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Rock Hall to honor innovator Les Paul

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will pay tribute to the “father of the electric guitar” this fall.

Les Paul will be honored at the annual American Music Masters series, a weeklong event that begins Nov. 10, Rock Hall officials said Tuesday. A tribute concert – artists will be named later – is scheduled Nov. 15 at Cleveland’s State Theater.

Paul, 93, is hoping to attend, said Rock Hall President and CEO Terry Stewart.

“You have an inductee who in some ways maybe has had one of the biggest influences of all our inductees with the creation of his solid-body guitar, overdubbing … not to mention his musical styling and his ability to play,” Stewart said. “He’s become an idol and an icon to people in the rock world, as well as people in jazz and popular music.”

Paul began playing guitar as a child and by 13 was performing semiprofessionally as a country-music guitarist. He later made his mark as a jazz-pop musician, recording hits like “How High the Moon” with his wife, singer Colleen Summers, better known as Mary Ford. They divorced in 1964.

He built a solid-body electric guitar in 1941 – an invention born from his frustration that audiences were unable to hear him play.

In 1952, Gibson introduced the Les Paul model, which became the instrument of choice for musicians such as Duane Allman, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

“It’s not just his innovation and his musical playing, but sort of the residual effects of that guitar,” Stewart said. “It’s become the beginning point for so many people in music, particularly rock music.”

Paul still performs weekly at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. He was inducted into the early influence category of the Rock Hall in 1988.

Paul is only the second living recipient of the annual American Music Masters award, which began in 1996 to pay tribute to artists who helped change American culture. Jerry Lee Lewis was the first living recipient in 2007. Past recipients include Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke.

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