TIMELINE - Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar - Alan di Perna, Brad Tolinski

Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar - Alan di Perna, Brad Tolinski (2016)


Nineteenth Century

September 4, 1882: The nation’s first electricity-generating power station opens its doors in Manhattan.

September 2, 1890: The first patent for an electric guitar design is given to inventor George Breed. The instrument is small and extremely heavy, and it produces an unusual, continuously sustained sound.


October 10, 1902: The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company is founded.

January 29, 1907: Lee De Forest patents the first electronic amplification device, the triode vacuum tube.

1921: The first paper-cone loudspeaker is developed by Chester W. Rice and Edward W. Kellogg.

1928/29: The Stromberg-Voisinet Electro, the first commercial electric guitar, is introduced to general indifference.


1932: The production model of the Ro-Pat-In Electro A-25 “Frying Pan” hits the market. It is hailed as the first successful commercially produced electric guitar.

October 31, 1932: Guitarist Gage Brewer gives what is regarded as the first public electric guitar performance at the Shadowland Pavilion in Wichita, Kansas.

1933: Electric guitar models are introduced by Gibson, Vivi-Tone, and Dobro.

1935: Electric guitar models are introduced by Audiovox, Epiphone, and Volu-tone.

November 20, 1936: Gibson delivers the first ES-150, which achieves unprecedented notoriety due in large part to its endorsement by prominent guitar players of the day, such as Eddie Durham and Floyd Smith.

March 31, 1938: American swing guitarist George Barnes makes the first commercial recording of an electric guitar, in sessions with blues artist Big Bill Broonzy.

August 16, 1939: Charlie Christian is invited to play in Benny Goodman’s sextet. By February 1940, Christian and his Gibson ES-150 dominate jazz and swing polls, as he becomes the first widely acclaimed electric guitar hero.

ca. 1939: Les Paul begins work on the “Log” solid-body electric guitar.


1945: “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” Bing Crosby’s first record with the Les Paul Trio, becomes a hit.

1946: The Fender Electric Instrument Company is launched.

1947: The single release “Lover” debuts Les Paul’s “New Sound.” It is recorded on a revolutionary multitrack device invented by the guitarist, and features a staggering eight electric guitar parts, all played by Paul.

April 1948: Muddy Waters creates his two landmark blues recordings, “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “I Feel Like Going Home,” featuring his bottleneck slide on an amplified guitar.

May 25, 1948: Work is completed on the Travis-Bigsby solid-body electric guitar.


1950: The Fender Broadcaster solid-body electric guitar is introduced; it is renamed the Telecaster the following year.

1951: The Fender Precision Bass is introduced. It is the first electric bass to earn widespread attention.

1952: The Gibson Les Paul solid-body electric guitar is introduced.

1953: The Gretsch Duo Jet is introduced.

1954: The Fender Stratocaster is introduced.

1955: The Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 is introduced.

January 27, 1956: Elvis Presley releases “Heartbreak Hotel,” arranged by guitarist Atkins. It is the first song to top pop, country, and R&B charts simultaneously.

January 6, 1958: Chuck Berry records the ultimate guitar anthem, “Johnny B. Goode,” using his Gibson ES-350T. It’s a major hit with both black and white audiences.


1962: Gibson is first to market with a mass-produced consumer fuzzbox, the Maestro Fuzz-Tone (FZ-1).

February 9, 1964: The Beatles make their U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison performs on a Gretsch Country Gentleman and John Lennon plays a Rickenbacker 325.

Autumn 1964: Pete Townshend of the Who smashes his guitar for the first time, onstage at the Railway Hotel, London.

1965: Cashing in on the guitar band fad sweeping America, Japan floods the U.S. market with hundreds of thousands of cheap guitars.

January 1965: CBS acquires Fender Musical Instruments.

July 25, 1965: Folk musician Bob Dylan embraces the electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, and sets off a firestorm of controversy. He is accompanied by electric guitarist Mike Bloomfield, who becomes one of the archetypal guitar heroes of the rock era.

July 1966: Blues Breakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton, aka the “Beano” album, is released. Clapton’s virtuosity and larger-than-life sound—a Les Paul through an early Marshall amp—play a major role in ushering in the era of the guitar hero.

November 1966: The first wah-wah pedal is created by Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company.

1967: Guitar Player, a popular magazine for guitarists, is founded.

May 12, 1967: Are You Experienced, the debut album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, is released. Hendrix is eventually widely acknowledged as the greatest electric guitar player of all time.

August 15-18, 1969: Jimi Hendrix closes the Woodstock Music and Art Fair with a set that includes “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a solo piece showcasing modern guitar innovations such as feedback and distortion.


January 2, 1970: Gruhn Guitars opens in Nashville, Tennessee. It becomes the flagship for the burgeoning vintage guitar market, attracting the likes of Duane Allman, Hank Williams Jr., and Eric Clapton.

1972: Larry DiMarzio builds and markets his first Super Distortion pickup, kicking off the replacement parts revolution.

1975: A nineteen-year-old Paul Reed Smith sells one of his first handmade instruments to hard rock guitarist Ted Nugent.

ca. 1975: Edward Van Halen constructs his first “Frankenstrat” guitar, using parts from a Gibson ES-335 and replacement guitar bodies and necks made by Boogie Bodies.

October 28, 1977: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is released.

1979: The first “headless” Steinberger bass, made entirely out of a graphite and carbon fiber mix, is introduced.


1980: Guitar World, a popular magazine for guitarists, is founded.

August 1, 1981: MTV debuts on cable television, programming pop music videos twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

February 13, 1983: The single “Beat It,” written and performed by Michael Jackson, featuring Edward Van Halen on lead guitar, is released. The video of the song is often credited as paving the way for black artists on MTV.

1985: Paul Reed Smith produces his first factory-built PRS Custom.

1987: Ibanez introduces the Steve Vai JEM series. It is followed in 1990 with the Universe series, a seven-string version of the JEM.


March 21, 1991: Leo Fender dies at age eighty-one.

1998: Billionaire Paul Allen purchases the Hendrix Woodstock Strat for a reported $2 million.

1999: Jack White of the White Stripes purchases a vintage 1966 Montgomery Ward Airline guitar from Detroit musician Jack Yarber (aka Jack Oblivian). White’s eventual success revives interest in what many had considered “junk” guitars from the fifties and sixties.

Twenty-first Century

2001: Canada’s Eastwood Guitars launches a line of Valco Airline copy guitars.

June 13, 2001: Glenn Branca conducts his Symphony No. 13: Hallucination City for a hundred electric guitars at the base of the World Trade Center in New York.

August 12, 2009: Les Paul dies at age ninety-four.

2016: The Ernie Ball St. Vincent signature model guitar is introduced. Annie Clark (St. Vincent) designed the guitar such that, among its many features, it better accommodates female players.