “Tiger Rag,” “Waiting for the Sunrise,” “I’m Sitting on Top of the World.” and the biggest hit, “Vaya Con Dios.”  Besides hosting their own TV show and bringing the magic of their recordings to their live audiences with devices like the "Les Pulverizer," Les and Mary performed around the world including performances for the British royal family and President Eisenhower at the White House among many others.

To hear music and videos from this era click the button - More of the Story

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The Les Paul Trio

Les Paul & Mary Ford

Les Paul And His Trio

Red Hot Red & Rhubarb Red