Les Paul was born as Lester William Polsfuss on June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. At age eight, he played the harmonica and attempted to play the banjo. This brought him to the guitar. By the time he was thirteen, he played country music in Waukesha semi-professionally. He migrated to Chicago in 1934 and released his first two records in 1936. At this point he started playing jazz and adopted his stage name, Les Paul.
In the 30’s, a problem facing guitarist was the growing brass sections in the big bands. The sound of the guitar could not compete with the brass instruments and needed to be amplified. The attempts at amplifying instruments can be traced back to 1910, when techniques using telephone transmitters for violins and banjos were first patented.
The first hollow-body electric guitar was actually developed by Georg Beauchamp, with Adolph Rickenbacher and Paul Barth and then built by Henry Watson. The guitar was commercially produced in 1934 under the name of Rickenbacher Electro Stringed Instruments.
But the hollow-body guitars had feedback and sustain problems. The main goal was to have the strings vibrating and nothing else. So, Les Paul built his first solid-body electric guitar in 1941, called “The Log.” It was a four-by-four board with strings and a pickup and two hollow-body guitar halves screwed on the sides for show. He offered this project to Gibson, who promptly refused to produce it. They said it was a board with pickups and strings. (Basically, it is just that, right?)
Les Paul not only made great donations to the development of the electric guitar, he also made great leaps in the recording industry with his overdubbing techniques or “sound on sound” recording. He went on to write and record a slew of music and remained an active guitar player until his death:
“Paul performed weekly – at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club – and indulged his inventor’s curiosity in a basement workshop at home in Mahwah, New Jersey up until his death on August 12, 2009.”
A quote from: http://www.lespaulonline.com/bio.html Copyright 2011 The Les Paul Foundation
Les Paul in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsqmY2-R6vk&feature=related