77 Square Book Review
This book review by Jane Burns was featured in "77 Square" on Sunday, April 1.
As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets set to induct its class of 2012 on April 14, it's not too much of a stretch to say the hall would be pretty empty without the work of a man known as "the Wizard of Waukesha."
A new book about Les Paul is the 20th in the Wisconsin Historical Society Press' Badger Biography series, and it's a good topic for young readers who are busy downloading music or taking on their friends in Rock Band.
"Les Paul: Guitar Wizard" makes Paulís work relevant to any youngster (or grown-up) who doesn't know the difference between Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix. It was Paul's tinkering, which started at home in Waukesha, that led to many of the things rock fans take for granted today†- the electric guitar, amplified sound and multi-layered recording.
But as much as it's a music story, author Jacobson also paints Paul as a curious Wisconsin boy who found his passion early and followed it his entire life. Born Lester Polsfuss in 1915, Paul used innovation from a young age to help create and share the sounds he wanted. His first electric guitar came when he was still a teenager playing at a drive-in, taking parts from the family's record player to amplify the sound of his guitar.
Paul's life is a walk through musical styles and popular culture for decades†- from old-time country radio, to jazz nightclubs to TV with Bing Crosby and to influencing the likes of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and died in 2009.
"Les Paul: Guitar Wizard" is one of two new releases this spring in the Badger Biographies series. Another new book, "Joyce Westerman: Baseball Hero" by Bob Kann, tells the story of a Wisconsin farm girl who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1945 to 1952.