THE BELCH IS BACK!(RGB, Flood Plain, TX) After a 4 year hiatus, the Spumoni Belch is back at virtual news stands everywhere. The management and staff sorely regret the period of enforced quiet. After publishing the explosive testimony of Spike the Iguana, the Belch was shut down in a clear violation of its 1st amendment rights by a horde of rabid Clintonistas. Miles O'Neal was trussed up and hidden in Vince Foster's grave. Michael and Michelle Debinhex were disguised as skeletons and thrown in with hundreds of others in Bill and Hillary's closets. Suzi Styrofoam was used as packing material for various pieces of White House silver that the Clintons had future plans for, and Gloria Glasshead was ignominiously used as Hillary's stunt double in particularly rough parts of NYC during Mrs. Clinton's 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Only last week, Tipper Gore, proofing an early copy of The Bill and Al Memoirs, found evidence of some of this, and her diligence eventually led to our freedom. She has our eternal thanks.
50 YEARS OLD!July marks the 50th birthday of Gibson's Les Paul guitar. Since the story of this amazing cultural icon is shrouded in mystery and mythos, the Belch staff felt this was an ideal story to tackle for our comeback issue. After years (in Internet Time, anyway) of painstaking research, or at least imagineering, the Belch has brought together the diverse threads of this incredible story into a cohesive whole. The best part is how well the recollections of the various players line up to tell a single tale. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed discovering it.
Teddy's Story(CMI, Kalamazoo, MI) Ted McCarty (a former president of Gibson -Ed) fondly recalls the day he conceived the idea of the solid body electric guitar. ``I was watching TV, and this fella came on playing some toy guitar by an upstart company called Fender. It looked an awful lot like a solidbody guitar, but of course nobody ever made one before us. I got on the horn, roused a couple of my engineers outa bed, chased down my head salesman at a poker game, and we locked up in a janitor's closet for a few days until we had a design. Literally sweated it out. Boy, did we stink!
``Anyway, what we came up with looked just like the Les Paul of today, except it was fatter and bigger, had faux F holes, the headstock was a bit different, it had a suspension bridge, and I think we used a switch out of a power tool, or maybe an early blender. I forget the name of the lady who made the pickups, but she had a lover named Seth who did something or other for us.
``We gave away samples like candy. Nobody seemed to care. But this one fella played pretty good, and he liked it, and he and his lady friend got on the Eddie Sullivan show with it. Nobody'd ever heard of this player, but the show with the guitar went over real big, so we met at some hunting lodge and signed a contract whereby he changed his name to Les Paul. Later his lady friend, Mary Firebird, changed her last name in a similar deal with Ford.''
Les Paul's Les Paul(LP, Mooselodge, MI) Les Paul was more than happy to fill in some of the blanks from McCarty's story. ``I'd been knocking around the guitar scene for some time with Mary, and we'd made a bit of a name for ourselves. I'd invented a solid body electric guitar decades before Leo Fender, a much simpler, easier to build and play design I called "Les's Log". Nobody would buy it, so I put it in a time capsule for my grandkids.
``A few years later, after Leo had some success with all his 'Caster guitars, the folks at Gibson got all in a panic. They came to me, because someone recollected Les's Log, and I agreed to make them a guitar. That very night I locked myself in a janitor's closet with nothing to drink but Lysol[tm] and put in sweat equity until I had a design. Mary said my breath stank for weeks. I built essentially the same guitar we call the Les Paul today, except that it was flat on the front.
``Mary said that looked like something Leo Fender would do, so she grabbed her Samurai Sushi knives and carved the front off a violin. We glued it onto the prototype with Lysol, and she went on a week long zen journey to resharpen her knives.'' (Samurai sushi knives are as sharp as their owner believes them to be. Ms. Ford reputedly could believe her knives were so sharp, a surgeon once removed a single layer of cells with one. -Ed)
``So we took it to Gibson, and they loved it. Only they wanted to call it a "PRS McCarty". Nobody would buy a guitar with a name like that! My lawyers convinced them to name it after me, which got us instant brand recognition. In fact, they sold so fast it put Fender out of business. We were terrified that the market wouldn't be considered legitimate without competition, so we sort of helped Leo rebuild. Huh, I just remembered we were never supposed to talk about that.''
Paddlin' With the Paul!(NRA, Detroit, MI) Ted Nugent has never, to our amazement, played a Les Paul in public. But it turns out he had a small part to play in the invention of this weapon of mass aural destruction. Mr. Nugent was kind enough to elucidate.
``I was born with a guitar in my hands. In fact, it was a lot like a miniature Gibson Byrdland. But I was never content to play by others' rules, so before I left the delivery room, I grabbed a scalpel and created what later became the Gibson Explorer.
``I used that guitar a lot. I paddled canoes with it. I fought off gym class bullies and coaches with it. I tried using it as a bow, but the shape was all wrong; the arrows would deflect off the body. I needed a guitar with an arched top.
``So in high school, I took wood shop. I carved my ideal top from a block of solid maple. It had a curvey front, like a violin. With a raised pick guard, I could pull a Robin Hood (shoot an arrow straight into the shaft of another arrow -Ed) at 30 paces with that guitar! The les angular body shape worked much better as a paddle, and the horn on one side was great for leverage when I was fighting off rabid fans, algebra teachers, and folks trying to take my guns away. I still don't like to play those guitars, but music is about all I don't use them for.''
Our Father, Who Wert in Washington, DC(MIA, Hardknocksville, TN) No history of any invention would be complete without Al Gore's contribution. Al Gore, who single-handedly fathered and mothered the Internet, the Dot Com rise, the Dot Com stumble, the Dot Com fall, and for all we know the Enron fiasco, was happy to share with us his part in the story of the Les Paul.
``The Les Paul is one of the three greatest guitars of all time. I first thought of it while serving in Vietnam. I'm aware that other histories suggest the Les Paul was invented before that, but I can assure you that these are erroneous allegations. Many of them are downright felonious, attempts by rabid right wing zealots to discredit the legacy Mr. Clinton and I left behind. I cannot provide documentation, because the paperwork is all classified.
``But I assure you that America is a better place. Mr. Clinton and I did everything we could to make sure that every American, not just the rich, not just the Republicans, not just the WASPs, had access to rock and roll. We invited more rock bands to the White House than anyone. We charged the CIA with making not only Les Pauls, but even Telecasters, available to brave freedom fighters such as the Taliban. We raised taxes to put millions of Les Pauls in the hands of welfare mothers. And I believe we succeeded. America is truly a better place today for our efforts. Thank you for asking these tough questions. Questions like this are what makes this country great, along with the Les Paul guitar and other things I have invented.''
LES, WE LOVE YOU![Editorial by Suzi Styrofoam]
In 1952 (or possibly 1969), the first Les Paul sold for roughly 10% more than a Telecaster. Today, thanks to the miracle of upscale economics, the average Gibson Les Paul sells for approximately 500% more than the average Telecaster. We'd love to know if Mr. Gore wants credit for that.
But more importantly, I'm just happy that Les Pauls no longer come with trapeze tail pieces. I'm terrified of heights, so I've never even been on a trapeze. Today's Les Paul guitars come with "stop bar" tail pieces. You can put them in front of stop signs to know when to stop. This is just one example of the versatility of these marvelous guitars. All this, and jazz and blues and rock and roll, as well! What more could one want in a guitar?
Besides maybe a price more in line with a Telecaster...
The KneeJerks in Management
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