On June 8 and 9, Julien’s Auctions are hosting an historic event: the sale of hundreds of personal items owned by the late great Les Paul (with proceeds going to the Les Paul Foundation). There’s some amazing stuff on offer, including:
Guitars used by Les in the 40s and 50s to test his inventions and ideas, including one of his famous ‘Klunkers.’
The key-changing harmonica rack Les invented when he was a child.
Dozen of Gibson Les Pauls: Studios, Orvilles, Historics and of course Les’s beloved Les Paul Recording models, including what is believed to be the first Les Paul Recording prototype.
Acoustic guitars including a late 30s or early 40s Kalamazoo archtop, 1968 Gibson L-48, 1927 Gibson L5, various Gibson Chet Atkins acoustics and many more.
Recording equipment, including tape machines, preamps, speakers, microphones (dating back to the 30s!) and mic stands.
Electronic equipment including multimeters, tube testers, power supplies, oscillators, and – good lord – several caches of miscellaneous tubes!
Some gorgeous mid-century furniture – Les had style!
Handwritten research notes into pickups.
A 1951 Fender ‘Nocaster’ signed on the back of the headstock by Leo Fender.
A Gibson EB-2 bass modified to be an 8-string.
A Hammond B-3 organ and two Leslie cabinets.
Fender Rhodes electric piano and speaker cabinet.
Vintage echo and vibrato effects.
Mickey Mantle signed baseball.
Acoustic wall panels hand-cut, stained, lacquered and mounted by Les himself.
Le’s recording and mixing console which still features hand-written channel strip names.
Christmas cards between Les and Mary Ford.
Scripts for 24 episodes of the Les Paul and Mary Ford Show.
A hat given to Les by Slash.
A custom Peavey Wolfgang – a gift from Eddie Van Halen.
But there’s so so so much more. See the full catalog here. And when taken together, these items tell a real story, a true story, about the development of recording and guitar as we know it. There’s equipment used in developing the first ever multi-track recordings, in-progress guitar experiments which led to refinements and features we still use today, and historic pieces of studio equipment which provide an absolutely invaluable link back to recording’s past. And that’s before you even begin to consider the personal items of a man who is destined to be remembered as someone who changed the world.
So what’s going to happen to all of this stuff? Undoubtedly, collectors are going to snap up some key pieces and have some really, really lovely things for their respective walls. But what I’d really love to see is for someone, some well-heeled, well-meaning person or organisation, perhaps, to invest heavily in this auction and keep as much of it together as possible to establish a Les Paul museum. Wouldn’t you just love to some day go to a place where you can see Les’s own recording studio, his personal Les Pauls, various in-progress inventions which give you insight into his creative mind, and keepsakes, awards, membership cards, letters and personal items that remind us all that this was also a husband, a father, a son, a man who knew the value in an idea and the importance of following through with your dreams? A place to reflect on what’s possible when one inspired individual puts their mind to it and never lets go of an idea. I think Les’s life is an incredibly inspiring story, one that should be celebrated and passed on, and always remembered. And keeping this collection together in a museum is the ideal way to do that.
Below is a press release about the auction.