6 Legendary Guitars/RIP Les Paul

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Getty Images

[It is with sadness that we report Les Paul's death today, at the age of 94. I had the pleasure of meeting Les a couple times when I was playing guitar with Pat Martino. Pat and Les were good friends, and the three of us had drinks once when Les had his standing gig at a small, now defunct jazz club across the street from Lincoln Center. That night, I asked Les if he really loved the guitar named after him, and he said dryly, "It pays the rent."In honor of Les, I thought we'd rerun this post, which, curiously, went up earlier this week. Goodbye Les, we'll all miss your music making...]

Each guitar on this list helped define either a genre, a sound, or in some cases, a career. Think of it as an introduction to some of the most popular guitars in the world. For the companion post on 5 Legendary Keyboards, click here.

1. Gibson Les Paul

Design: In the early "˜50s, Gibson president Ted McCarty approached jazz phenomenon Les Paul and asked if the guitarist would lend his name to a new guitar, then in design stages. Paul agreed, and also lent some minor advice along the lines of color schemes. In 1952, one of the world's most famous guitars of all-time was unveiled. Except for a period of time in the mid "˜60s, it's been in production ever since.

[caption id="attachment_31639" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Les Paul with his LesPaul"][/caption]

Look/Feel/Sound: The signature sound of the Les Paul is warm and full, with lots of sustain. In fact, the instrument's sustain is so well known, it was used as a joke in This Is Spinal Tap. Nigel Tufnel is showing mockumentarian Marty DiBergi his guitar collection and holds up a Les Paul Standard, showing off the sustain without actually playing a note. While there are many different models and styles, with slightly different pickup configurations and cut-aways, all Les Paul's, like all Gibson's in general, feature top-mounted strings, rather than through the guitar body, as seen in competitor Fender's designs.

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: Les Paul, of course, but just about every important guitarist over the last half century has recorded with one. The most famous devotee is probably Jimmy Page, who, when he wasn't playing his trusty double neck, was generally armed with one. Coupled with his Marshall stack amplifiers and sometimes a cello bow, Page was able to pull even more sustain out of the instrument.

Hear it in action:

2. Gibson Flying V

Design: Orville Gibson, a mandolin maker from Kalamazoo, MI, founded Gibson way back in the late 1800s. But the Gibson Flying V didn't hit the market until three quarters of a century later, in 1958, and was a flying flop that Ted McCarty, Gibson's then-president, immediately discontinued.

[caption id="attachment_31154" align="alignleft" width="299" caption="Albert King"][/caption]

Look/Feel/Sound: In 1955, Gibson introduced its classic double-coil "humbucking" pickup, which was incorporated onto this odd, V-shaped guitar, clearly ahead of its time. Between the mahogany body and the double-coil pickup, the Flying V quickly became known for its powerful sound.

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: Bluesman Albert King got a hold of the Flying V in '58 and never let go. But it wasn't until Dave Davies started using one in the "˜60s that Gibson decided to reissue the guitar in 1967. Other famous guitarists who helped popularize the instrument include Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Rudolph and Michael Schenker, Kirk Hammett, and Eddie Van Halen.

3. Fender Telecaster

Design: Another Leo Fender creation, the Telecaster hit the market in 1949 and has been going strong ever since. It is considered the very first solid-body guitar to make a significant impact on the music scene. It was also the first solid-body guitar mass-produced on an assembly line.

[caption id="attachment_31159" align="alignleft" width="211" caption="Keith Richards"][/caption]

Look/Feel/Sound: Like the Fender Strat, the Telecaster (aka Tele), is known for it's bright, rich tone. It has two single-coil pickups, as opposed to the Strat's traditional three. One of the most famous solos ever recorded with the Tele is Jimmy Page's "Stairway to Heaven" solo.

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: The Father of Chicago Blues, Muddy Waters, was an early signature user, as were many other blues players such as Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins, who was sometimes called "The Master of the Telecaster." The Clash's Joe Strummer was rarely seen without one, and it was a favorite of Andy Summers, as well as Keith Richards.

Hear it in action:

4. Fender Stratocaster

Design: Fender first put out the "Strat," the brilliant work of Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares, in 1954.

Look/Feel/Sound: The Strat features a double-cutaway, sleek, contoured body, often referred to by Fender as a "Comfort Contour Body." Those three single-coil pickups in the middle of the body further define not only the look of the Strat, but the famous sound, which is clean, crisp, and twangy.

[caption id="attachment_31145" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Buddy Holly"][/caption]

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: While it's hard to find a well-known guitarist who hasn't recorded or owned a Strat, there are definitely certain musicians who relied heavily on the guitar during their careers. Early on in the guitar's history, Buddy Holly helped turn the instrument into a familiar icon, using it almost exclusively in the late "˜50s, and most notably on his Ed Sullivan performance in 1958.

In the "˜60s, it was Jimi Hendrix who really helped push the guitar to legendary status. Because Hendrix was left-handed, yet generally used a right-handed Stratocaster flipped upside-down and strung left-handed, he got a bit of a different tone out of the instrument because the pickups were reversed. This gave a brighter punch to the lower strings, and warmer tone to the higher strings. Since his death, Fender has released many Hendrix "tribute" Strats, both left-handed versions, and right-handed versions, in attempt to try and recreate the Hendrix Stratocaster sound.

Hear it in action:

5. Gibson SG

Design: In 1961, Gibson added some horns to the cutaways of the Les Paul and slimmed down the body. The result was a really cool looking solid body (or SG) that Les Paul didn't like at all. So he made Gibson take his name off the instrument, and like that the SG was born. It's been in production in one form or another ever since.

[caption id="attachment_31166" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Angus Young"][/caption]

Look/Feel/Sound: Gibson advertised the SG as having the "fastest neck in the world", because the neck profile was slender. This, combined with the thinner body, means less sustain than the Les Paul, but the SG still packs quite a punch. It's like Gibson's answer to the Fender Strat, only with a slightly warmer tone.

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: Another long list here, including George Harrison, Tony Iommi, Elliot Easton, The Edge, Dave Grohl, and Frank Zappa. But perhaps the most famous is Angus Young, of AC/DC fame, who was rarely seen with anything but the SG. Gibson even produced an Angus Young Signature SG model.

6. Gibson Explorer

Design: For one brief year, between 1958 and 1959, Gibson put out one of the most unusual looking guitars to leave a major imprint on the scene, ever. Thing is, at first it was an exploratory flop, way ahead of its time. When other guitar manufacturers brought out Explorer knock-offs in the "˜70s, Gibson re-issued the once-futuristic looking guitar, and it became an instant favorite of heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, and glam metal rockers like Mötley Crüe.

[caption id="attachment_31165" align="alignleft" width="248" caption="James Hetfield"][/caption]

Look/Feel/Sound: Obviously the look is unique. The same can't really be said about this guitar's sound, which is rather average. Although, in the early "˜80s, when metal bands were using them nearly to a fault, Gibson introduced an Explorer with high-output, "Dirty Fingers" humbucker pickups. This made an already "˜loud' design, a really loud instrument. So loud, you would expect a Spinal Tap joke about how the guitar went to 14, four louder than 10.

Guitarists who helped make it a legend: Again, we're talking loud bands here, so James Hetfield, Eddie Van Halen, and Dave Murray, for sure. But some others have helped bring the Explorer to center stage, including: The Edge, and bands like ZZ Top and Cheap Trick.

[If you're wondering why songs weren't used as examples in this post, mental_floss is no longer able to offer excerpts from copyrighted music. We apologize.]

Check out past On Music posts here >>

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Facts About Louis Armstrong

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Getty Images

With his infectious smile and raspy voice, Louis Armstrong (who actually pronounced his own name "Lewis") won over fans worldwide. To untold millions, every note that he let loose made the world feel a bit more wonderful, and his music is still being discovered by new generations of fans. Here are 10 facts about the life of one of the 20th century's most important jazz musicians.

1. Louis Armstrong spent his adult life celebrating his birthday on the wrong date.

Armstrong used to say that he’d been born on July 4, 1900. Turns out, he was 13 months off. In 1988, music historian Thaddeus “Tad” Jones located a baptismal record at New Orleans’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. According to this document, the performer’s actual birth date was August 4, 1901.

No one’s quite sure why Armstrong lied about his age, but the most popular theories maintain he wanted to join a military band or that he figured he'd have a better shot at landing gigs if he was over 18 years old.

2. As an adult, Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant to honor the Jewish family who had employed him.

While growing up, Armstrong did assorted jobs for the Karnofskys, a family of Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. “They were always kind to me,” Armstrong once reflected, “[I] was just a little kid who could use a little word of kindness.” Apart from monetary compensation, Armstrong was given a hot meal every evening and regular invitations to Karnofsky Shabbat dinners. One day, they even advanced him the $5 he used to buy his very first horn.

3. Louis Armstrong would sometimes use a food-based sign-off.

Pops” had a special place in his heart for both Chinese and Italian food. But, as a Bayou State native, Armstrong’s favorite dish was always rice and beans. In fact, before marrying his fourth wife, he made sure that she could cook a satisfactory plateful. To grasp how much the man adored this entrée, consider that he often signed his personal letters with “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”

4. During a famous recording, Louis Armstrong allegedly dropped his sheet music and improvised.

At one point in “Heebie Jeebies”—a 1926 song released by Armstrong and his "Hot Five” band—the singer vocalizes a series of nonsensical, horn-like sounds. Music historians recognize this as the first popular, mass-market scat ever recorded. Ironically, Armstrong later wrote the whole thing off as a big blunder on his part. In a 1951 interview with Esquire, Armstrong claimed to have come prepared with printed lyrics that day. Midway through the recording session, he accidentally dropped them and scatted to fill the ensuing silence. “Sure enough,” he explained, “they … [published] ‘Heebie Jeebies’ the same way it was mistakenly recorded.” However, most biographers believe that Armstrong made up this anecdote and had planned on scatting all along. It's also worth noting that even though he brought it into popularity, Armstrong in no way invented the technique, which dates back to at least 1906.

5. Louis Armstrong used to give away laxatives as gifts.

Between 1952 and 1955, Armstrong shed 100 pounds. Losing weight proved difficult at first, but his luck changed once he learned of an herbal laxative called “Swiss Kriss.” The artist promptly went out, bought a box, and became a lifelong spokesman. After trying it, he said that defecation sounded like “Applause.” Enamored, the musician began handing out packets to admirers, loved ones, and band members. Though he was the product's biggest cheerleader, Armstrong neither requested nor received any payment from its manufacturers.

6. Segregation laws drove Louis Armstrong to boycott his own state.

The year 1956 saw Louisiana prohibit integrated bands. Outraged, Armstrong refused to stage another concert within the state's borders. “They treat me better all over the world than they do in my hometown,” he said. “Ain’t that stupid? Jazz was born there and I remember when it was no crime for cats of any color to get together and blow.” Nine years later, after this ban had finally lifted, he again took the stage in New Orleans on October 31, 1965.

7. While playing before the royal family, Louis Armstrong gave King George V a new nickname.

At His Majesty’s command, several of the biggest names in jazz took their talents to Buckingham Palace, and in 1932, Armstrong was requested for a royal performance. Evidently, the show went well. According to Armstrong, that night’s “biggest laugh” came right before his group started playing “You Rascal, You.” Without warning, he looked straight up at the monarch and hollered, “This one’s for you, Rex!”

8. Louis Armstrong went on several goodwill tours during the Cold War.

Fresh off the wild success of his “Hello, Dolly!” cover, Armstrong made a trip to communist East Berlin in 1965, where he gave a two-hour concert that earned a standing ovation. While not officially government-sponsored, there are some who believe the concert was arranged by the CIA, which would make this just one of the many taxpayer-funded appearances he’d make abroad during the Cold War in an effort to strengthen diplomatic relations overseas. Previously, Armstrong had performed throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa—though he famously canceled a planned 1957 Soviet Union tour, citing the recent Little Rock crisis. “The way they are treating my people in the South,” declared Armstrong, “the government can go to hell.”

9. “What a Wonderful World" was originally pitched to Tony Bennett.

The song for which Pops is most widely remembered, “What a Wonderful World,” was almost never his song at all. After completing the optimistic anthem, songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss thought that Tony Bennett would eat it right up. He subsequently passed, so the duo contacted Armstrong in August 1967.

10. "What a Wonderful World" didn't make a splash in the U.S. until well after Louis Armstrong's death.

The first recording of “What a Wonderful World” was produced by ABC Records, which made no attempt to advertise it domestically. Although the ballad topped the 1968 charts in Great Britain, American sales were abysmal. When Pops (who adored Thiele and Weiss’ masterwork) passed away on July 6, 1971, “What a Wonderful World” seemed destined for stateside obscurity.

Then along came a bare-knuckled comedy called Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). The joyous tune perfectly and ironically clashed with the wartime horrors depicted in one montage, so director Barry Levinson added it to his film’s soundtrack. “What a Wonderful World” struck a chord with moviegoers and was re-released that year, becoming an oft-requested radio hit.