Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Today, I am thankful to the Electro-Patent-Instrument Company, founded by Adolph Rickenbacker, Paul Barth, and George Beauchamp. It was Beauchamp who was the principle innovator, and EPI was the first to mass-produce an electric guitar, in 1931. The company changed its name to Rickenbacker, and you can still find Rickenbacker guitars out there.
It was jazz musician Charlie Christian who showed the potential for the electric guitar as a solo instrument. Les Paul, not just a musician but a tinkerer, created the first solid-body electric guitar. Leo Fender added bolt-on necks. Previously, the neck, running down from the fret board through the entire length of the body (Paul called it a "log") had been standard. Fender made the guitar in two pieces, the body, then the neck. The Gibson Guitar company manufactured a guitar under the name "Les Paul", while Fender created a line of guitars, including the Telecaster and Stratocaster, that were made famous particularly by blues musicians, because of their gritty, dirty sound when distorted. Gibson's guitars, even when amplified and distorted, tend to have a much cleaner sound. Unless other effects are added, of course, which makes the sound muddy.
Because of these innovations, our world has been enriched by the music, not only of Christian, but other jazz musicians like Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Metheny; blues guitarists like B. B. King, Memphis Slim, T-Bone Walker, Albert King, and Tad Benoit; and rock musicians like Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Jimmy Burton, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Dave Mason, Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Robert Fripp, Peter Frampton, Kirk Hammett, Yngwe Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Trevor Rabin, John Petrucci, Michael Romeo,Chris Letchford and Travis LeVrier.