Les Paul's inventions, the Les Paul electric guitar and multitrack recorder are with us today and will long be remembered, but his other great legacy, his music and playing style have drifted into the shadows and may well be forgotten. Ironic in a way because Les came up with these inventions in order to make great music, develop his own sound and pursue his first love: music and show business.
Les' playing was rooted in the jazz era. A lot of his ideas come from piano players, clarinet players and other guitarists of the day, particularly Django Reinhardt whose penchant for arpeggios and speed is noticeable in Les' guitar lines. But Les wanted his own sound, so he began to craft guitar licks nobody else was playing, developed an elegant solid body guitar, dreamed up primitive but effective multitrack recording techniques (inventing the multi track recorder along the way) all in an effort to push the envelope and make something different.
His innovations and musicianship led to a string of hit records of quirky and upbeat guitar instrumentals, unique in their sound and delivery. But, anticipating the public would tire of instrumentals he started looking for a singer, found Mary Ford, teamed up with her and eventually married her.
Les knew a good pop song when he heard it and he and Mary set out to make records that appealed to the masses.
Hence, you have songs as divergent as "How High The Moon" on the one hand and "Mocking Bird Hill" on the other. They would go on the make over 120 recordings that is if you include the Robert Hall and Reingold Beer radio commercials, and the weekly radio spots. This doesn't count the 15-minute TV shows they did for a while in the early days of television. But as is often the way with pop fads the Paul/Ford song selections and their artistic voice and style were of an era, of a generation, and of a wave of pop culture that would pass out of favor. Luckily for them it was right around the time they ran out of steam anyway.