Richest CelebritiesRock Stars
Net Worth:
$10 Million
Jun 9, 1915 - Aug 13, 2009 (94 years old)
Inventor, Songwriter, Musician, Guitarist, Luthier
United States of America
💰 Compare Les Paul's Net Worth

What Was Les Paul's Net Worth?

Les Paul was an American guitarist, songwriter, inventor, and luthier who had a net worth of $10 million. Les Paul helped to pioneer the solid-body electric guitar, and his prototype inspired the Gibson Les Paul, which was first sold in 1952.

Les was self-taught on the guitar and had careers in rock music and country music. He helped master the sounds of overdubbing (sound on sound), delay effects (tape delay and phasing effects), and multitrack recording. Paul and his second wife, Mary Ford, sold millions of records and had top 10 hits such as "Tennessee Waltz," "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," "How High the Moon," "Lady of Spain," and "Vaya Con Dios." Les won several Grammy Awards, and he is the only person who has been inducted into both the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2005) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1988). The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a permanent exhibit in his honor, and the attraction has named him one of the "architects of rock and roll," along with Alan Freed and Sam Phillips. Paul passed away from complications from pneumonia on August 12, 2009, at the age of 94.

Early Life

Les Paul was born Lester William Polsfuss on June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His parents, Evelyn and George, were of German ancestry, and he had an older brother named Ralph. Evelyn was related to the makers of Stutz automobiles and the founders of the Milwaukee business Valentin Blatz Brewing Company. Evelyn and George divorced when Les was a child. Paul started playing the harmonica at the age of 8, then he learned to play piano, guitar, and banjo. He invented a harmonica holder that he wore around his neck that enabled him to play while he performed on the guitar and banjo. By the age of 13, Les performed semi-professionally as a guitarist, harmonica player, and country singer. He wanted to make his acoustic guitar easier for the audience to hear at local venues, so he decided to wire a phonograph needle to the instrument and connect it to a radio speaker. When he was 17, Paul performed with the band Rube Tronson's Texas Cowboys, then he dropped out of school to play with Sunny Joe Wolverton's Radio Band on KMOX in St. Louis. Before he adopted the stage name Les Paul, he performed under the names Rhubarb Red and Red Hot Red.


In 1934, Paul and Wolverton relocated to Chicago, where they played country music on the WBBM radio station and performed at the Chicago World's Fair. Les released two country albums In 1936, and he worked as an accompanist for other artists signed to the Decca record label. In 1937, he formed a trio with percussionist / bassist Ernie "Darius" Newton and rhythm guitarist Jim Atkins (Chet Atkins' half-brother), and they moved to New York the following year and booked a featured spot on the radio program "The Fred Waring Show." In 1941, Paul was electrocuted while playing guitar in his basement, and during the two years it took to recuperate, he was the music director for the Chicago radio stations WIND and WJJD. In 1943, he formed a new trio in Hollywood, then he was drafted into the Army, serving in the Armed Forces Radio Network. Les and his trio performed on Bing Crosby's radio show, and he went on to record songs such as the #1 hit "It's Been a Long, Long Time" with Crosby. In the '40s, Paul also recorded many albums for Decca, and his trio toured with the Andrews Sisters. In early 1948, Les and his future wife Mary Ford were involved in an accident in which their car went over a railroad overpass and dropped into a ravine. Paul sustained numerous injuries, including a shattered right arm and elbow, and after local doctors said they couldn't rebuild his elbow, he flew to L.A., where doctors set his arm at a nearly 90 degree angle that allowed him to hold and pick a guitar. His recovery took close to a year and a half.

In the early '40s, Les created a prototype of a solid-body electric guitar (called "The Log") made with a 4×4 stud post. He constructed it at the Epiphone guitar factory, and in 1941, he brought the idea to the Gibson Guitar Corporation, but the company wasn't interested until 1950 when Fender began marketing Broadcaster and Esquire guitars. The Gibson Les Paul guitar was released in 1952, and in 1962, Les was issued a patent for a pickup that had a coil integrated into the bridge. He hosted the 1950 NBC Radio program "The Les Paul Show," which was later made into the television show "Les Paul & Mary Ford at Home." Les went into semi-retirement in the mid-1960s, but he released the album "Les Paul Now" in 1968. In the '70s, he collaborated with Chet Atkins on the albums "Chester and Lester" (1976) and "Guitar Monsters" (1978). When he was 90 years old, he won two awards for the album "Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played" at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Les had several top 10 hits on the "Billboard" Hot 100 chart, including "Rumors Are Flying" (with the Andrews Sisters), "Nola," "Mockin' Bird Hill" (with Mary Ford) and "Meet Mister Callaghan." The 1953 Les Paul and Mary Ford single "Vaya Con Dios" reached #1 on the "Billboard" Hot 100 and was certified Gold.


Personal Life

Les married Virginia Webb on April 20, 1938, and they welcomed sons Les Jr. (born 1941) and Gene (born 1944) before divorcing in 1949. Paul wed Mary Ford on December 29, 1949, and the best man and matron of honor at their wedding were the parents of future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller. Les was Steve's godfather as well as his first guitar teacher. Sadly, Les and Mary's first child, a daughter, died a few days after her premature birth in 1954. In 1958, the couple adopted daughter Colleen, and their son, Robert, was born in 1959. Paul and Ford divorced in late 1964. In the mid-1990s, Les founded the Les Paul Foundation to "extend his spirit of innovation through grants to educational organizations and institutions." The foundation was meant to be dormant until his death, and according to the official Les Paul website, "The Les Paul Foundation inspires innovative and creative thinking by sharing the legacy of Les Paul through support of music education, recording, innovation, exhibits about Les Paul and medical research related to hearing." The foundation has established the Les Paul Innovation Award and the Les Paul Spirit Award.


Les died at White Plains Hospital on August 12, 2009, from complications from pneumonia at the age of 94. He was laid to rest next to his mother at Prairie Home Cemetery in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and his burial place features a grave marker with an etching of a 1952 Gibson Les Paul guitar. Several musicians commented on his death, with Richie Sambora calling him a "revolutionary in the music business" and The Edge of U2 stating, "His legacy as a musician and inventor will live on and his influence on rock and roll will never be forgotten."

Awards and Nominations

Paul earned six Grammy nominations, winning Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Chet and Lester" (1977), Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Caravan" (2006), Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "69 Freedom Special" (2006), the Trustees Award (1983), and the Technical Grammy Award (2001). He was also nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Guitar Monsters" in 1979, and his songs "Vaya Con Dios" and "How High the Moon" were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Les received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 Primetime Emmys, a Governors Award at the 2010 New York Emmys, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, and a star guitar on the Music City Walk Of Fame in 2011. Paul and Chet Atkins shared CMA Award nominations for Instrumental Group of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Les was inducted into the Big Band & Jazz Hall of Fame (1990), New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (1996), Songwriters Hall of Fame (2005), National Inventors Hall of Fame (2005), and New Jersey Hall of Fame (2010), and President George W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts in 2007.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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