As with many inventions, the electric guitar initially met with skepticism from original performers as well as from guitar makers and traditional audiences. Country and blues players and jazz instrumentalists initially took to the variety of new tones and sounds offered by the electric guitar, as they explored new sounds and found ways to change, bend, and have longer sustained notes.
In the 1950s, rock and roll found a new home in the electric guitar's greater volume and the driving tones that appealed to teen audiences (who had newfound spending dollars). While the electric guitar impacted other music, the electric guitar was at the center of the cultural rebellion that symbolized rock and roll. The new guitar "legend" was created: with slicked-back hair, a leather jacket, a motorcycle, and "sizzling" electric guitar.
The Spanish-styled solid-body guitar design became associated with rock and roll. The earliest known commercially produced Spanish solid-body electric guitar is the 1939 Slingerland. Les Paul experimented with a similar design in 1940. In 1947 Paul Bigsby teamed up with famed country singer Merle Travis to produce a solid-body guitar that is very similar to the guitars used still to this day.
But it was Leo Fender that especially revolutionized the electric guitar along with his awesome line of amps. As a radio repairman, he designed great amps with a highly desired tone. He was also the first to successfully mass-produce and market a Spanish-style solid-body electric guitar. The success of his Telecaster line and later Stratocaster line, inspired additional manufacturers to start making their own models.
Gibson was Fender's first major competitor in 1952. Expert guitarist Les Paul helped publicize and design the Gibson guitars, which included his legendary Les Paul models. It was the mass production of Fender and Gibson guitars that lowered the price and made them reachable by teenagers across the country. Now any teenager could envision themselves as being in a musical rebellion.
In the 1960s, many people thought that rock and roll would be a quick fad, but with the Beatles and Beach Boys and other groups of the 1960s, rock and roll dominated the music and became powerfully rooted in the American culture.
It was also in the 1960s that guitarists found new sounds and most guitarists were using distortion and other special effects such as tremolo and reverb.
Distortion and feedback became commonplace with guitarists like Hendrix, Van Halen and Tom Scholz.
In the early 1970s, you also saw new guitar effects such as phaser, flanger, compressor, tube screamer, octaver, and many others offering a wide range of sounds that continue to be used to this day. And now you can get these effects built in to a modeling amp and combine effects in a way that they complement each other rather than competing with each other.
The last few decades have also seen the rise of the professional female guitarist. Pioneers like Heart and Bonnie Raitt have given women respect in an industry that was traditionally male-dominated.
The electric guitar has been around for sixty years. Even though the 1980s were heavily dominated with synthesizers, the electric guitar is still in all types of music and is played and listened to by men and women of every age.
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