Electric Guitar Invention
The electric guitar was invented in 1931 primarily for the purpose of providing a stronger accompaniment for jazz musicians. The guitar also became popular with musicians who performed Hawaiian music by playing the guitar as it lay flat in their laps. The earliest musician giving the guitar a favorite status was Charlie Christian who played with Benny Goodman in the 1940 era of big bands.
Because the guitar on its own had a sound that was dwarfed by other big band instruments, another important equipment invention was the amplifier which was commercially available in 1932. The guitar amplifier allowed the guitar to compete with the big band brass instruments.
Early Guitar Companies
Various designs of the electric guitar were becoming available during this period. An early guitar was known as the "Frying Pan" because of its solid body of cast aluminum. It was available in 1933 and was manufactured by the Rickenbacker Company. Another famous manufacturer of electric guitars was Gibson Guitar Company that started with the ES150 in 1936 which sold for $150. Gibson continued manufacturing guitars with its next successful guitar being called the Les Paul which was made in 1952. It featured a solid mahogany body and a maple top. The guitar was modified several times until its final design in 1957 which continues to be preferred today.
A third major manufacturer was the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation started in 1951 by Leo Fender, a radio repairman. The company was credited with developing an affordable manufacturing assembly operation to create instruments that would be reasonably priced. The company's most unique instrument was the electric bass guitar introduced in 1951.
A New Type of Music
As the types and designs of electric guitars grew, so did the advent of a new form of popular music, rock and roll. This music, beginning in the late 1950's and early 1960's, was begun in the United States and it centered on the electric guitar. As the popularity grew so did the demand for the electric guitar. One of the early performers included Elvis Presley with "That's All Right, Mama" in 1954 as well as other artists including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino and a host of many people.
Many changes occurred in this new music genre and a significant one was the large number of British groups entering rock and roll. Most significant in these groups was The Beatles in 1963. Like most groups the main musical instrument was the electric guitar.
As rock groups came and went, the instruments carried into the new and different types of music with the electric guitar continuing as the favorite instrument.