The Roots of Rock & Roll – The Electric Guitar

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

Here’s the third installment of the Awesome! blog series, The Roots of Rock & Roll.

What makes the sound of Rock & Roll? Certainly, the electric guitar is the single most important musical instrument to the sound of Rock & Roll.

So…where did the electric guitar come from?

The need for louder guitar music was created as orchestras increased in size during the big band era. Acoustic guitars couldn’t compete with the loud brass sections in the orchestras.

The earliest patents for amplification of sound from stringed instruments date back to the 1910s – telephone transmitters were placed inside violins and banjos. In the 20s, early microphones were placed on the bridge of string instruments.

The first electrically amplified guitar was designed in 1931 by George Beauchamp, from California. In 1934, he applied for a patent for the electric lap steel guitar – nicknamed the frying pan (the instrument on the far left in the picture above). In 1936, he applied for a patent for the electro Spanish guitar, which was a hallowed body electric guitar.

Early electric guitar manufacturers included Rickenbacker (1932), Dobro (1933), AudioVox (1934) and Gibson (1935). Rock guitar pioneer Les Paul worked with the Gibson Guitar Corporation starting in 1941 to create many innovations to the electric guitar. Les Paul is iconic to Rock & Roll – he has a stand alone exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and is named an “architect” of Rock & Roll.

Another iconic electric guitar is the Fender Stratocaster, designed by Leo Fender and others, and sold by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation from 1954 to the present. It was the first guitar to use 3 pickups and a spring tension vibrato system. Legendary guitarists who use the Stratocaster include Eric Clapton, The Edge (U2), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Townshend and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

All of this leads to the classic debate – who is the greatest guitarist of all time? I’ll leave that for a future AWESOME! topic. In the meantime, enjoy the guitar work of one of the greats, Jimi Hendrix, performing Hey Joe. Be sure to watch the mouth guitar solo at 1:35, and the behind-the-neck solo at 3:15.



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