Les and Mary were wonderful together!Dave's Song of the Day
How High the Moon – Les Paul and Mary Ford
Friday song of the day: Today’s song became the tune most often associated with this musical legend.
Les Paul was a genius. It is impossible to overstate his importance to music in the Twentieth Century and beyond. Simply put, much of today’s music would not exist if not for the many innovations of Les Paul. Starting in his teens, he tinkered with ways of amplifying guitars, and his work helped perfect the solid-body electric guitar, leading of course to the famous Gibson Les Paul guitar. He also originated numerous electronic effects, recording techniques, and recording hardware, including phase-shifting, multitrack recording, delay, and close-miking.
In addition to his endless tinkering, he was a professional musician for over eighty years, starting in the 1920s as a teenager from Waukesha, Wisconsin (originally using his birth name Lester Polsfuss, but soon shortening it to Les Paul) and continuing until his death in 2009. His commercial peak was in the 1940s and 1950s, when he had numerous hits, including 19 records that reached the Top 10.
One of these was How High the Moon, which he recorded with his wife, singer Mary Ford. The song was written in 1940 by Morgan Lewis and Nancy Hamilton, and had been recorded by several artists, including Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald. Les had recorded a version himself in 1945 with The Les Paul Trio. The definitive version, however, came in 1951 when he and Mary Ford recorded it for Capitol Records. This version showcased many of his innovations, including multitrack recording to make Mary Ford’s voice sound like an entire vocal group (a technique later famously used by Queen to great effect, particularly on Bohemian Rhapsody.), phase-shifting, delay and other effects added to Les Paul’s guitar. In all, the recording of How High the Moon consisted of 24 parts, twelve for guitar and twelve for Mary Ford’s singing.
How High the Moon was released as a single and went all the way to #1, a position it held for nine straight weeks. Over the years it became one of Paul’s signature songs and is recognized as a landmark in musical history. The recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1979, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized How High the Moon on its list of Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. As for Les Paul himself, his accomplishments are far too numerous to list. Suffice it to say that he is the only person to have been inducted into both The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. I highly recommend watching the documentary The Wizard of Waukesha for a glimpse into his monumental contributions to music and technology.
Les Paul and Mary Ford on Omnibus, Oct 23rd, 1953 (a performance of How High the Moon begins at the 5:11 mark)
Tomorrow: Been playin’ since they’s babies