In days gone by the guitar was a quiet, well behaved little instrument. In the nineteen thirties in America, you could barely here it in swing bands trying not to be drowned out by drums and horns. Sadly, it was fighting a losing battle. The guitar in acoustic form simply lacked the design dynamics to make it an instrument that was loud enough to be prominent in a full band situation.
All this was to change in Los Angeles, where it is said that George Beauchamp invented the first crude electric guitar. Hawaiian music, which he performed, is credited as the inspiration for the electric guitar. This is due to the fact that in Hawaiian music, the guitar is primarily responsible for melody. The sound of this humble instrument needed to be amplified.
The first electric guitar, as with most groundbreaking innovations, was met with some criticism. It quickly became apparent however that a new domain was created that allowed for guitarists to express their own unique abilities and style. The selling point of those early, crude guitars was simple… volume. Guitarist were now empowered to choose creative melodic lines as opposed to only strumming rhythm. Suddenly music was heard that showcased a new featured voice. The guitar was no longer satisfied with its obscure place in the band.
The design of the guitar was forced to evolve over time. The hollow sound chamber was prone to feedback. With the invention of guitar pickups, the next natural step in the electric guitars evolutionary process was the creation of the solid body electric. The progression was swift. The first mass produced solid body electric (the Telecaster) was birthed in 1950, courtesy of Leo Fender. It was called the broadcaster at first, but the company was forced to change the name because it was already in use by another. The popular Les Paul appeared in 1952 due to a collaboration between the Gibson company and guitarist, Les Paul. In 1954, Fender introduced the legendary Stratocaster, and the rest as they say…was history. These instruments started finding their way into the hands skillful artists who would amaze the world with their technical proficiency. The age of the guitar hero and the mind-blowing guitar solo had dawned.
The emergence of players like Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Van Halen would revolutionise the world of music forever. These and other iconic guitarists would inspire generations of young musicians who would change the face of popular music as they themselves had done. With electric guitars being affordable and easily accessible, most every boy (or girl) could mimic the techniques of their idols and propel this musical revolution into the future. The electric guitar had burst onto the scene, and it was clear that it would not be leaving any time soon.