[Slowhand] Think of the electric guitar as the Wright Brothers of
An English Boy
peter_dennis_blandford_townshend at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 24 11:45:24 EDT 2006
Think of the electric guitar as the Wright Brothers of music -- without it,
rock would never have gotten off the ground
By JOHN KRYK
THE COOLEST INSTRUMENT
Pete Townshend used to regularly smash all his to bits.
Keith Richards once swung one at the head of a fan who rushed him on stage.
And he likes to jam a lit cigarette into the ends of his.
Stevie Ray Vaughan abused his "Number One" so badly once at a Toronto club
he stood on it, as if to surf it.
And Jimi Hendrix famously set one of his on fire during the Monterey Pop
And they say nothing is as precious to a rock guitar hero as his sacred
But it's true. "My guitars are my umbilical chord," Metallica's Kirk Hammett
once said. "They're directly wired into my head."
How valuable has the electric guitar been to rock 'n' roll? Without it, rock
might never have begun rolling in the first place. We might still all be
swinging to the latest Tommy Dorsey-knockoff big band, or
hot-diggity-dogging it to some aw-shucks neo-Como ditty.
Maybe rock music is rock music because of the electric guitar.
Over the past 50 years, if you're a teenager and you want to start a rock
band, what do you have to have? Right: One electric-guitar player.
And who always winds up the coolest guy in the band? The guitarist, of
Who knew popular music would take such a dramatic left turn soon after the
invention of electrified, solid-body guitars in the early 1950s? The
instrument's urgent new sound -- hard, crisp and loud -- was unlike anything
anyone had ever heard. Its sound was not only 'futuristic,' it was
dangerous. The music played on an electric guitar just had to follow suit.
It did. The electric guitar's musical possibilities were quickly explored by
the late '60s --a remarkably short period of time.
In 1955 Chuck Berry popularized the 'barre-chord' style of rock/blues
playing, which later begat the Brit Invasion power-chord songs of the
Those songs, in turn, gave way to the man who really turned up the volume
knob, who dreamed up guitar solos that no one before --or since --has quite
matched: Jimi Hendrix.
He effectively removed the "and roll" from rock. Credit him with adding the
Hendrix was the ultimate guitar hero.
"Sometimes you want to give up guitar, you'll hate the guitar," Jimi once
said. "But if you stick with it, you're gonna be rewarded."
As long as you don't burn it or smash it.
PROFILES OF THE 'FOUR-MOST' ELECTRIC GUITARS
FENDER TELECASTER TELY
The original. Was the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar,
starting in 1950. Originally had only one single-coil pickup before adding a
second. Has Fender's trademark angled headstock with the string tuners all
in a row, rather than the traditional three-per-side look.
SOUND: "Bright, metallic cutting tone and a plangent, twangy string sound,"
according to Eyewitness Companions Guitar book.
QUOTE: "Obviously the Fender Telecaster is a favourite, but I love Gibsons
too ... They are all great, particular sounds for particular songs." --
FAMOUS PLAYERS: Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, Chrissie
Hynde, Andy Summers, Albert Lee
FENDER STRATOCASTER STRAT
The most famous electric guitar in the world. Introduced in 1954. Has three
single-coil pick-ups. The built-in tremolo bar is ideal for soloists wanting
to bend or vibrate notes.
SOUND: "Bright tone, ringing sustain, lively string sound, tremendous
clarity," according to Eyewitness Companions Guitar book. Introduction in
1959 of a dark rosewood fingerboard, as opposed to the original light maple
fingerboard, provided a warmer, smoother sound.
QUOTE: "All the Strats have personalities of their own and feel completely
different." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan
FAMOUS PLAYERS: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton ('70s-'90s),
David Gilmour, Ritchie Blackmore, Mark Knopfler, Eddie Van Halen, Chuck
GIBSON LES PAUL
The classic. Debuted in 1952. A much heavier, more carefully constructed and
more expensive instrument than the Fenders. Amazingly, went out of vogue by
the end of the '50s, but Eric Clapton and then Keith Richards revived
interest in Les Pauls when they were reintroduced by Gibson in 1968.
SOUND: "Has tremendous sustain and a distinctive smooth tone (owing largely
to the heavy mahogany and maple woods used), with high output from the
pickups that makes it ideal for overdriven and distorted guitar solos and
riffs," according to Eyewitness Companions Guitar book.
QUOTE: "I wanted something very dense, something that would sustain long and
more pieces of wood that would be soft, sweet, for more of a mellow sound."
-- Les Paul
FAMOUS PLAYERS: Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton (late '60s), Ace Frehley, Duane
Allman, Joe Walsh, Joe Perry, Slash
Debuted in 1961, a year after Gibson discontinued (for eight years) the Les
Paul line. Its incurved "horns" allowed a soloist greater access to the
upper-fret notes. Had a tremolo bar to match Fender's Strat, something the
Les Pauls didn't have.
SOUND: "Lively yet balanced tonal response, and is ideal as a stage
instrument," according to Eyewitness Companions Guitar book.
SOUND: "I'd always wanted an SG. I think the cutaway horns reminded me a bit
of myself." -- Angus Young
FAMOUS PLAYERS: Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi, Jerry Garcia, Gary
Rossington, Frank Zappa
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