ENTERTAINMENT-THE ELECTRIC GUITAR – WELL, I NEVER KNEW!
THE ELECTRIC GUITAR – WELL, I NEVER KNEW!
The sexiest instrument on the planet, by far, is the Electric Guitar.
It has been a massive part of popular music culture for many decades now and is such a versatile instrument, familiar to just about everyone.
I, like most enthusiastic guitar players, have a large collection, some of which are there only to be looked at and admired.
There is actually a formula for guitar players to decide how many guitars you actually need. This is… how many guitars you already have + 1.
For my 49 years of playing all sorts and makes of electric guitar, the Gibson Les Paul and an almost overused Fender Stratocaster are my ‘go to’ favourites.
However, until recently, I never knew that Leo Fender didn’t know how to play guitar. The inventor of the famous guitar brand, which includes the Telecaster and Stratocaster models (favored by Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, among many others), never learned how to play his own instrument. Fender began as an accountant with a knack for repairing radios, later turning that hobby into a full-time electronics operation. The highly versatile Telecaster, which he developed in 1950, became the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar.
The Telecaster was originally named the Broadcaster but there was already a drum set with the same name. There was a period during which there was no name for the guitar and Fender produced guitars with no name on the headstock. These “Nocasaters” are pretty valuable as they are prized collector items.
George Delmetia Beauchamp is just as important as Leo Fender and Les Paul. His name may not ring a bell, but Beauchamp designed the first fully functional guitar pickup and secured a US patent for the electric guitar in 1937. The pickup, which converts string vibrations into amplifiable electrical signals, makes an electric guitar work. Without one, there is no electric guitar. Beauchamp was also a founder of the popular Rickenbacker guitar brand alongside his friend and business partner Adolph Rickenbacker. Rickenbackers were often seen in use by both John Lennon and George Harrison in the era of the Beatles, also a ‘go to’ guitar for the classic rock sound of bands such as the Who and The Byrds.
Hawaii was key in the development of the electric guitar. There was a giant Hawaiian craze in the 1910s and 1920s, with a rise in popularity of the island’s sounds and culture (as often seen in movies). Integral to Hawaiian music is the Hawaiian-style steel guitar, which most of early electric guitar development modeled itself after.
The first electric guitar was made out of cast aluminum. Hitting the market in 1932, the A-25 was also called the “Frying Pan”.
The Beatles made the very first rock record with guitar feedback. 1964’s ‘I Feel Fine’ has a sound at the start that was accidentally discovered by the band and put to use on the single, thanks to their open-minded producer George Martin.
The highest price paid for an electric guitar at an auction was $959,500 in 2004 for Eric Clapton’s ‘Blackie’ Stratocaster. That is a lot of guitar lessons!
The Fender factory keeps busy. They produce nearly 90,000 strings a day. This is about 20,000 miles per year which is enough to circle the globe. They also make about 950 guitar necks per day! Some years they produce over 250,000 guitars. Banjos, mandolins and violins are also made there.
In 1950, Leo Fender tested the strength and durability of the guitar necks by balancing the neck between two chairs and standing on it!
Jimi Hendrix’s tombstone has a Fender Stratocaster carved into it.
Les Paul was in a car accident in 1948 and he asked the doctor to set his arm permanently in a guitar playing position.
Oh yes….the electric guitar has been an important part of most people’s lives over the last 60 years in one form or another. Long may it continue to be so.