Amplified Music and the Birth of Rock and Roll

Amplified music played a crucial role in the birth of rock and roll. The use of amplifiers to amplify the sound of musical instruments was first introduced in the 1920s and 1930s.  It was in the 1950s that amplified music began to be used extensively in rock and roll music.

fender deluxe guitar amp
The Fender Deluxe from 1953-4 was a 10-watt tube type guitar amp and regarded as one of the best.

Amplification allowed for louder and more powerful performances.  This was essential for the high-energy, dance-oriented nature of rock and roll music. The amplified sound of electric guitars, in particular, became an integral part of the rock and roll sound.  Guitarists like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Bill Haley used amplified guitars to create a driving, rhythm-heavy sound.

The use of amplifiers also allowed for the development of new effects such as distortion and overdrive, which added a new dimension to the sound of rock and roll music. These effects became a staple of rock and roll, with guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton using them to create new and innovative sounds.

Bigger Amplifiers for Bigger Venues

The use of amplification also enabled rock and roll musicians to perform in larger venues, such as stadiums and arenas, and to be heard over the noise of crowds. This allowed rock and roll music to reach a wider audience.  And it helped to establish it as a dominant force in popular music.

All in all, amplified music was a key factor in the birth and development of rock and roll music. It allowed for louder, more powerful performances, enabled the creation of new sounds and effects, and helped to establish rock and roll as a dominant force in popular music.

If It’s Too Loud…

Of course, when rock was new, the kids loved the volume and the adults hated it.  Rock Guitarist Ted Nugent coined the phrase “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” as an ad for his first solo album.

Looking back, early rock-era amplifiers were mild compared to what we have today.  A typical mid-50s amplifier put out 15-20 watts with limited bass and treble sound ranges.  That was just enough to be heard over the drummer.  By the mid 60s, Fender, working with Surf Guitarist Dick Dale,  had the output up to 100 watts with a rich full tone.

Dick Davies from The Kinks is known as being the first big name to experiment with distortion by hooking two of these big units together.  Soon, fuzz and reverb features were common.  Keep in mind that this was all in the 60s.  Transistors were in their infancy.  Sound amps were all tubes … big, heavy, and hot.

Along with being the first mega-concert, the Woodstock Festival also introduced the first quality outdoor sound system.  Previous smaller-scale festivals had groups of listeners gathered up close to the stage to listen.  At Woodstock, the sound powered by 300-watt McIntosh amps filled the air.