The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Rollby Published 15 Jan 2019
|The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll.pdf|
A riveting saga in the history of rock ‘n’ roll: the decades-long rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound—Leo Fender and Les Paul—and their intense competition to convince rock stars like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton to play the instruments they built.
In the years after World War II, music was evolving from big-band jazz into the primordial elements of rock ’n’ roll—and these louder styles demanded revolutionary instruments. When Leo Fender’s tiny firm marketed the first solid-body electric guitar, the Esquire, musicians immediately saw its appeal. Not to be out-maneuvered, Gibson, the largest guitar manufacturer, raced to build a competitive product. The company designed an “axe” that would make Fender’s Esquire look cheap and convinced Les Paul—whose endorsement Leo Fender had sought—to put his name on it. Thus was born the guitar world’s most heated rivalry: Gibson versus Fender, Les versus Leo.
While Fender was a quiet, half-blind, self-taught radio repairman from rural Orange County, Paul was a brilliant but egomaniacal pop star and guitarist who spent years toying with new musical technologies. Their contest turned into an arms race as the most inventive musicians of the 1950s and 1960s—including bluesman Muddy Waters, rocker Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton—adopted one maker’s guitar or another. By the time Jimi Hendrix played “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969 on his Fender Stratocaster, it was clear that electric instruments—Fender or Gibson—had launched music into a radical new age, empowering artists with a vibrancy and volume never before attainable.
"The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll" Reviews
I am reading an advance, galley proof copy of the book and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the hardcover edition in a couple of weeks. You don't have to be a guitar player, or even a Southern California history buff to be engaged by this book. The story of the rivalry between Leo Fender and Les Paul captures you from the first pages. It is an excellent read. Full disclosure: The author is my son-in-law. That being said, Objectively, I would still highly recommend this book.
Much more than a biography of the two titans of the electric guitar industry, Leo Fender and Les Paul, this book is a fascinating history of American music between 1950 and 1970, that includes several interesting profiles of musicians such as Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Jimmy Hendrix. Thoroughly researched, and very well written, the book is a testament to the American ideals of ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance.
The Audible version is excellent, and the 9+ hours of text flew by on a road trip as I listened to the intriguing narrative of how the mild-mannered radio repairman Leo Fender (who could not play the guitar or any other musical instrument) and the outrageously self-absorbed Les Paul (a very popular performer in his day) competed to design and produce the most iconic electric guitars in the world.
The personalities, technology, culture, and music of this era, combined with the author's compelling narrative, make this a hard book to put down.
A book about the electric guitar and how it became a force in music. You get a look into Les Paul his life, his work with Gibson guitar and how his suggestions on their guitar made for a better smooth sound, especially for jazz. He was also able to have hit records in the early 50s with his second wife Mary Ford which also helped sales of that guitar. The author then takes you to Southern California Orange County where Leo Fender a radio repairman in the forties is going around to honky tonks and dance halls tinkering with steel guitars from different players. He is looking for sounds that are different. He then meets Bill Bigsby who also was working with steel guitars and lap ones. He also was looking for a different sound and later he would be the one who came up with the whammy or vibrato. He would add some of his ideas to the Gibson and later suggest that Fender stole some of his ideas, never proven. Any way Him, Gibson with Les Paul and Fender. Fender really took off for a number of reasons, it weighed less than a Gibson by several pounds, easy to replace neck if damaged. Then with the birth of rock and roll and then surf music from Dick Dale, and then Bubby Holly the Fender guitar produced high sales. Another big advantage Fender had was Leo Fender was always tinkering and wanting to come up with something new. Hence taking the bass from stand up to holding it like the guitar. Now you could get a better sound. He also works on amps using different speakers for different sounds as well. By the time he sold his company in the mid-60s he was looking to retire. When his wife passed away and he fulfilled his contract he would start another company. The other parts of this book for people that don’t know the author talks about different songs from different times. Rocket 88 if no one has listened to it is a fast rock song that came out in 51 and is still a fast rock song. The blues songs, and Dick Dale and The Chantays, Chantay’s with “Pipeline”, he then speaks of some other songs but one that really to this day for me is still “Star Spangle Banner” by Hendrix, when I first heard it and still to this day that song and his music give me the chills. I, of course, bought the 45 when it came to my small town and I am glad I still have it after all of these years, being a record collector this book was made for me just like the guitars were made for music. A very good book. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com
This is a delightful little read about the two giants of electric guitar design and production whose instruments changed the world.
Neither “invented” the solid body electric guitar, indeed, as is well known, Les Paul basically had no input in designing the beautiful mahogany monster axe which bears his name.
Rather, Leo and Les occupy this story as the kind of obsessive tinkerers of a previous age; they are the grandchildren of Edison and Bell, the forefathers of Jobs and Gates. I’m not suggesting the Stratocaster and Les Paul affected the world as the incandescent bulb and the iPhone have, but I also AM suggesting that.
One need only read Port’s absolutely gorgeous description of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, played on his upside down, white Strat, to appreciate how electric guitars and their history, particularly these two titans, have made and reflected the changes in American culture since they were plugged in.
I gave this three stars rather than more because, unlike reviews suggest, I didn’t find this “compulsively readable” or “stunning.” It was VERY GOOD. I’m glad I know what I learned in it. And I’m happy Ian Port wrote it. But I did find myself wanting to hear more from each guitar’s most famous players. There are some lines from Paige and Clapton, Hendrix and Richards. But ultimately, the culture, technology, and people that made these instruments happen take center stage.
Well written and researched. Well done!