Les Paul: The Moon is Not High Enough

I’m not going to talk about whats on this video because you can simply watch it.

What I am going to talk about are a few things that many of you may not know about Les Paul.

I know, your asking… how would I know?

Well, my house is filled with Les Paul memorabilia and things he gave my wife when they were working together… in fact, for nearly 15 years Lucy and her former husband/manager worked day to day and side by side with Les.

So here’s some tidbits that you may enjoy…!

Alvin and The Chipmunks was created due to the tape machine that Les helped create. In fact, much of his music utilized the same technique I’m about to share with you.

Starts with recording a rhythm at 15 IPS (inches per second) on one track, slowing the tape machine down to 7.5 and recording a lead guitar to that rhythm track. When you put the speed back to 15, the guitar is blazing fast.  Same exact method used to produce the Chipmunks.

Now you can imagine back in the 50’s all the people that heard this guitar and thought WOW, how can anyone play that fast? Well, Les made sure to cover his tracks (no pun intended) by being able to sync his live guitar execution to make it look like he was really playing.

If you are still skeptical with what I’m saying, how do you account for the fact that the guitar is suddenly an octave higher? Les was smart enough not to overdo this trick but, back then the audience like I said had no idea as to how this could be done.

Les invented the muli-track tape machine (as he told me ) out of necessity.  Before the multi-track, he was doing sound on sound recording which utilizes two mono tape machines. He might start off with a rhythm guitar on one machine, play it back and record a bass line along with the rhythm. Then play the rhythm and bass recording along with a another live guitar being recorded into the other machine. Finally he would have to put his lead down as some point and also get Mary’s voice on there, most likely last to not loose a generation. This is how he recorded “How High The Moon.” This technique is incredibly tiring and tedious as a level or two off with something any you may have to go back and do a lot of it over. His multi-track invention solved the problem as he was now able to record on a separate track without affecting the previous track or loosing sound quality.

For live shows, Les brought his tape machine as the backing tracks and played his guitar live along with Mary singing. This too was a first, as no one was doing anything remotely close to this live. Now for those TV shows, unfortunately that was all lip synced and same with the guitar. They were just playing along with the already recorded master tracks…. Now I don’t know if he was the first to do that?

There are so many other Les Paul stories that I can share with you, some about technical stuff and some about personal.

perhaps if there’s a good enough response here I may do so.

Les and my wife Lucy were very close for many years, in fact to the point that Les was almost a part of her family.  Lucy credits Les for getting started in her recording career as she say’s “Les was at all of my big sessions in the city and really helped coach me as a studio vocalist.”

Lucy was not the only one Les helped out, as many many people made their way to Les Paul’s studio up in Mahwah New Jersey to work with him. Many of those people will remember Les for his kindness and help while others will simply remember him as a “one of a kind.”


As an aside:

Back in 1999, Lucy and I got signed to Atlantic Records to record a tribute album to Les Paul and Mary Ford. We recorded it the same way he did only, it was all done on the acoustic guitar. I got to know Les while doing the recording. The first meeting with him didn’t go so well as he accused me of  “stealing his tracks”  after listening to a few rough cuts.

Like I said, I’m only gonna tell share more if we get a good response here…



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