Back in the late Forties and early Fifties when Les Paul was creating the first multitrack recordings, audiences were understandably confused by the process that allowed him and Mary Ford, his wife and performing partner, to make their layered guitar-and-vocal recordings.
In 1953, CBS invited Les and Mary to give a demonstration of multitracking on the Omnibus educational TV series, hosted by Alistair Cooke, and you can watch the clip below.
Always something of a joker, Les starts out with a bogus demonstration of multi-tracking.
The real demonstration doesn’t begin until 3:40, at which point he straps on his guitar and records some backing tracks from Les and Mary’s 1951 hit “How High the Moon” on a pair of Ampex reel-to-reel recorders. Afterward, Mary records lead and harmony vocals.
Given the length of time it would have taken for the couple to make a complete recording of the track, they wrap things up by miming to their hit 1951 track. Take a look at this classic clip from music history.