Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Les Paul, January 19, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - First recordings in the late 1920s

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Partial Transcript: --do a preliminary thing here. This is, uh--(clears throat)--let's see, what is today?

Segment Synopsis: Paul recounts his early experimentation with recording sound as a child.

Keywords: Amos 'n' Andy; Amos and Andy; Banjos; Cadillac automobiles; Cadillac flywheels; Disc jockeys; Dougall, Barney; Drums; Dynamically balanced turntables; Edison, Thomas; Electronic radios; Embossing; Flywheel; Grooves; Harmonicas; Iridium, the (New York, N.Y.); Laughing Lady, the (Motion picture); Microphones; New York (N.Y.); Octaves; Outputs; Paul, Les; Phonographs; Phonographs, wind-up; Piano roll; Pianos; Player pianos; RCA Victrola; Radios; Receivers; Recording; Speakers; Telephones; Tubes; Victor Talking Machine Company; WGN (Radio station); Waller, Thomas "Fats"; Waukesha, (Wis.); Western Electric; Wires; Yes, We Have No Bananas (Song)

Subjects: Amos 'n' Andy (Radio program); Banjo.; Cadillac automobile.; Disc jockeys.; Dougall, Bernard; Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931.; History of science and technology; Microphone; Music; New York (N.Y.); Paul, Les.; Phonograph.; Piano.; Player piano; Radio.; Record labels.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; Telephone.; Victor Talking Machine Company.; WGN (Radio station : Chicago, Ill.); Waller, Fats, 1904-1943.; Western Electric Company.

GPS: Waukesha (Wis.)
Map Coordinates: 43.0117, -88.2315
00:15:35 - Radio debut

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Partial Transcript: It was 1929 and I built this, this recording lathe, and then my mother could record me when I went on the radio.

Segment Synopsis: Paul recollects on his radio debut in 1929.

Keywords: Aluminum; Amplifiers; Cat’s Whiskers; Crystal radios; Dentists; Detectors, cat's whisker; Discs; Guitars; Marquette University; Milwaukee (Wis.); Racine (Wis.); Radio engineers; Radio receivers; Radio stations; Recording; Recording lathes; Records; Snyder, Thomas; WHAD (Radio station)

Subjects: Audio equipment industry; Crystal sets (Radio); Dentistry.; History of science and technology; Lathe; Marquette University; Milwaukee (Wis.); Music; Paul, Les.; Radio; Radio engineers.; Radio stations.; Radio--Receivers and reception.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

GPS: Milwaukee (Wis.)
Map Coordinates: 43.0389, -87.9065
00:18:46 - Chicago, Illinois

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Partial Transcript: Did you, uh--you were in Chicago, right?

Segment Synopsis: Paul discusses moving to Chicago, Illinois where he worked on a radio show on the WGN radio station.

Keywords: Audio Recording Studio; Brush Development Company; Chicago (Ill.); Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Recording; Malakar, Vlad; Microphones, Double button carbon; Microphones, Scherr; Pick-ups; Putnam, Bill; Radio engineering; Radio engineers; Radio studios; Radios; Recording studios; Scherr; Universal Recording

Subjects: Audio equipment industry; Chicago (Illinois); Cleveland (Ohio); History of science and technology; Microphone; Music; Paul, Les; Radio; Radio engineers.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry—History; Sound recordings; Sound—Recording and reproducing; Sound—Recording and reproducing—History

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.8781, -87.6298
00:22:13 - Early sound studios in Chicago, Illinois

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Partial Transcript: Late nineteenth century--

Segment Synopsis: Paul discusses early recording studios in Chicago, Illinois.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); Daily News; Microphones, double button carbon; Paul, Les; Recording lathes; Recording lathes, Scully; Recording studios; Rhubarb Red; Transcription, vertical transcription; Transistors; Transistors, Hill and Dale; Westrex; Wolverton, Joseph "Sunny Joe"; World Transcription

Subjects: Chicago (Ill.); Chicago Daily News, Inc.; History of science and technology; Lathes; Microphone; Music; Paul, Les.; Radio; Radio engineers.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; Western Electric Company.; Westrex (Firm); Wolverton, Joseph

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.8781, -87.6298
00:23:58 - Sonny Joe and Rhubarb Red Radio Show

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Partial Transcript: In fact, when I invented the multitrack tape machine, I took it first to Colonel Ranger, and that's a whole--

Segment Synopsis: Paul discusses his radio show, 'Sonny Joe and Rhubarb Red.'

Keywords: American Federation of Musicians (AFM); Caray, Harry; Chicago (Illinois); Chicago Cubs (Baseball team); Chicago Daily News; Coast to coast; Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS); Comic strips; Commercials; Elson, Bob; Funny pages; Funny papers; Harold T; Hodges, Russell; Huntley, S.L.; International Oil Burner; Managers; March, Merton; Mescal Ike; Miller, Marvin; Money; Radio transcription; Ranger, Richard; Recorders, multi-track; Recorders, tape; Rel cough syrup; Sendal; Sendal inhalers; Sonny Joe and Rhubarb Red Show (Radio program); Sponsors; Springfield (Mo.); Sure breath purifier; The Romance of Helen Trent (Radio program); Trent, Helen (Fictional character); Unions; Welles, George Orson; Wolverton, Joseph "Sunny Joe"

Subjects: Caray, Harry; Chicago (Ill.); Chicago Cubs (Baseball team); Chicago Daily News, Inc.; Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.; Comic books, strips, etc.--United States--History and criticism.; Elson, Bob, 1904-1981; History of science and technology; Hodges, Russ; Miller, Marvin, 1913-1985; Music; Radio; Radio engineers.; Record labels.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; Springfield (Mo.); Welles, Orson, 1915-1985.

GPS: Chicago (Illinois)
Map Coordinates: 41.8781, -87.6298
00:30:27 - Sound effects on early radio programs

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Partial Transcript: I watched, uh--in nineteen, I guess I would say it was nineteen--it was at CBS, and it was the next time I came back, and I know I'll forget if I don't tell you.

Segment Synopsis: Paul discusses how early innovations in radio sound effects led to the creation of reverberation mechanisms.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); Echos; Records; Reverberation; Sound effects; Spring- weighted; Springs; Thunder; WBBM (Radio station)

Subjects: Audio equipment industry; Chicago (Ill.); History of science and technology; Music; Radio; Radio engineers.; Sound effects.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.8781, -87.6298
00:33:20 - Sound reinforcement in early recording studios

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Partial Transcript: And when we did shows we were then digging into acoustical sound.

Segment Synopsis: Paul discusses the use of acoustic curtains in early recording studios.

Keywords: Acoustic curtains; Acoustics; American Broadcasting Company (ABC); Anechoic chambers; Asbestos; Bing Crosby Show, the (Radio program); Capitol Records; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); Cotton; Echo (reverberation) chambers; Guitars; Jack Benny Show, the (Radio program); Mansfield; Marble; Microphones, Scherr; Microphones, placement of; National Broadcasting Company (NBC); Paul, Les; Plaster; Putnam, Bill; Radio engineering; Radio programs; Recording studios; Sound reflection; Sound reinforcement; Speakers, UREI; Stone; Telefunken; Transite; Trumpets; United Recording Electronics Industries; Universal Audio; WGN (Radio station); Wool, rock

Subjects: American Broadcasting Company.; Asbestos; Audio equipment industry; Bing Crosby show (Radio program); Capitol Records, Inc; Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.; Cotton.; Guitar; History of science and technology; Microphone; Music; National Broadcasting Company; Radio engineers.; Radio.; Record labels.; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recordings; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; Telefunken G.m.b.H.; Telefunken Microelectronic G.m.b.H.; Trumpet.; WGN (Radio station : Chicago, Ill.)

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.8781, -87.6298