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Les Paul and Mary Ford Marriage Profile

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Les Paul and Mary Ford

Portrait of American jazz guitarist and guitar designer Les Paul playing a guitar next to his wife, American singer, guitarist, and actor Mary Ford, circa 1950.

Photo: Metronome / Getty Images
As a husband and wife team, Les Paul and Mary Ford had a successful career. Unfortunately, they were not as successful in their personal lives. Here is information on their marriage and divorce.

Born:

Les Paul aka Lester William Polsfuss: June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Mary Ford aka Iris Colleen Summers: July 7, 1924 in El Monte, California.

Died:

Les Paul: August 12, 2009 in White Plains, New York. Paul died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 94.

Mary Ford: September 30, 1977 in Arcadia, California. Mary died of complications from diabetes after an eight-week diabetic coma at the age of 53.
Source: "Mary Ford." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 10: 1976-1980. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.

How Les and Mary Met:

Les Paul and Mary were introduced to one another by Gene Autry in 1945.

Wedding Date:

Les and Mary were married on December 29, 1949 in a "small private ceremony without much fanfare."
Source: Source: Robb Lawrence. The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1915-1963. 2008. pg. 26.

Children:

Les had five children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
  • Lester (Rusty) Paul, Jr: His mother is Virginia Webb.
  • Gene Paul: His mother is Virginia Webb.
  • Miscarriage: "On Nov. 26, 1954, she [Mary] went into premature labor; the baby died four days later."
  • Source: Source: "Mary Ford." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 10: 1976-1980. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.
  • Colleen Paul: Adopted in 1958 by Mary and Les.
  • Robert (Bobby) Paul: Born in 1959. His mother is Mary Ford.

Divorce of Mary Ford and Les Paul:

The marriage of Les and Mary ended in a bitter divorce in December 1964. According to Tony Bacon in 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul: Half a Century of the Greatest Electric Guitars, page 44, their separation was announced in Billboard in May 1963.
Frank Houston: "Paul had made his art his life, but it was taking a toll on his family. The grind of recording and touring was exhausting Ford, and the recording duo was headed for divorce, but there was a cultural force looming that would spell the end of their career even sooner: rock 'n' roll."
Source: "Father of Invention." Salon.com.
Robert Denman: "Les and Mary were showing the serious signs of strain from the years of living a show business life style ... Les and Mary left Capital and signed with the Columbia label in July 1958. But, the move failed to restore their declining career. Their marriage was also failing and their many professional and personal setbacks resulted in a divorce in December 1964."
Source: Robert Denman. "Less Paul: The Living Legend of the Electric Guitar." Classicjazzguitar.com. 9/2007.
Robb Lawrence: "Things unfortunately were slowly deteriorating on the home front. Mary was used to relaxing at home and enjoying the easy-going lifestyle, while Les kept up his busy pace, going full-tilt and staying up late working long hours. Mary became exhausted from their active schedule and the raising of their two kids."
Source: Robb Lawrence. The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1915-1963. 2008. pg. 47.

Occupations:

Les Paul: Guitarist, songwriter, musician, inventor, actor, radio and television personality. Les served in the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Mary Ford: Guitarist, singer, radio and television personality, and actress.

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Other Marriages:

Les Paul's first marriage was to Virginia M. Webb On April 20, 1938 in Cook County, Illinois. The couple met in Chicago. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1949.
Source: Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008. Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.

Mary had two brief marriages in 1941 before marrying Les Paul -- to Dave Palmquist and to Marvin Watson. In 1965 Mary married Donald Hatfield who she knew in high school.
Source: "Mary Ford." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 10: 1976-1980. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.

Quotes About the Marriage and Divorce of Les Paul and Mary Ford:

Les: "Mary and I were going together for five years. She was a guitar hippie and she followed me around from city to city. Boy, I was the round wheel. She thought that there was no one who played like me or sounded like me. It was about five years when I decided that I was going to do something with my group. I was going to add a vocalist ... It was then and there that I decided I'd have Mary sing something. She sang church songs and a couple of hillbilly songs. So, I got her doing that and that's when the light lit! I turned to my dad and he was shaking his head, "No!" and I was shaking my head, "Yes!" My dad said that I was a roughneck and she was so delicate, you two will never make it together! We did. We met in '45 and we married the day before New Years, the last day of 1949.""Interview." Modernguitars.com. 6/9/2005.

Les: "It was rejuvenating to be back in Hollywood, and to know my arm was finally starting to heal. Soon after I got back, Virginia took the kids and went back to Chicago, and Mary moved in with me on Carson Avenue. This was a frustrating time of recuperation, and she took care of me like an angel. I don't know what I would've done without her."Les Paul -- In His Own Words. 2005. pg. 192.

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