In a 1993 letter Les Paul expressed his excitement for a proposed Discovery World exhibit celebrating his work. On Wednesday Discovery World formally announced that the long-discussed exhibit "Les Paul's House of Sound" would debut June 21, just in time for Paul's 93rd birthday.
Discovery World's Joel Brennan said the show would be "an interactive exhibit focusing on the spirit of innovation and creativity in all of us." He said Paul is lending items from his personal collection, many of which have historical importance.
The Waukesha native's inventions and developments virtually revolutionized the way we think of music today in any number of ways -- from developing the solid body electric guitar that bears his name to portable sound recording gear to sound-on-sound multi track technology. Paul's life has been a restless journey. He is that rare right and left brained individual who can build a guitar as well as play it.
The exhibit was spearheaded by Milwaukee non-profit organization PACE (Partnership for the Arts and Creative Excellence).
Last Monday PACE's Larry Glusman attended Paul's weekly gig at Iridium jazz club in New York City and the following day he met up with fellow PACE-ers Rich Cook and Mike Hoffmann to spend 10 hours at Paul's Mahwah, N.J., home looking over a king's ransom of potential items for House of Sound exhibit.
According to Glusman, Paul and his son Russ provided a long relaxed day of Midwestern hospitality and conversation.
Paul's sprawling house includes a former television studio (paid for by Listerine's sponsorship of his daily television show with Mary Ford) and a 40-sq. ft. recording studio and control room where Russ catalogs video of his father's weekly Iridium gigs and the Listerine shows.
Glusman said everywhere they turned the visitors bumped into history, from Paul's prototype electric guitar "The Log" to Grammy Awards to the cutting lathe he built with parts from Marquette's dental school and a Cadillac flywheel.
The name House of Sound came from Bing Crosby. After an all night session for the classic1945 recording "It's Been a Long, Long Time" the duo took a drive looking at buildings in Los Angeles, where Crosby suggested Paul develop a facility to showcase his innovations. More than six decades later the doors are about to open.
"Les is very enthusiastic about the House of Sound and sincerely thanked Rich for his long term dedication in helping put the project in motion," Glusman noted. "He is very gracious about the whole project. The man is an egoless genius. Hearing the stories was amazing and the guy really listens.
"The exhibit will give people the opportunity to investigate their creative side via Les' life of projects. He really is the coolest 92-year-old you will ever meet."
As is the case with most Discovery World attractions, the exhibit emphasizes interaction and participation, allowing visitors to play "duets" with Paul and to test out some of his inventions, like multi-track recording. Brennan hopes it will inspire creative minds of all ages.
"We have a unique opportunity to share the vision, inspiration and artistry of Les Paul with audiences of all ages who will descend upon Milwaukee's lakefront this summer," he said.
"His spirit of creativity and his efforts to marry technology and music have made Les legendary. We are thrilled to be able to introduce both Les Paul and his innovative spirit to people in an unexpected, exciting and engaging way."