Les Paul, the "Wizard of Waukesha", died early this morning of pneumonia.
I was a benefactor of his wizardry, playing the Gibson guitar which bore his name in every band I played in. He was the originator of the modern electric guitar, making his first one out of an acoustic with the body cut in two and wired pickups attached to a block of wood placed in the center of the body where the sound hole used to be.
There was--and is--nothing like a Les Paul. Look at a photograph of any guitarist in any band anywhere and you're likely to see him playing a Les Paul. Even Eric Clapton, who almost exclusively plays a Fender Stratocaster, is shown early in his career (when he made music like "Layla" with Duane Allman, also a Les Paul man) handling a Les Paul.
Les Paul gave a gift to music. I doubt he ever knew what he did for me, and countless others, by rigging that first pickup. But I know, and am eternally grateful.
I never met the man, but I feel like I knew him well.
Are there Les Paul guitars in heaven? Today, there have to be.