Penn State special collection hails contributions of musician Les Paul

Les Paul, known as the “godfather” of the electric guitar, passed away Aug. 12 at the age of 94. Paul is credited as the creator of the solid-body electric guitar and the inventor of multi-track recording techniques. Paul, a country musician from Waukesha, Wisc., was born in 1915 and had a celebrated career as both a solo artist and with singer Mary Ford, his wife until 1964.

Penn State's Fred Waring Collection, part of the Special Collections Library of the University Libraries, hails the contributions Les Paul made to the Waring musical organization and acknowledges the indelible mark he made on the music world as a whole.

Although not widely known, Paul was a member of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians from 1939–1941. In the late 1930s, Paul formed the Les Paul Trio, with bassist Ernie Newton and singer Jimmy Atkins and, in 1939, they were hired by famous bandleader Fred Waring as featured performers for the "Chesterfield Pleasure Time Radio Show." Very few people had heard the sound of an electric guitar in those days, and combined with the smooth, low voice of Atkins and brush-bass playing of Newton, the Les Paul Trio had a unique sound.

The Fred Waring Collection, known as Fred Waring’s America, contains historical memorabilia reflecting Fred Waring’s nearly 70-year career as choral conductor and showman. For almost seven decades Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians entertained audiences throughout the world on stage, radio, television, records, in motion pictures and toured America and other countries. The collection is housed in Pattee Library at Penn State and is accessible during regular business hours.

For more information, contact Eileen Akin, by phone at (814) 863-2911, or by e-mail at

Last Updated August 17, 2009