Items from the estate of Les Paul head for charity auction block
By Paul Ridden
March 28, 2012
Mention the name Les Paul, and most people will think of Gibson's famous guitar and not the extraordinary person after which it was named. To mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the accomplished guitarist and visionary inventor born Lester Polsfuss in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1915, Julien's Auctions will host an auction of some of Les Paul's personal estate. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Les Paul Foundation, a charity that encourages young people to pursue their curiosity and innovation about music, sound and engineering.
It was with a heavy heart that I reported the passing of Les Paul in August 2009, a man who revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar and pioneered technology behind modern day sound recording. The Wizard of Waukesha was given the title of "Architect of Rock 'n' Roll" in 1988 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his achievements in 2005 and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2006.
Now, some of that history is heading for the auction block. Equipment, memorabilia, personal effects and instruments spanning the entire career of Les Paul - from his early days as Rhubarb Red to his Grammy awards and beyond - feature in this unique collection. The items have been brought together with the quite appropriate assistance of the Burst Brothers Dave Belzer and Drew Berlin, who are both respected vintage guitar experts and true Les Paul fans.
Auction highlights include a 1968 Prototype Gibson Les Paul Custom Recording Model with a white flat top and Bigsby tail piece, which is accompanied by a hand-written note from the musician saying "Reward this is the property of Les Paul A.K.A. Lester William Polfuss…Mahwah, New Jersey USA…" There's a butterscotch 1951 Fender Nocaster with its original thermometer case that was a gift to Les Paul from Leo Fender, and a 1927 Gibson L-5 Sunburst Cremona bought in 1933.
Bidders could walk away with one of the very first Les Paul guitars to be produced, in the shape of a 1952 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top with no serial number. It has a Trapeze tail piece, Grover's tuners and is hand-signed by Les Paul at the back of the head.
It's not just guitars that are being offered for auction - there's a 1955 Steinway New York Music Room grand model B piano in ebony from Les Paul's main recording studio at his home in Mahwah, New Jersey and a Boss BCB-6 Pedal Effects in case. In addition to effects like a blue ch-1 super chorus, silver DD3 digital delay, a gray RV3 digital reverb/delay and a white TU-2 chromatic tuner, the 3.5 x 25 x 11-inch (88.9 x 635 x 279.4-mm) case also contains some tools and a pair of the musician's sunglasses.
It's no surprise to find a few recording devices featured, including a late 1960s Automated Processes Inc mixing console with original masking tape label showing channel indications in Les Paul's own hand, and an Ampex MM1000 16-track recording machine from the early 1970s.
Les Paul's touring rig is also up for grabs, a prototype unit designed by the great man featuring a Gibson LP1 guitar amplifier pre-amp controller, and a Plexiglass panel on the front that still has markings in red nail polish to indicate Les Paul's preferred settings. There's a single 15-inch Altec Lansing speaker with high frequency horn, power amp and Paulverizer attachment built into the cabinet, and a Nakimichi 700, three head cassette player on top which the guitarist used to play along with pre-recordings.
The collection will be available for public viewing at the Beverly Hills, California sales rooms of Julien's Auctions from May 29, ahead of live and online bidding on June 8 and 9 - prior registration is required to bid an any items.