Les Paul, the guitar virtuoso and inventor who revolutionized music and created rock 'n' roll as surely as Elvis Presley and the Beatles by developing the solid-body electric guitar and multitrack recording, died Thursday at age 94.
Known for his lightning-fast riffs, Paul performed with some of early pop's biggest names and produced a slew of hits, many with wife Mary Ford. But it was his inventive streak that made him universally revered by guitar gods as their original ancestor and earned his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the most important forces in popular music.
Paul, who died in White Plains, N.Y., of complications from pneumonia, was a tireless tinkerer, whose quest for a particular sound led him to create the first solid-body electric guitar, a departure from the hollow-body guitars of the time. His invention paved the way for modern rock 'n' roll and became the standard instrument for legends like Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page.
He also developed technology that would become hallmarks of rock and pop recordings, from multitrack recording that allowed for layers and layers of "overdubs" to guitar reverb and other sound effects.
"He was truly the cornerstone of popular music," said Henry Juskiewicz, chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar, which mass produced Paul's original invention. "He was a futurist, and unlike some futurists who write about it and predict things, he was a guy who actually did things."
In this Feb. 19, 1977 file photo, Les Paul, right, and Chet Atkins, left, are presented Grammies by Dolly Parton and Freddie Fender, second from right, at 19th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.