Arts & Entertainment

Music legend Les Paul's guitars and other personal items go on display before being auctioned

Les Paul created custom guitars for rock and roll heavyweights such as Eddie Van Halen.
Les Paul created custom guitars for rock and roll heavyweights such as Eddie Van Halen.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Over 700 items from Les Paul's personal collection will be auctioned at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills on June 8 and 9, in honor of what would have been his 97th birthday. But before it disappears into wealthy homes, the collection will be on display for the public starting Tuesday.

Items on sale include Paul's extensive guitar collection, his first multitrack recording machines, furniture from his New Jersey home and many of his musical experiments. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Les Paul Foundation, which supports music education, engineering and innovation, as well as medical research.

Drew Berlin played his Les Paul guitar from the 1970s in his band the Burst brothers. He helped transport and sort through the many relics from Paul's estate.

"He was a great guitar player," said Berlin. "Most of the greats will tell you that Les was inspirational to them both as a player and an inventor."

Les Paul (born Lestor William Polsfuss) began his career as a country guitar player with a strong passion for electronics. At the age of 13, Paul put a telephone under his six-string guitar to amplify it.

The country man known as "Red Hot Red" and "Rhubarb Red" invented the solid body electric guitar in 1951, and multitrack recording in 1948. The new system (which Paul invented in a studio he erected in his Hollywood garage) revolutionized the music industry.

Throughout his life he sang with his wife Mary Ford. The two recorded country music as he continued to release new innovations in music.

Paul's guitars didn't catch on until the mid-1960s, when British invasion musicians like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton started using his electric guitars, as well as American musicians like ZZ Top.