Gene Paul, son of legendary Les Paul, talks about Gibson’s “Number One” guitar auction


Les Paul playing his “Number One” guitar while in the studio. Photo credit: Tom Doyle

Gene Paul, the son of the legendary Les Paul, chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his father’s personal Gibson, which is up for auction.

Les Paul’s personal “Number One” guitar, the first approved Gibson Les Paul model, which Les owns and has played for years, will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York on October 13, 2021.

This guitar, which is considered to be the foundation of rock & roll, and which is perhaps hailed as the most valuable guitar in the world, is presented as lot number 1 in Christie’s long-awaited one-off sale, once a year . With its undeniable historic impact, industry insiders and aficionados alike expect the guitar to break all previous auction records.

Gene is also a 9-time Grammy Award-winning engineer who won Grammys from Aretha Franklin to Norah Jones. He toured with his father and Mary Ford for 10 years playing the drums as a teenager.

When did you first realize how famous your father was? Were you there when he was making the first electric guitar?

I thought everyone’s dad had a music career, worked on guitar and played music in front of people everywhere until I was 15 or 16 and Les took me with him as a drummer for the band. . I realized how special he was when I saw everyone’s reaction to him.

I really understood how famous this guy was. Most people don’t realize that Les was married before he was married to Mary Ford (a name made up for her by the way) … so I lived with my mom and not dad when he was busy developing. the “Les Paul Guitar.” “

How did your dad describe this guitar? Why did he call him number one? What did this mean to him?

For my father, it was his crowning achievement. He’s spent 30 years of his life imagining this thing, experimenting with all kinds of ways to make a guitar like this work. People thought he was crazy, he was so ahead of his time. When he first showed Gibson his idea in the early 1940s, they laughed at him and kicked him out of their offices.

For dad, this guitar was her, the culmination of all that hard work, trial and error, and he was more than proud of it. Imagine… a guitar that you have dreamed of for 30 years and that bears your name! And it’s beautiful, and it looks amazing! He called him his “NUMBER ONE” because he was the one who was right. Gibson had sent in a few prototypes earlier, but they weren’t correct. And Les was only going to put his name on it if it was the guitar he wanted …

He said “Close, but no cigar” to the first ones who basically failed, rejects, “no-go’s” as far as Les is concerned. He just wasn’t going to put his name on something he didn’t approve of… and he APPROVED this one because he was finally right!

He called it Number One because it was really the first and for him it was his favorite guitar for all these years. Les had a numbering system for all of his guitars, and literally and figuratively it was number one. It meant the world to him, his pride and his joy. Can you imagine working on something like this for decades, being ridiculed, misunderstood, pained and worked on for years, and then finally getting something as beautiful as this Gibson Goldtop? It was his dream come true.

How important is the guitar in Rock’n Roll?

The funny thing is, dad couldn’t have imagined that the next generation would take this guitar and do with it what they did with it. He originally wanted it for himself and for jazz players. But then, some 12 or 13 years later, after the first Gibson Les Paul guitars hit the market, all these rock players got hold of those guitars, and wow!

Most people don’t realize that by the time all those famous rock musicians started blowing up and wowing people with this guitar, the Gibson Les Paul was no longer in production… can you imagine ? These guys usually had to find these used Les Paul guitars at music stores and pawn shops.

When those early rock musicians plugged these Les Paul guitars into powerful overdrive amps, everyone was stunned, just blown away. No one had ever heard anything like it before. Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Peter Green and the others were pioneers and gave this guitar a second life. Rock’n Roll just wouldn’t, couldn’t be what it was then, and what it is today without this guitar… that’s why we say it’s “The guitar that has.” all triggered ”- It’s just the truth. I mean, for example, can you imagine Jimmy Page’s Led Zeppelin without the Les Paul, or Slash, Frampton guitar? The list is lengthened increasingly!

How do you assess the value of this guitar? Experts describe it as the “holy grail of guitars” or the “jewel in the crown”. How do you describe it?

The value of this guitar is just unfathomable really. I’ve been asked a lot lately of course. What I ask people in return is what is the value of the first brother Wright’s plane? What is the value of the first bulb? What is Neil Armstrong’s moon landing boot worth? What is the price of the Hope Diamond or the Mona Lisa? I mean we’re talking about the first Les Paul here, it was Mr. Les Paul’s personal guitar… his pride and joy, his precious possession.

WWhat price do you think this guitar will sell for?

Well, naturally, we get asked this question all the time. Of course, no one has a crystal ball and can say what potential bidders will ultimately pay at auction for this one-of-a-kind icon when all is said and done. But consider this: Recently the Kurt Cobain Martin guitar sold for $ 6.2 million at auction … it was for a guitar that was played in an unplugged MTV session in 1993, and this Les Paul guitar. Goldtop is the very guitar that literally started it all. Mr. Les Paul’s precious personal possession, his Gibson Les Paul NUMBER ONE.

It was this guitar that Les Paul finally approved and then signed, giving Gibson permission to put his name on it. This guitar is the true living start of the legend and history of the famous Les Paul guitar, played by countless rock stars over the past 6 decades. Is there a more famous brand of guitar? Is there another guitar that can produce this sound? Is there another guitar that has had such an impact on the sound and very nature of rock and roll and blues? This guitar is THE ONE that started it all… and it’s not a “standard” guitar sold to someone in a music store.

This is the guitar that Les had been striving for over 30 years to finally make a reality, was his main “NUMBER ONE”, and it is the beginning of the beginning. It is not very often that we can really identify and touch the very beginning of a phenomenon… but here it is for the whole world to see, appreciate and marvel at Les Paul’s contribution. , his life’s work, the Gibson Les La guitar Paul, and the very legacy of music as we know it… So what’s it worth? Incalculably precious, really… just priceless.

Who are the artists that your father influenced?

Damn… I think that would be a shorter list to tell you the artists who were NOT influenced by dad. The list could go on forever, but if you had seen Les play at Fat Tuesdays or Iridium Club for 27 years, you would have seen all of the “Greats”. From Jimmy Page to Jeff Beck, including Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Steve Miller, Dickey Betts, Billy Gibbons, Slash, Keith Richards… just about every rock guitarist you’ve heard of since the ’60s.

And that’s whether they were known to play Les Paul guitar or not, mind you. Not to mention all the jazz greats too. We all used to say half-jokingly, “There’s a good ‘Ol Les who’s running the court.” “

How do you expect the Les Paul guitar to be considered in history?

Well, this is where I choke on, frankly. My father, Les Paul was my hero of course. But he was also the hero of everyone all over the world. It is his heritage, the very embodiment of his imagination, his hard work, his vision, the physical proof of his contribution to humanity. I mean, stop and think about it for a minute. Music is important to us humans. Without it, what are we really?

Without art, without music, and without culture, we’re all crouching somewhere in a cave, aren’t we? We want this guitar to remind everyone in the world of Les Paul’s contribution, his genius, his vision. Most people don’t know it, but Dad is the only man in the world to have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame… and he was inducted because of that guitar!

I pray that when they see this guitar, that they see Les, I mean really see it. He changed the world, and he was my dad… you see why I’m getting emotional? It’s just wonderful, just wonderful.

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