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2011 Les Paul Award:
Steve Vai

Named for one of the industry's most revered personalities, the Les Paul Award was created in 1991 to honor individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology.

Steve Vai’s sheer breathtaking facility on the guitar is acclaimed in the rock world and beyond. Vai began his professional music career at eighteen, transcribing scores for Frank Zappa. He then recorded and toured with Zappa for three years before launching his solo career.

With his groundbreaking multi-platinum album Passion and Warfare in 1990, and throughout the years since, the brilliance of Vai’s musicianship has awed fans of all genres. With career sales of over 15 million records, 15 Grammy nominations, and 3 Grammy wins, Steve is the laureate of countless awards for his innovative style and artistic contributions.

As an accomplished audio producer, Vai has written, produced, and engineered all of his solo albums and is the owner of two recording studios. Vai’s own music combines rich compositional skills with creative recording techniques to sonically articulate his ever-expanding artistic vision.

In 1985 Vai designed his signature Ibanez JEM guitar. It contained first-of-its-kind elements that have since been adapted by others in the industry. The Jem is now one of the longest running and most successful signature series guitars in history. Its sister model, the RG, is second in historic sales only to the Fender Stratocaster. Vai also designed the first commercial 7 string electric guitar for Ibanez called “The Universe.” With the 7th string tuned down, this guitar revolutionized the sound of new metal. In additon to his creation of signature guitars, Vai teamed with Carvin Corporation to design a series of “Legacy” amplifiers, and has contributed innovative ideas to dozens of equipment manufacturers worldwide.

In 1997 Vai launched Favored Nations, an independent record label that went on to release over 70 albums by legendary musicians such as Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Lukather, Eric Johnson, Billy Sheehan, Larry Carlton and many more. Vai now releases all of his solo work through Favored Nations.
In 1998 Vai created “The Make A Noise Foundation,” a non-profit that raises funds for music education. He also supports many worthwhile organizations such as Hollywood Arts and MusiCares. Vai spent three years as Governor and five years as Trustee of The Recording Academy (NARAS). During his terms he wrote and championed proposals to support the needs of the industry and also to recognize historical recording artists.

For Vai, virtuosity and versatility are not mutually exclusive. Steve has created music for blockbuster films, bestselling video games, national sports franchises, and corporate brand initiatives. His career accomplishments have earned him honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and Musicians Institute.

Vai’s latest live album and DVD, Where the Wild Things Are, is certified platinum. Most impressive, however, is that he continues to evolve. Through orchestral composition, Vai now strives to unearth a greater musical vocabulary to convey the range of human experience. His symphonic works integrate rock band with orchestra in inimitable ways.
For more than three decades, Vai has dedicated his talents to creatively advance the language of music. While many artists fit easily into a single category, Steve Vai remains unclassifiable. He is a musical alchemist of the highest order.

2011 Steve Vai

Past recipients:
2010 Lindsay Buckingham
2008 Ray Benson
2007 Al Kooper
2006 Steve Miller
David Byrne
2004 Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
2003 Bruce Springsteen
2002 Robbie Robertson
2001 Steely Dan
2000 Paul McCartney
1999 Sting
1998 Neil Young
1997 Stevie Wonder
1996 Brian Wilson
1995 Alan Parsons
1994 Herbie Hancock
1993 Peter Gabriel
1992 Bob Clearmountain
1991 Bob Ludwig