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Old 10-24-2020, 10:45am   #1
Anjdog2003
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Default Who Invented the Electric Guitar?

1890: George Breed
As with many inventions that we now take for granted, it may be assumed that the first electric instruments were created by curious tinkerers whose names have been lost to history. However, we are able to pinpoint the first patented use of electricity for guitar and other fretted instruments.

In 1890, George Breed, a Naval Officer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, submitted a design to the U.S. Patent Office for an electrified guitar pickup, which, like modern pickups, was primarily composed of two elements — vibrating guitar strings within a magnetic field. Yet, this application of electricity was to excite and continuously vibrate the strings, not to amplify the sound of the strings through an external speaker. Think of it more as an EBow or a magnetic, rather than mechanical, Gizmotron with an acoustic guitar body providing the amplification.

According to historian Matthew Hill, while certainly innovative, the Breed guitar was cumbersome, powered by a heavy battery, and required an “unconventional playing technique that produced an exceptionally unusual and un-guitarlike continuously sustained sound.

Like the aforementioned tinkerers, George Breed slipped into obscurity, but historians have come to appreciate his place in the history of the electric guitar.



1928: Stromberg Electro
Fast-forward 38 years, and we meet the first electric guitar device intended for the commercial market — the Stromberg Electro. However, this became an electric guitar that never was!

Author Lynn Wheelwright does an excellent job of providing the history of the Stromberg Electro in a 2008 article published in Vintage Guitar magazine. Wheelwright reports that the Stromberg Electro was first announced in the periodical The Music Trades, and it was advertised as a “tone amplifier” that “consists of two major units — an electro-magnetic pick-up and amplifying unit. The electro-magnetic pick-up is built within the instrument and is attached to its sounding board. The unit is connected with the amplifier, which produces the tone and volume required of the instrument. Sounds awfully familiar!

And it looked awfully familiar, too. An advertisement in the 1929 Chicago Musical Instruments catalog featured a rendering of four Stromberg Electro instruments from their proposed line — which would include guitar, tenor guitar, banjo, and mandolin — alongside a portable amplifier, complete with handle.

However, the Stromberg Electro line never actually made it to market, and Wheelwright was only able to point to a single instrument — a mid-1930s Kay faux resonator — that contained a Stromberg Electro pickup.

The Stromberg Electro slipped into the shadows of guitar lore, and a few years passed before a commercially viable electric guitar would be produced. And when it arrived, it did so with an island sound!



1931: Rickenbacher A-22 Electro Hawaiian, “The Frying Pan”
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hawaiian music was the thing along with its signature instrument, the acoustic lap steel guitar. Typically played in a “slack-key” (or open-tuning) style popularized by Joseph Kekuku, the lap steel guitar provided the instantly recognizable slide sound associated with Hawaiian music. As the big-band groups of the day sought to incorporate the acoustic slide guitar into their repertoires, they found that it had a hard time being heard above the rest of the ensemble.

At the same time, George Beauchamp (pronounced BEE-chum) — a steel player, vaudeville promoter, and entrepreneur — had been on a personal quest to find a louder guitar. Eventually, his search led to a collaboration with inventor John Dopyera, which resulted in the creation of the resonator guitar. Beauchamp and Dopyera, along with other investors, created the National String Instrument Corporation to manufacture the resonator. However, the relationship between Beauchamp and Dopyera dissolved, and the duo split. Dopyera went on to form the Dobro company with his two brothers, while Beauchamp went hunting for his next project.

Beauchamp, while not a formally trained engineer, set upon the task of developing an electric guitar pickup. After experimenting with a single-string guitar made from a two-by-four and a phonograph pickup, Beauchamp knew he was onto something. He teamed up with former National employee Paul Barth, and after months of continued experiments they developed a pickup made from two horseshoe magnets, a wound coil, and six individual pole pieces over which the guitar’s strings would vibrate and produce a current that could be amplified by a loudspeaker.

With the working pickup design in hand, Beauchamp recruited Harry Watson, another former National employee, to build a neck and a body along with his friend Adolph Rickenbacker (née Rickenbacher), a talented engineer who had helped in the manufacturing of the National resonators and who was able to help fund the operation. With that, the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instruments) was established and, shortly thereafter, renamed Electro String.

Capitalizing on the Hawaiian music craze, Electro String released its first instrument: the Rickenbacher Model A-22 Electro Hawaiian guitar. Made entirely of cast aluminum with a gold-enamel finish and chrome nut and saddle, the Rickenbacher Model A-22 was affectionately known as “The Frying Pan,” due to its small, circular body.

According to Fretboard Journal’s Michael John Simmons, the Electro Hawaiian’s large horseshoe magnet imparted the instrument with “a warm, singing tone, and the stiff aluminum body allowed the strings to vibrate forever, giving the guitar great sustain.” Artists were quick to embrace the new electrified sound, and other manufacturers such as Gibson and National followed suit with their own electrified Hawaiian steel guitars. Yet, Simmons points out that the A-22 was not without its problems, noting that its “aluminum body was very susceptible to temperature change and didn’t stay in tune under hot stage lights.” So, in 1935, a version with a more stable Bakelite body was released.

But Beauchamp, Rickenbacker, Barth, and Watson had opened the door to the coming electric revolution!



1932: Ro-Pat-In Electric Spanish Guitar
Following the release of the Frying Pan, Rickenbacker, Beauchamp, and co. released the first commercially available Electric Spanish guitar. In a strange bit of branding, it appears that one of the earliest known examples of this guitar was labeled as a Ro-Pat-In instrument. It was purchased by Kansas bandleader Gage Brewer and, like the Frying Pan, featured a string-through pickup design.

According to Lynn Wheelwright, there is evidence that the Frying Pan and the Electric Spanish were being developed concurrently, which may account for the confusing branding. The Electric Spanish was somewhat of a semi-hollowbody design, due to a 1-inch-thick mounting plate for the pickup, which reduced the body’s ability to fully resonate. A benefit of that design, whether planned or not, was a reduced potential for feedback, something that had plagued early hollowbody electric guitars. What is outstanding about the Electric Spanish is how well it stacks up against modern guitars with its stunningly rich sound. And, if you’re interested, the Gage Brewer Electric Spanish is available for purchase at the affordable price of $350,000.


1932–33: Vivi-Tone Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Soon after the first Ro-Pat-In Spanish Electric was sold to Gage Brewer, another legendary luthier, Lloyd Loar, brought two groundbreaking designs to the electric guitar market — the Vivi-Tone acoustic-electric and the Vivi-Tone solidbody tenor guitar.

Those familiar with the history of Gibson guitars might recognize Loar, as he had worked as a designer for Gibson from 1919 to 1924, contributing elements such as violin-inspired F-holes, a longer neck scale, and a larger bout than previous Gibson guitars. Loar’s L-5 guitar is considered a seminal instrument in the lineage of guitar design and remains highly sought after.

However, Loar’s relationship with Gibson had soured, primarily because Loar wanted to continue pushing the envelope on design and was interested in chasing new technologies while Gibson was content to produce the tried-and-true guitars that made them the dominant manufacturer of the day.

Looking back, Loar’s departure was one of the best things that could have happened in terms of the development of the electric guitar. Of Loar’s two early electric guitar designs, the Vivi-Tone acoustic-electric is the more familiar-looking — an attractive hand-rubbed archtop that used a telephone transducer for a pickup and, like the Ro-Pat-In Electric Spanish, had a thick laminate body that reduced feedback.


Perhaps more interesting, though, is the Vivi-Tone solidbody tenor guitar. With a lute-like appearance and just four strings, the Vivi-Tone tenor is a unique piece of guitar ephemera. In contrast to Beauchamp’s design, the Vivi-Tone tenor guitar’s pickup did not contain a pole piece for each string; its pickup was placed under the bridge to capture its vibrations. One has to wonder if that led to a less detailed character, but, without readily available sound clips, it’s difficult to say. However, it remains significant as the first non-Hawaiian solidbody guitar to see a commercial release.


1936: Gibson ES-150 Electric Spanish
Though reluctant to explore electrified instruments early on, by 1936 Gibson realized the market potential and released their own electric design — the Gibson ES-150 Electric Spanish. Popularized by legendary jazz and swing guitarist Charlie Christian, the ES-150 was arguably the most sophisticated early electric guitar, with Gibson’s famous “bar pickup,” also commonly referred to as the “Charlie Christian” pickup — versions of which are still manufactured today by pickup makers such as Lollar.

The Gibson ES-150 featured a 24-3/4-inch scale length with a solid carved-spruce top, solid maple back and sides, and a mahogany neck. It even included volume and tone knobs, a fairly advanced element. Developed in partnership with retailers Montgomery Ward and Spiegel May Stern, the ES-150 quickly became popular among musicians and had strong sales in its first year. It was produced until 1940, when it was replaced with Gibson’s improved Electric Spanish models, the ES-100, ES-250, ES-125, and ES-300.


1936: Slingerland Songster Model 401
In 1936, Slingerland moved the design of solidbody electric guitars forward with the Songster Model 401. Aimed at the Hawaiian-music market, the Slingerland Songster 401 was built for slide guitar, with high action and metal frets ground flush with the fretboard. Released concurrently with the Slingerland Songster Model 400, which boasted a square neck, the Songster 401 had a round neck and, unlike most Hawaiian-style guitars, could be played comfortably while standing.

According to vintage guitar dealer RetroFret, the Slingerland Songster Model 401 lays claim to a number of firsts — the first solidbody Spanish-shaped guitar, the first guitar built with a neck-through design, and the first guitar with pickups that exhibited humbucking properties, well in advance of Gibson, who would produce humbucking pickups in the 1950s.

Sold as a guitar and amp set, the Slingerland Songster Model 401 may have landed slightly ahead of its time; it sold poorly and was discontinued in 1939. Though universally regarded for their drum kits, Slingerland made little headway in the guitar market, but the Slingerland Songster Model 401 is a fascinating example of the technology that would culminate in the solidbody guitars of today.


1939–1940: Les Paul’s “Log”
Most guitarists know the story of Les Paul and the “Log” guitar. Born Lester William Polsfuss in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Les Paul, the inventor and virtuoso jazz guitarist, sought to create his own solidbody electric guitar. He started with a four-by-four chunk of pine, strapped on two homemade pickups along with a vibrato tailpiece, and attached to it a Gibson neck. The Log’s solidbody design eliminated the problem of feedback and sounded good enough to be included on Paul’s work with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.[14] However, it was an unsightly creation that looked nothing like the guitars to which people were accustomed. To remedy the situation, Paul sliced an Epiphone hollowbody guitar in half and attached each half to the Log, creating something that more resembled a traditional guitar.

It is worth noting that, around 1932, Paul had commissioned the Larson Brothers, Carl and August, to build for him a guitar with a solid maple top, which, according to author John Thomas, the Larsons considered a “waste of time.” Apparently, Paul used this solid-top guitar for his electrified guitar experiments, evidently pre-dating the Log.

Paul attempted to make inroads with Epiphone and Gibson to continue to develop his designs into commercially viable instruments. But, in the early 1940s, both companies were unimpressed. Epiphone passed, and Gibson, upon seeing the Log, called it “a broomstick with pickups. It wouldn’t be until 1952 that Gibson, in response to the popularity of Fender electric guitars, would partner with Les Paul to create the most popular signature guitar of all time.


1941: O.W. Appleton’s “App” Guitar
O.W. Appleton’s place in the history of electric guitars comes with no small amount of controversy. In 1941, an inventor and musician from Burlington, Iowa, Orba Wallace Appleton, created a single-cutaway, slab-body electric guitar. The “App” guitar comprised a carved pine body with a single pickup, a Gibson neck, and a trapeze tailpiece that even included fine tuners on the highest three strings! And the App’s body shape is uncannily familiar.

Sometime in 1943, Appleton approached Gibson with his design, but, like Paul, he was rejected, with Gibson asserting that no one would be interested in a solidbody guitar. After being rejected by Gibson, Appleton attempted to patent the App but wasn’t successful, due to a string of bad luck including being duped by phony patent attorneys.

According to a site dedicated to O.W. Appleton, “In 1952, Appleton received a letter from a friend at Gibson. The letter read, ‘Well, App, you see our competition has finally forced us to come out with your solid guitar. Sure wish we had listened to you back in 1943.’ Included with the letter was a brochure for the new Gibson Les Paul Model. In frustration, App threw the letter out.


1948: The Travis Bigsby
Paul Bigsby, best known for the ubiquitous Bigsby vibrato, was another electric guitar innovator who launched the Bigsby Electric Guitar Company in 1946. One of his earliest electric guitar builds was for legendary western singer and the father of “Travis Picking,” Merle Travis. The Travis Bigsby was a single-cutaway solidbody guitar with a handmade blade pickup, neck-through construction, and cosmetic elements designed by Travis himself. Yet, it’s the scroll headstock that has made the Travis Bigsby a topic of much discussion in the guitar historian community.

As reported by Vintage Guitar magazine’s Willie G. Moseley, originally, the Travis Bigsby guitar did not have a scroll headstock. In fact, the first Bigsby guitar with a scroll headstock was made for guitarist George Grohs; and, after Travis saw it, he asked Bigsby to update his guitar.

Some argue that Leo Fender copied the design for the Stratocaster’s scroll headstock from Bigsby. They are undoubtedly similar. However, Ledger Note author Josh H. argues that Fender and Bigsby were both likely inspired by designs dating back to at least the mid-19th century, for instance, this 1838 example from C.F. Martin based on designs by Austrian luthier Johann George Stauffer. It’s impossible to say for certain, so, surely, the debate will continue!

Bigsby continued to hand-build custom guitars until he sold the company to Gibson in 1966. And, though few Bigsby guitars were produced (besides some later period reissues), Paul Bigsby’s legacy endures.


1950: Fender Esquire
When Leo Fender created the Fender Esquire, he fundamentally changed both the guitar-manufacturing and popular-music landscapes.

Leo Fender took an oblique route into guitar making. Though he dabbled in piano and saxophone as a young man, Fender wasn’t a passionate musician. In fact, he never played guitar. However, he had an indefatigable passion for electronics, which led him to opening a radio repair shop, which he parlayed into building public address systems and amplifiers for bands in the burgeoning Southern California music scene.

On top of being an inventor, Fender had an entrepreneurial mind and saw the opportunity presented by the growing popularity of electrified musical instruments. Like some of the other inventors we’ve discussed, Fender first produced an electric Hawaiian guitar and amplifier set, marketed under the brand name K&F, which was a joint venture between Fender and Clayton “Doc” Kauffman, a former employee of Rickenbacker and the inventor of the vibrola tailpiece. But K&F wouldn’t last long. Kauffman departed the company after just two years, and Fender changed the company name to the “Fender Electric Instrument Co.,” a name that would stick.

Inspired by the Electric Spanish guitars and Bigsby’s solidbody guitars, Fender endeavored to create an electric guitar that was easy to play and easy to manufacture with solid tuning and a big sound that could fill up dance halls and honky-tonks. Thus, the Fender Esquire was born!

Armed with a single pickup, an adjustable bridge, a bolt-on neck, and an iconic George Fullerton-designed body shape, the Esquire was simultaneously straightforward and revolutionary. Very early models suffered from a few issues, mainly the lack of a truss rod, that made them difficult to intonate. And MusicRadar’s Rod Brakes writes that some pre-production Esquires were painted black to cover up their unattractive pine bodies. However, Fender would quickly iron out the details, and the Esquire would inaugurate the Fender empire and motivate a musical sea change!


1952: Gibson Les Paul
As we’ve seen, Gibson was dragged kicking and screaming into the solidbody electric guitar market. Yet, when they entered it, they entered with a bang!

Developed by Gibson’s brilliant president and product designer Ted McCarty with input from the guitar’s namesake (though, by some accounts, McCarty rejected the bulk of Paul’s ideas), the Gibson Les Paul is undoubtedly the most influential signature model ever released by a guitar manufacturer.

The Gibson Les Paul’s original incarnation included features that remain on models to this day — a carved mahogany body with Goldtop finish; a set mahogany neck with Les Paul’s signature on the headstock; two P-90 pickups, each with independent volume and tone controls; a trapeze tailpiece; and amber bonnet knobs. Where Fender guitars had a charming workhorse aspect to them, the Les Paul looked every bit like a deluxe instrument, keeping in line with Gibson’s storied tradition of craftsmanship.



Honorable Mentions
1933: Dobro All-Electric
After his split with George Beauchamp, John Dopyera electrified the resonator. Though it was advanced for the time, with a modern 14-fret neck joint and a horseshoe pickup, the Dobro All-Electric never made it into mass production. Reportedly, only a dozen guitars were made.


1937: Audiovox #736 Electronic Bass Guitar
Paul Tutmarc, the founder of Audiovox, is often overlooked in the history of the electric guitar, but he made numerous contributions, including a magnetic pickup design that was sold by Tutmarc’s former partner, Arthur Stimson, to Rickenbacker without Tutmarc’s consent! Check out Dennis White’s “Paul Tutmarc & The Mystery of Who Invented the Electric Guitar” to read about this sordid tale.

Tutmarc attempted to market his own brand of electric guitars, Audiovox, but it failed to make an impact in the market. However, one of his instruments represents an absolute first — the Audiovox #736 electronic bass guitar.

While Leo Fender is generally credited with inventing the electric bass with the Precision Bass in 1950, Tutmarc produced the Audiovox #736 more than a decade earlier. According to Jive Time Records’ Northwest Music History blog, the Audiovox #736 is one of the world’s rarest electric basses — only four are known to exist.








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Old 10-24-2020, 10:52am   #2
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On next weeks “what to read to help you sleep” Hal is going to list his groceries purchased in the last decade.
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Stop with your damn lies ADog. Al Gore invented the electric guitar.
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Old 10-24-2020, 11:35am   #4
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When i was in school i use to play the Xylophone. But every day after school the bullies picked on me. My parents moved to a safer neighborhood so i could continue on playing. But i got Xylophone elbow and had to quit.






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1890: George Breed
As with many inventions that we now take for granted, it may be assumed that the first electric instruments were created by curious tinkerers whose names have been lost to history. However, we are able to pinpoint the first patented use of electricity for guitar and other fretted instruments.

In 1890, George Breed, a Naval Officer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, submitted a design to the U.S. Patent Office for an electrified guitar pickup, which, like modern pickups, was primarily composed of two elements — vibrating guitar strings within a magnetic field. Yet, this application of electricity was to excite and continuously vibrate the strings, not to amplify the sound of the strings through an external speaker. Think of it more as an EBow or a magnetic, rather than mechanical, Gizmotron with an acoustic guitar body providing the amplification.

According to historian Matthew Hill, while certainly innovative, the Breed guitar was cumbersome, powered by a heavy battery, and required an “unconventional playing technique that produced an exceptionally unusual and un-guitarlike continuously sustained sound.

Like the aforementioned tinkerers, George Breed slipped into obscurity, but historians have come to appreciate his place in the history of the electric guitar.



1928: Stromberg Electro
Fast-forward 38 years, and we meet the first electric guitar device intended for the commercial market — the Stromberg Electro. However, this became an electric guitar that never was!

Author Lynn Wheelwright does an excellent job of providing the history of the Stromberg Electro in a 2008 article published in Vintage Guitar magazine. Wheelwright reports that the Stromberg Electro was first announced in the periodical The Music Trades, and it was advertised as a “tone amplifier” that “consists of two major units — an electro-magnetic pick-up and amplifying unit. The electro-magnetic pick-up is built within the instrument and is attached to its sounding board. The unit is connected with the amplifier, which produces the tone and volume required of the instrument. Sounds awfully familiar!

And it looked awfully familiar, too. An advertisement in the 1929 Chicago Musical Instruments catalog featured a rendering of four Stromberg Electro instruments from their proposed line — which would include guitar, tenor guitar, banjo, and mandolin — alongside a portable amplifier, complete with handle.

However, the Stromberg Electro line never actually made it to market, and Wheelwright was only able to point to a single instrument — a mid-1930s Kay faux resonator — that contained a Stromberg Electro pickup.

The Stromberg Electro slipped into the shadows of guitar lore, and a few years passed before a commercially viable electric guitar would be produced. And when it arrived, it did so with an island sound!



1931: Rickenbacher A-22 Electro Hawaiian, “The Frying Pan”
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Hawaiian music was the thing along with its signature instrument, the acoustic lap steel guitar. Typically played in a “slack-key” (or open-tuning) style popularized by Joseph Kekuku, the lap steel guitar provided the instantly recognizable slide sound associated with Hawaiian music. As the big-band groups of the day sought to incorporate the acoustic slide guitar into their repertoires, they found that it had a hard time being heard above the rest of the ensemble.

At the same time, George Beauchamp (pronounced BEE-chum) — a steel player, vaudeville promoter, and entrepreneur — had been on a personal quest to find a louder guitar. Eventually, his search led to a collaboration with inventor John Dopyera, which resulted in the creation of the resonator guitar. Beauchamp and Dopyera, along with other investors, created the National String Instrument Corporation to manufacture the resonator. However, the relationship between Beauchamp and Dopyera dissolved, and the duo split. Dopyera went on to form the Dobro company with his two brothers, while Beauchamp went hunting for his next project.

Beauchamp, while not a formally trained engineer, set upon the task of developing an electric guitar pickup. After experimenting with a single-string guitar made from a two-by-four and a phonograph pickup, Beauchamp knew he was onto something. He teamed up with former National employee Paul Barth, and after months of continued experiments they developed a pickup made from two horseshoe magnets, a wound coil, and six individual pole pieces over which the guitar’s strings would vibrate and produce a current that could be amplified by a loudspeaker.

With the working pickup design in hand, Beauchamp recruited Harry Watson, another former National employee, to build a neck and a body along with his friend Adolph Rickenbacker (née Rickenbacher), a talented engineer who had helped in the manufacturing of the National resonators and who was able to help fund the operation. With that, the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instruments) was established and, shortly thereafter, renamed Electro String.

Capitalizing on the Hawaiian music craze, Electro String released its first instrument: the Rickenbacher Model A-22 Electro Hawaiian guitar. Made entirely of cast aluminum with a gold-enamel finish and chrome nut and saddle, the Rickenbacher Model A-22 was affectionately known as “The Frying Pan,” due to its small, circular body.

According to Fretboard Journal’s Michael John Simmons, the Electro Hawaiian’s large horseshoe magnet imparted the instrument with “a warm, singing tone, and the stiff aluminum body allowed the strings to vibrate forever, giving the guitar great sustain.” Artists were quick to embrace the new electrified sound, and other manufacturers such as Gibson and National followed suit with their own electrified Hawaiian steel guitars. Yet, Simmons points out that the A-22 was not without its problems, noting that its “aluminum body was very susceptible to temperature change and didn’t stay in tune under hot stage lights.” So, in 1935, a version with a more stable Bakelite body was released.

But Beauchamp, Rickenbacker, Barth, and Watson had opened the door to the coming electric revolution!



1932: Ro-Pat-In Electric Spanish Guitar
Following the release of the Frying Pan, Rickenbacker, Beauchamp, and co. released the first commercially available Electric Spanish guitar. In a strange bit of branding, it appears that one of the earliest known examples of this guitar was labeled as a Ro-Pat-In instrument. It was purchased by Kansas bandleader Gage Brewer and, like the Frying Pan, featured a string-through pickup design.

According to Lynn Wheelwright, there is evidence that the Frying Pan and the Electric Spanish were being developed concurrently, which may account for the confusing branding. The Electric Spanish was somewhat of a semi-hollowbody design, due to a 1-inch-thick mounting plate for the pickup, which reduced the body’s ability to fully resonate. A benefit of that design, whether planned or not, was a reduced potential for feedback, something that had plagued early hollowbody electric guitars. What is outstanding about the Electric Spanish is how well it stacks up against modern guitars with its stunningly rich sound. And, if you’re interested, the Gage Brewer Electric Spanish is available for purchase at the affordable price of $350,000.


1932–33: Vivi-Tone Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Soon after the first Ro-Pat-In Spanish Electric was sold to Gage Brewer, another legendary luthier, Lloyd Loar, brought two groundbreaking designs to the electric guitar market — the Vivi-Tone acoustic-electric and the Vivi-Tone solidbody tenor guitar.

Those familiar with the history of Gibson guitars might recognize Loar, as he had worked as a designer for Gibson from 1919 to 1924, contributing elements such as violin-inspired F-holes, a longer neck scale, and a larger bout than previous Gibson guitars. Loar’s L-5 guitar is considered a seminal instrument in the lineage of guitar design and remains highly sought after.

However, Loar’s relationship with Gibson had soured, primarily because Loar wanted to continue pushing the envelope on design and was interested in chasing new technologies while Gibson was content to produce the tried-and-true guitars that made them the dominant manufacturer of the day.

Looking back, Loar’s departure was one of the best things that could have happened in terms of the development of the electric guitar. Of Loar’s two early electric guitar designs, the Vivi-Tone acoustic-electric is the more familiar-looking — an attractive hand-rubbed archtop that used a telephone transducer for a pickup and, like the Ro-Pat-In Electric Spanish, had a thick laminate body that reduced feedback.


Perhaps more interesting, though, is the Vivi-Tone solidbody tenor guitar. With a lute-like appearance and just four strings, the Vivi-Tone tenor is a unique piece of guitar ephemera. In contrast to Beauchamp’s design, the Vivi-Tone tenor guitar’s pickup did not contain a pole piece for each string; its pickup was placed under the bridge to capture its vibrations. One has to wonder if that led to a less detailed character, but, without readily available sound clips, it’s difficult to say. However, it remains significant as the first non-Hawaiian solidbody guitar to see a commercial release.


1936: Gibson ES-150 Electric Spanish
Though reluctant to explore electrified instruments early on, by 1936 Gibson realized the market potential and released their own electric design — the Gibson ES-150 Electric Spanish. Popularized by legendary jazz and swing guitarist Charlie Christian, the ES-150 was arguably the most sophisticated early electric guitar, with Gibson’s famous “bar pickup,” also commonly referred to as the “Charlie Christian” pickup — versions of which are still manufactured today by pickup makers such as Lollar.

The Gibson ES-150 featured a 24-3/4-inch scale length with a solid carved-spruce top, solid maple back and sides, and a mahogany neck. It even included volume and tone knobs, a fairly advanced element. Developed in partnership with retailers Montgomery Ward and Spiegel May Stern, the ES-150 quickly became popular among musicians and had strong sales in its first year. It was produced until 1940, when it was replaced with Gibson’s improved Electric Spanish models, the ES-100, ES-250, ES-125, and ES-300.


1936: Slingerland Songster Model 401
In 1936, Slingerland moved the design of solidbody electric guitars forward with the Songster Model 401. Aimed at the Hawaiian-music market, the Slingerland Songster 401 was built for slide guitar, with high action and metal frets ground flush with the fretboard. Released concurrently with the Slingerland Songster Model 400, which boasted a square neck, the Songster 401 had a round neck and, unlike most Hawaiian-style guitars, could be played comfortably while standing.

According to vintage guitar dealer RetroFret, the Slingerland Songster Model 401 lays claim to a number of firsts — the first solidbody Spanish-shaped guitar, the first guitar built with a neck-through design, and the first guitar with pickups that exhibited humbucking properties, well in advance of Gibson, who would produce humbucking pickups in the 1950s.

Sold as a guitar and amp set, the Slingerland Songster Model 401 may have landed slightly ahead of its time; it sold poorly and was discontinued in 1939. Though universally regarded for their drum kits, Slingerland made little headway in the guitar market, but the Slingerland Songster Model 401 is a fascinating example of the technology that would culminate in the solidbody guitars of today.


1939–1940: Les Paul’s “Log”
Most guitarists know the story of Les Paul and the “Log” guitar. Born Lester William Polsfuss in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Les Paul, the inventor and virtuoso jazz guitarist, sought to create his own solidbody electric guitar. He started with a four-by-four chunk of pine, strapped on two homemade pickups along with a vibrato tailpiece, and attached to it a Gibson neck. The Log’s solidbody design eliminated the problem of feedback and sounded good enough to be included on Paul’s work with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.[14] However, it was an unsightly creation that looked nothing like the guitars to which people were accustomed. To remedy the situation, Paul sliced an Epiphone hollowbody guitar in half and attached each half to the Log, creating something that more resembled a traditional guitar.

It is worth noting that, around 1932, Paul had commissioned the Larson Brothers, Carl and August, to build for him a guitar with a solid maple top, which, according to author John Thomas, the Larsons considered a “waste of time.” Apparently, Paul used this solid-top guitar for his electrified guitar experiments, evidently pre-dating the Log.

Paul attempted to make inroads with Epiphone and Gibson to continue to develop his designs into commercially viable instruments. But, in the early 1940s, both companies were unimpressed. Epiphone passed, and Gibson, upon seeing the Log, called it “a broomstick with pickups. It wouldn’t be until 1952 that Gibson, in response to the popularity of Fender electric guitars, would partner with Les Paul to create the most popular signature guitar of all time.


1941: O.W. Appleton’s “App” Guitar
O.W. Appleton’s place in the history of electric guitars comes with no small amount of controversy. In 1941, an inventor and musician from Burlington, Iowa, Orba Wallace Appleton, created a single-cutaway, slab-body electric guitar. The “App” guitar comprised a carved pine body with a single pickup, a Gibson neck, and a trapeze tailpiece that even included fine tuners on the highest three strings! And the App’s body shape is uncannily familiar.

Sometime in 1943, Appleton approached Gibson with his design, but, like Paul, he was rejected, with Gibson asserting that no one would be interested in a solidbody guitar. After being rejected by Gibson, Appleton attempted to patent the App but wasn’t successful, due to a string of bad luck including being duped by phony patent attorneys.

According to a site dedicated to O.W. Appleton, “In 1952, Appleton received a letter from a friend at Gibson. The letter read, ‘Well, App, you see our competition has finally forced us to come out with your solid guitar. Sure wish we had listened to you back in 1943.’ Included with the letter was a brochure for the new Gibson Les Paul Model. In frustration, App threw the letter out.


1948: The Travis Bigsby
Paul Bigsby, best known for the ubiquitous Bigsby vibrato, was another electric guitar innovator who launched the Bigsby Electric Guitar Company in 1946. One of his earliest electric guitar builds was for legendary western singer and the father of “Travis Picking,” Merle Travis. The Travis Bigsby was a single-cutaway solidbody guitar with a handmade blade pickup, neck-through construction, and cosmetic elements designed by Travis himself. Yet, it’s the scroll headstock that has made the Travis Bigsby a topic of much discussion in the guitar historian community.

As reported by Vintage Guitar magazine’s Willie G. Moseley, originally, the Travis Bigsby guitar did not have a scroll headstock. In fact, the first Bigsby guitar with a scroll headstock was made for guitarist George Grohs; and, after Travis saw it, he asked Bigsby to update his guitar.

Some argue that Leo Fender copied the design for the Stratocaster’s scroll headstock from Bigsby. They are undoubtedly similar. However, Ledger Note author Josh H. argues that Fender and Bigsby were both likely inspired by designs dating back to at least the mid-19th century, for instance, this 1838 example from C.F. Martin based on designs by Austrian luthier Johann George Stauffer. It’s impossible to say for certain, so, surely, the debate will continue!

Bigsby continued to hand-build custom guitars until he sold the company to Gibson in 1966. And, though few Bigsby guitars were produced (besides some later period reissues), Paul Bigsby’s legacy endures.


1950: Fender Esquire
When Leo Fender created the Fender Esquire, he fundamentally changed both the guitar-manufacturing and popular-music landscapes.

Leo Fender took an oblique route into guitar making. Though he dabbled in piano and saxophone as a young man, Fender wasn’t a passionate musician. In fact, he never played guitar. However, he had an indefatigable passion for electronics, which led him to opening a radio repair shop, which he parlayed into building public address systems and amplifiers for bands in the burgeoning Southern California music scene.

On top of being an inventor, Fender had an entrepreneurial mind and saw the opportunity presented by the growing popularity of electrified musical instruments. Like some of the other inventors we’ve discussed, Fender first produced an electric Hawaiian guitar and amplifier set, marketed under the brand name K&F, which was a joint venture between Fender and Clayton “Doc” Kauffman, a former employee of Rickenbacker and the inventor of the vibrola tailpiece. But K&F wouldn’t last long. Kauffman departed the company after just two years, and Fender changed the company name to the “Fender Electric Instrument Co.,” a name that would stick.

Inspired by the Electric Spanish guitars and Bigsby’s solidbody guitars, Fender endeavored to create an electric guitar that was easy to play and easy to manufacture with solid tuning and a big sound that could fill up dance halls and honky-tonks. Thus, the Fender Esquire was born!

Armed with a single pickup, an adjustable bridge, a bolt-on neck, and an iconic George Fullerton-designed body shape, the Esquire was simultaneously straightforward and revolutionary. Very early models suffered from a few issues, mainly the lack of a truss rod, that made them difficult to intonate. And MusicRadar’s Rod Brakes writes that some pre-production Esquires were painted black to cover up their unattractive pine bodies. However, Fender would quickly iron out the details, and the Esquire would inaugurate the Fender empire and motivate a musical sea change!


1952: Gibson Les Paul
As we’ve seen, Gibson was dragged kicking and screaming into the solidbody electric guitar market. Yet, when they entered it, they entered with a bang!

Developed by Gibson’s brilliant president and product designer Ted McCarty with input from the guitar’s namesake (though, by some accounts, McCarty rejected the bulk of Paul’s ideas), the Gibson Les Paul is undoubtedly the most influential signature model ever released by a guitar manufacturer.

The Gibson Les Paul’s original incarnation included features that remain on models to this day — a carved mahogany body with Goldtop finish; a set mahogany neck with Les Paul’s signature on the headstock; two P-90 pickups, each with independent volume and tone controls; a trapeze tailpiece; and amber bonnet knobs. Where Fender guitars had a charming workhorse aspect to them, the Les Paul looked every bit like a deluxe instrument, keeping in line with Gibson’s storied tradition of craftsmanship.



Honorable Mentions
1933: Dobro All-Electric
After his split with George Beauchamp, John Dopyera electrified the resonator. Though it was advanced for the time, with a modern 14-fret neck joint and a horseshoe pickup, the Dobro All-Electric never made it into mass production. Reportedly, only a dozen guitars were made.


1937: Audiovox #736 Electronic Bass Guitar
Paul Tutmarc, the founder of Audiovox, is often overlooked in the history of the electric guitar, but he made numerous contributions, including a magnetic pickup design that was sold by Tutmarc’s former partner, Arthur Stimson, to Rickenbacker without Tutmarc’s consent! Check out Dennis White’s “Paul Tutmarc & The Mystery of Who Invented the Electric Guitar” to read about this sordid tale.

Tutmarc attempted to market his own brand of electric guitars, Audiovox, but it failed to make an impact in the market. However, one of his instruments represents an absolute first — the Audiovox #736 electronic bass guitar.

While Leo Fender is generally credited with inventing the electric bass with the Precision Bass in 1950, Tutmarc produced the Audiovox #736 more than a decade earlier. According to Jive Time Records’ Northwest Music History blog, the Audiovox #736 is one of the world’s rarest electric basses — only four are known to exist.








YW

Cliffs.
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Old 10-24-2020, 12:04pm   #6
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Cliffs.
An electricky gifted musician made an instrument completely useless until the amplifier was invented.

Adog says the time between dirt and the electric guitar being invented seemed like forever
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An electricky gifted musician made an instrument completely useless until the amplifier was invented.

Adog says the time between dirt and the electric guitar being invented seemed like forever
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Old 10-24-2020, 12:11pm   #8
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Stop with your damn lies ADog. Al Gore invented the electric guitar.
Quote:
Yet, Simmons points out that the A-22 was not without its problems, noting that its “aluminum body was very susceptible to temperature change and didn’t stay in tune under hot stage lights.”
Even back in the early 30's, the changing climate doomed the aluminum body guitar.
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Old 10-24-2020, 12:19pm   #9
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Cliffs.



Without this there would be no Iron Maiden.
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Without this there would be no Iron Maiden.
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Old 10-24-2020, 6:28pm   #11
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Cool read man. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-24-2020, 6:36pm   #12
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Cool read man. Thanks for sharing.



Most of the members here need a pic after every paragraph to keep their interest. Nice to see someone with intelligence and culture.
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Most of the members here need a pic after every paragraph to keep their interest. Nice to see someone with intelligence and culture.


Probably a Maiden fan.
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I wanted to play the guitar but when I got
my tongue stuck in the flute in grade 5, I was told for my own safety not to play anything heavy :
Tahnks
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Tahnks
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Old 10-24-2020, 7:38pm   #16
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Did i ever tell you the story about me being a drum major in High School until i pulled a hamstring.





Did they put you on IR?
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Did they put you on IR?
Fuggin Dawg.
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Anj, since you didn't start, I will----I'll start.
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raise your hand if playing the accordion during 7th grade gave you wood








....
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Of course, the right answer is Mel Gibson. Then, he went into the movie biz.
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