The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Rollby Published 15 Jan 2019
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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
What A Soaring Read
I really really loved this book. Everything about it! It was incredibly well researched with tons of insight about the invention of the electric guitar and the music it helped shape in the 50s and 60s. But it wasn't just educational. Port's writing, especially when describing the playing of guitar greats like Les Paul and Dick Dale is superb. His page and a half of Hendrix' "Star Spangled Banner" is probably the highlight of the whole book. I had to stop reading and listen along as Port broke down the performance almost note for note with incredible imagery. And because of Port's details, I heard something in that performance I had never heard before.
If you love music, and appreciate how the electric guitar ushered out the age of Big Band and ushered in Rock and Roll, you will love this book. I guarantee it.
A lot more fascinating than one would think going beyond the names behind the guitar, focusing on the lives Leo Fender, Les Paul and others led in the days just before and just after the birth of rock n' roll. Fender comes off better than Paul, whose domineering perfectionism came at the cost of his marriage to Mary Ford.
I just finished a free galley copy, and let me say, this book ROCKS! I've read very few non-fiction works that read like a page-turning novel. I simply could not put this book down. The real life story of Leo Fender and Les Paul is so captivating that it nearly seems fictitious.
I'd highly recommend this to anyone with even a modicum of interest in the roots of rock n roll.
I got a free galley of this book and thought it might go either way as to whether or not this would be a book that I would enjoy. I love listening to music, but I don't play and have no real affinity for or knowledge about different types of guitars. I figured I would start reading it and if I didn't get into it fairly quickly I would put it down. I did not put it down. This book was fascinating. I had no idea about the history of electric guitars or the people who invented them. There was so much crazy stuff in both of their lives and so many interesting stories. This was a great book, and I'm glad I gave it a chance.