Category Archives: Artists

Jerry Lee Lewis studio publicity photo

Rock’n’Roll Legend Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis was born on September 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana. Growing up in a musical family, he was exposed to a wide range of music genres from an early age. His parents, Elmo and Mamie Lewis, were both amateur musicians, and his cousins were also involved in music. His mother introduced him to the piano, and he began playing at a young age.

Rise to Fame

Jerry Lee Lewis studio publicity photo
Jerry Lee Lewis studio publicity photo

Jerry Lee Lewis began his career in music in the 1950s. He signed with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1956 and recorded his first songs, including “Crazy Arms” and “End of the Road.” His energetic and innovative piano playing style, coupled with his distinctive voice, made him stand out among other musicians of the era.

Despite his early success, Jerry Lee Lewis was involved in several controversies that affected his public image. He married his 13-year-old cousin, which caused a significant backlash and damaged his career. He also faced criticism for his wild and often controversial behavior, which included setting pianos on fire during live performances.

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Music Style and Innovations

Jerry Lee Lewis was known for his innovative approach to music. His piano playing style was characterized by energetic rhythms, complex chord progressions, and virtuosic improvisation. He also wrote many of his own songs, which often had a unique blend of country, blues, and rock and roll influences.

In addition, Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the first musicians to integrate different music genres into his music. He incorporated elements of country, blues, and gospel into his rock and roll songs, which helped to broaden the appeal of the genre.

Contributions to Early Rock and Roll

Jerry Lee Lewis’ contributions to early rock and roll were significant. He popularized the piano as a lead instrument, which was a departure from the guitar-focused music of the time. His energetic and dynamic piano playing style inspired other musicians to experiment with the instrument and helped to establish it as a staple of rock and roll music.

In addition, he integrated country and blues music into his rock and roll songs, which helped to expand the genre and attract new audiences. He was also an influence on other musicians of the era, including Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, who cited him as a major inspiration.

The Killer’s Legacy

Jerry Lee Lewis’ impact on the music industry and popular culture is significant. His music has influenced countless musicians, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists. He has been recognized for his contributions to music with numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

His cultural significance also extends beyond his music. Add in his rebellious persona and controversial personal life helped to establish rock and roll as a symbol of youth rebellion and counterculture. His music and image continue to resonate with audiences today, and his influence can be seen in many aspects of popular culture, from movies and television to fashion and art.

All in all, Jerry Lee Lewis’ contributions to early rock and roll are significant and enduring. His innovative approach to music, unique piano playing style, and integration of different music genres helped to establish rock and roll as a distinct genre and paved the way for future generations of musicians. His cultural impact and influence on popular culture are also significant and continue to resonate with audiences today. “The Killer” will always be remembered as one of the most influential and iconic artists in the history of rock and roll music.

Chuck Berry: The Original King of Rock’n’Roll

Chuck Berry is widely considered as one of the pioneers of rock and roll music and is often referred to as the “Father of Rock and Roll.” His impact on popular culture and music is immeasurable, and his influence can still be felt to this day. Berry was one of the first musicians to blend blues, country, and rhythm and blues into a new style of music that would come to be known as rock and roll. He was also a trailblazer in the use of guitar solos, storytelling lyrics, and innovative stage performances.

Chuck Berry playing guitar
Chuck Berry in a 1957 publicity photo

Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1926, and his musical career began in the early 1950s. He was a prolific songwriter and recorded some of the most enduring and influential rock and roll songs of all time, including “Maybellene,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.” He was also known for his innovative stage performances, which often included his signature “duck walk” dance move.

One of the key factors in Berry’s success was his ability to write songs that spoke to the experiences and aspirations of young people in the 1950s and 60s. He was one of the first musicians to write about teenage life and the experiences of young people in a way that was both relatable and exciting. His music was often characterized by its upbeat tempo, catchy melodies, and upbeat lyrics, and it quickly became popular with young people around the world.

Chuck Berry Was A Big Influence on Others

Berry’s impact on popular culture and music was not limited to his own recordings. He was a major influence on a generation of musicians, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and countless others. His music continues to inspire musicians and fans alike, and his legacy lives on through the music of those who followed in his footsteps.

Despite his many achievements, Berry’s life was not without controversy. He was imprisoned several times throughout his career, including a federal prison sentence in the late 1950s for transporting a minor across state lines. Despite these setbacks, he continued to record and perform throughout his life and remained a beloved figure in the rock and roll community.

In conclusion, Chuck Berry was a true original, and his influence on popular culture and music is immeasurable. He was one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, and his songs and stage performances continue to inspire musicians and fans around the world. Berry’s legacy as the “Father of Rock and Roll” is well deserved, and his contributions to music will be remembered for generations to come.

Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison was an American singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s as one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. His powerful, emotional voice, innovative musical style, and iconic stage presence made him one of the most influential musicians of his generation, and his legacy continues to shape the sound and style of rock and roll today.

Roy Orbison holding a guitarOrbison was born in Vernon, Texas in 1936, and grew up listening to the country and western music of his native state. However, he was also exposed to a wide range of other musical styles, including gospel, blues, and classical, and he quickly developed a keen ear for melody and a passion for music. In the 1950s, Orbison began writing and performing his own songs, and his unique style soon caught the attention of the music industry.

The Orbison Voice

One of the things that set Orbison apart from other musicians of his time was his voice. He had a powerful, soaring tenor that was capable of conveying a wide range of emotions, from heartbreak and sadness to joy and excitement. His voice was further enhanced by his innovative musical arrangements, which often featured lush strings and dramatic instrumentation that underscored the emotional intensity of his lyrics.

Orbison’s impact on rock and roll was felt immediately, and he quickly became one of the most popular and influential musicians of his time. His hit songs, such as “Only the Lonely” and “Crying”, helped to define the sound and style of the early rock and roll genre, and his distinctive stage presence and electrifying live performances made him a popular concert draw.

Big Hits

“Oh, Pretty Woman” was Orbison’s biggest hit in 1964, reaching the top of the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its catchy melody and upbeat lyrics have made it one of Orbison’s most enduring hits. In 1990, the song was included in the soundtrack of the film “Pretty Woman,” which starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The film was a huge box office success and the soundtrack, which featured Orbison’s classic hit, also became a commercial success. The exposure from the film helped to revive interest in Orbison’s music, and “Oh, Pretty Woman” became a hit again, reaching the top 40 charts in several countries.

“In Dreams” from 1963 was a haunting ballad featuring Orbison’s powerful voice and dramatic instrumental arrangements, and its ethereal, dream-like quality has made it one of his most memorable and enduring songs.  Orbison first big hit, an upbeat rocker from 1961  rounds out his top 5.

These are some of the most popular songs recorded by Roy Orbison, and they are widely considered to be some of the best and most influential songs in the rock and roll genre. His impact on popular music was profound, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence musicians and fans around the world.

The Look

In addition to his musical contributions, Orbison was also a pioneer in terms of his style and image. He was known for his distinctive black sunglasses, which became one of his most recognizable trademarks, and his stylish, elegant stage costumes helped to set him apart from other musicians of the time. His influence can be seen in the music and fashion of many later rock and roll performers, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

In the years since his death, Orbison’s music has continued to be popular, and his influence has been widely recognized by musicians, fans, and critics alike. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and his songs continue to be performed and recorded by musicians around the world. His impact on rock and roll music was profound, and his legacy will continue to shape the genre for generations to come.

Fats Domino -One of the First Rockers

Fats Domino recorded his first Top 40 hit in December of 1949. Some consider his hit, “The Fat Man,” to be the first Rock and Roll recording.  Over the years, Fats sold over 65 million records; a number surpassed only by Elvis for the 50’s era.

Fats Domino singing "Blueberry Hill" on the Alan Freed Show 1956.
Fats Domino singing “Blueberry Hill” on the “Alan Freed Show” 1956.

His records scored in the Top 10 of the pop charts ten times during the fifties, and he went on to reach the Top 40 Pop Chart 37 times in his career.  And that was only Pop.  Add in his R&B charted songs and Fats Domino hit the Top 100 an amazing 84 times.

His signature song and my favorite, Blueberry Hill hit #2 on the Pop Chart and #1 on R&B in 1956.  It wasn’t a new song.  Blueberry hill started out a Swing tune recorded by Sammy Kaye in the 40’s, and later covered by Louis Armstrong.  Fats added his special juice, a bit of Creole influence, and his special back beat and made it a classic.

And we’re still singing along to his other hits:  Ain’t That a Shame, Blue Monday, I’m Walkin’, Walking to New Orleans, I’m In Love Again, and much more.

Fats Domino co-wrote many of his hits with his longtime friend Dave Bartholomew who also served as his producer.  Dave Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Their creations often used what they called “The Big Beat”.  It was a combination of Domino’s boogie woogie style and a strong backbeat.  Add in a bit of Domino flair, and it was Rock.

Throughout his career, Domino insisted that he was still true to R&B.  He said “Everybody started calling my music rock and roll.  But it wasn’t anything but the same rhythm and blues I’d been playin’ down in New Orleans.”

Fats Domino Honors

With his success, it’s  not surprising that there were a lot of awards and recognition along the way.  Major awards include the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and The National Medal of the Arts awarded by Bill Clinton in 1998.

Fats Domino home after Katrina
Fats Domino home after Katrina

In 2005,  Fats was presumed lost in Hurricane Katrina.  His New Orleans home was found heavily damaged and empty.  He had stayed behind to care for his ill wife.  “RIP Fats.  You will be missed” was spray painted on the house.  It wasn’t until several days later that he was found safe after being evacuated.

Fats Domino was one of the charter inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Billy Joel presented him as part of the first group of inductees in 1986.


Little Richard

Little Richard earned his spot here by being one of the pioneers or Rock and fathers of The Golden Age of Rock.  He was a first generation rocker.

Born in 1932, Little Richard was a teen when the boom time of music expansion hit the world.  With WWII and the great depression behind, the 50s were times of new technology, increased leisure time, and a growing economy.

Little Richard pictured on a 1957 Topps gum trading card.
Little Richard pictured on a 1957 Topps gum trading card.

Little Richard, birth name Richard Wayne Penniman grew up in Macon Georgia.  Like many Afro-Americans, his first music performance experiences were at church. When he was 14, Little Richard performed with Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Tharpe was another of the early rockers.  She started in gospel and moved towards what was soon to be known as rock.  Along the way, she earned the titles of “the original soul sister” and “the godmother of rock and roll”.  Sister Rosetta Tharpe was also noted as an influence on Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.


His family had strong rules prohibiting singing or listening to R&B (rhythm and blues) music; they called it “devil music.” It wasn’t until 1948 after his family kicked him out of the house that he performed his first R&B song. It wasn’t a happy time for Little Richard, but it was a great time for the music world.

Little-RichardHe worked his way through several bands, building his talents and skills along the way. As he gained musical experience, he learned how to read the audience and tailor his songs to their likes. This may have been what led him into morphing his musical style towards early rock. He’s quoted as saying “A lot of songs I sang to crowds first to watch their reaction. That’s how I knew they’d hit”.Du Noyer 2003, p. 14

By 1955, Little Richard had recorded a couple of demo records and had his first big hit with Tutti Frutti late in the year. It hit #2 on the Billboard R&B chart and surprisingly also crossed over to reach the top 20 on the pop chart. His next hit single “Long Tall Sally” reached the top ten on the pop chart. Both singles sold over a million copies.

45 rpm record Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard
1958 release “Good Golly, Miss Molly”, 45 rpm recording on Specialty Records Krächz

Launched to fame from his hit records, Little Richard went on tour with his trademark high energy stage performance. He’s known for running on and off the stage, pounding on the piano, shouting lyrics, and sexually suggestive lyrics.

He’s also known for having some of the earliest mixed-race audiences. During the 50s, and especially in the South, public places were divided into “white” and “colored” areas. Audiences were still split. Usually white’s on the lower level and blacks in the balcony, but it was a start. Little Richard was often booked as the last act of the show because, by the time he was through, people would be out of their seats with whites and blacks mixed on the floor dancing. And it was probably also because no other act could catch the audience’s attention after him.

Little Richard, Richard Wayne Penniman was one of the ten original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his recording of “Tutti Frutti” is in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, with the note “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”.

Ben E King

Ben E King was an American soul and R&B singer who rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s. He is best known for his hit song “Stand by Me,” which has become a classic of early rock and roll. Despite his relatively short career, King left a lasting impact on the music industry and remains an important figure in the history of popular music.

King was born in North Carolina in 1938 and grew up in Harlem, New York. He was influenced by gospel music and the sounds of rhythm and blues, which he heard on the radio and in local clubs. He began singing as a teenager and joined a doo-wop group called The Four B’s, which later became The Drifters. King was the lead singer of The Drifters from 1958 to 1960, during which time the group recorded several hit songs, including “There Goes My Baby” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

Spanish Harlem album cover by Ben E King
Spanish Harlem album cover by Ben E King

First With thee Drifters

In 1960, King left The Drifters to pursue a solo career. He signed with Atlantic Records and released his first single, “Spanish Harlem,” which became a hit. He followed this with “Stand by Me,” which was released in 1961. The song was written by King, along with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and was inspired by a gospel song of the same name. “Stand by Me” became King’s biggest hit, reaching number four on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. The song was covered by many artists over the years and has become a classic of early rock and roll.

King continued to release successful records throughout the 1960s, including “Amor” and “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” both of which became top 10 hits. He was known for his powerful voice and soulful delivery, and his music was a fusion of gospel, R&B, and pop styles. He was also known for his social and political activism, and he used his music to address issues of race and equality.

One of the First Crossovers

King’s contribution to early rock and roll cannot be overstated. He was one of the first African American artists to have crossover success, and he helped to bridge the gap between R&B and pop music. His songs, such as “Stand by Me,” have become timeless classics and continue to be popular today. His influence can be heard in the music of many contemporary artists, and he remains an important figure in the history of popular music.

In conclusion, Ben E King was a pioneering figure in early rock and roll who left a lasting impact on the music industry. With his powerful voice and soulful delivery, he helped to bridge the gap between R&B and pop music, and his songs continue to be popular today. He remains an important figure in the history of popular music and a true icon of early rock and roll.

Ike Turner

Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm "Rhythm Rockin' Blues" album cover
Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm “Rhythm Rockin’ Blues” album

Ike Turner makes our list of founding fathers of rock and roll for his 1951 song Rocket 88. It’s considered as possibly being the first rock and roll song. There are several other contenders for this title as rock and roll wasn’t a new “out of the blue” type of music but rather an evolutionary change from Rhythm and Blues.  Many of the experts though credit Rocket 88, or Rocket “88” as it was originally known, as being the first true and pure, through and through, rock and roll record.

Turner’s music career started in high school where he joined a band called The Tophatters.   This was in the late 40s, and The Tophatters specialized in Big Band music.  The Tophatters eventually broke up with the band splitting in two directions.  Some of the originals stayed with the Jazz based big band dance music, and part was going towards blues and boogie-woogie.  The blues and boogie spinoff was led by Ike and named itself the Kings of Rhythm.  Ike kept the Kings of Rhythm name for his band throughout his music career.

Turner and his band found some influential friends along the way. B.B. King already had a recording contract with RPM records.  King helped them to get gig dates and introduced Ike to his producer at RPM, the legendary Sam Phillips, who later went on to found Sun Records.

Rocket 88

Label from Rocket 88. Ike Turner and his band wrote Rocket 88 which is considered the first rock and roll recording.
Ike Turner and his band wrote Rocket 88 which is considered the first rock and roll recording.

While driving to Memphis to meet Sam Phillips at Sun Studio, he and his band wrote Rocket 88.  It wasn’t Ike but Jackie Brenton, the band’s saxophonist that did the vocals.   Sam Phillips sold the record to another studio, Chess in Chicago, where it was released as coming from “Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats”.  Delta 88 sold somewhere around a half-million copies, a big number for a new band, and it became part of rock and roll history.

Rocket 88 launched the careers of two rock and roll giants.  Ike Turner and Sam Phillips. Sun Studios went on to record several of the other founding fathers of rock: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.  Ike Turner didn’t fare so well at first.  Different accounts show him selling the rights to Rocket 88 at alternately $20 and $40.  And Jackie Brenton didn’t handle fame well.  He and several of Ike’s musicians went off on their own, soon went broke, and faded from the scene.

Turner spent the next several years as a session musician, songwriter, and producer for Sam Phillips and the Bihari Brothers while he rebuilt his band.  The Bihari’s were notable because they were white businessmen in a predominately black R&B world.  They had substantial success in crossing R&B, over to the white audiences of rock and roll.

Two big changes happened in the late 50s.  Many say that the musician lifestyle finally caught up to Turner.  The former clean-as-a-whistle star had his first couple of run-ins with the law.  It was the start of problems that plagued him for the rest of his life.  Later on, he would miss his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because he was in jail.

The second change was in 1958 when he was introduced to Anna May Bullock.  Anna was eventually given a tryout and joined the band as a singer.  She started as “Little Ann”, but eventually changed her first name to Tina, and later took the last name of Turner.  It was only a stage name at first, although Tina says that they were eventually married in 1962 (Ike disagreed).

The Ike and Tina Turner Review was a big success until 1976 when they broke up for good.  Details of their rocky times together were made into a movie “What’s Love Got to Do with It”.

Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.


Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly wasn’t with us for long, yet he helped shape rock and roll into what it is today.    With just four years of full-time music performances out of his 22 years total, he earned his spot as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and The Crickets album cover
Buddy Holly and The Crickets album cover

In the early days of rock where most songs were borrowed from R&B, Country, or other genres, Buddy Holly was one of the first that wrote, produced and recorded his own materials.  The results were unique and spectacular.

It seems like it’s always been that way, but music historians credit Buddy with defining the setup of the traditional rock band.   Most bands were still transitioning from the big band or jazz mix with orchestral instruments, pianos, horns, and woodwinds.  Buddy Holly set rock and roll standard setup: Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.

Music Career

Any band coming from Lubbock, Texas in the 50s had to feature country music, and Buddy’s was no exception.  Somewhere along the way he caught the R&B bug, probably from late night radio.  AM radio reception during the day was so-so, but at night, distant stations came through, and Buddy was hooked.  His style slowly changed.  Mix Country with R&B and you get rock.  Buddy was good at it; he rocked!

After high school, Buddy’s band was chosen to open for Elvis at several local concerts.  That led to a gig opening for Bill Haley & His Comets where he was noticed by a Nashville scout that led to a recording contract and an unplanned name change.  Buddy Holley’s name on the contract was accidentally misspelled as Holly, and that became his professional name.

The hits started coming from there.  “That’ll Be the Day” hit the charts and soon climbed to the top.  A contractual dispute prevented Buddy from putting his name on it so “That’ll Be the Day” is credited to just The Crickets.  Other hits soon followed as the problem was cleared and  “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy” were released as coming from Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

By 1958, Buddy Holly was an international star after having toured England and Australia, mixed in with a couple of appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Arthur Murray Party.

The Winter Dance Party Featuring Buddy Holly

Winter Dance Party poster featuring Buddy Holly
Winter Dance Party poster featuring Buddy Holly

Alan Freed’s Winter Dance Party was a high point of rock and roll history.   A group of the best of the early rockers toured the Midwest.  It was the first of it’s kind tour being dance music set in traditional concert theater settings.  The rest is the downside of the history.  The weather was terrible, and the tour buses had heat problems.  Buddy Holly charted a plane to skip the bus trip and fly himself, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper)to the next stop.  The plane crashed, killing all three, on the day immortalized by Don McLean’s song as “The Day the Music Died”.

Buddy Holly was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as part of its first class of inductees.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan at Washington protests 1963

It’s difficult to identify which branch of the rock and roll family tree Bob Dylan comes from.  As a folk singer, his early works were always on the edge.  He brought the protest to protest songs, nasty lyrics to rock’s vocabulary, deep poetry to style, and the electric guitar into the mainstream.  Some say that he even brought us The Beatles greatest works by introducing them to pot.

Dylans early work was definitely folk.  His first album, named Simply Bob Dylan, was mostly covers of folk standards.  Mixed in with the reworked songs were two original works.  “Talk’n New York” was his story of how he didn’t fit in as a mid-westerner singing in Greenwich Village coffee houses.  His second original release was “Song to Woody”, Bob Dylan’s tribute to his musical hero, Woody Guthrie.  The album sold very few copies and just barely broke even.  Yet the two original gems that it contained were  Dylan’s announcement that he was going to write and sing about what he wanted to.

His second album is where he broke loose.  “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” from 1963 was almost all original works and strongly anti-war.  It included “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Masters Of War”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”  The album soon became a best seller and is included in most surveys of the top albums of all times.

New albums followed soon after his Freewheeling’ success, and as Dylan matured, his musical scope expanded.  Many of his songs strayed from the traditional folksy and protest styles as they became more personal.  His musical style changed to and moved slowly towards rock.

Bob Dylan Shocks the Newport Folk Festival

It was a black day for folk and a big day for rock at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.  Bob Dylan was one of the biggest folk stars and one of the festival headliners.   The crowd cheered him as he opened with three of his folk standards:  “All I Really Want to Do”, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”, and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”.  Then he crossed the folk and rock line by plugging in a Fender Stratocaster and launching an amplified electric set backed by Mike Bloomfield and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

They cranked out 3 amplified numbers before they left the stage.  Some say they were booed off the stage, others say it was planned to play only the three numbers and then go back to traditional folk. Whatever it was, there was no going back.  Bob Dylan had announced that the music world was going electric, and he was crossing the line as a rocker.

In 2008, Bob Dylan received a special award from the Pulitzer Prize committee for, as they worded it, “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”  It was well deserved.

The Electric Guitar Inventors

Think of a rock and roll band and what musical instrument comes to mind?  For most it’s the electric guitar, and it’s big cousin the electric bass.  It just isn’t rock and roll without the driving beat.  Rock wouldn’t be what it is without these electric guitar inventors.

Earliest History

Patent application for one of our electric guitar inventors, Adolph Rickenbacker's electric guitar.
Patent application for Adolph Rickenbacker’s electric guitar.

Guitars had been with us for a long time.  Its predecessors have been dated back to the 9th century or before.  But acoustic guitars didn’t put out enough volume to work well in a band until these electric guitar inventors came along.  Early efforts to mount a microphone in the guitar didn’t work well. Mikes of the time didn’t handle a full range of tones and picked up a lot of background noise, scraping sounds, and worst of all, feedback.

George Beauchamp was a guitarist in the 1920s who experimented with amplification for his Hawaiian guitar.  In 1931, Beauchamp partnered with Adolph Rickenbacker, an electric engineer, to invent what is considered to be the first electromagnetic pickup that produced clear sound.  Their invention was first mounted in a Hawaiin lap guitar.  The induction pickup directly sensed the vibration of the strings and wasn’t affected by ambient sounds or feedback.  The guitar was known as the “frying pan” for its shape and aluminum body.  Rickenbacker’s company manufactured them, and the electric guitar was born.

Hawaiin music was big in the 20s and 30s, and the guitar caught on quickly.  Musicians in other types of bands soon took a liking to it, and the need for more traditional electric guitars followed. Rickenbacker was the first of our big hero electric guitar inventors.

Electric Guitar Inventors: Les Paul

Les Paul was the next big electric guitar inventor hero.  His style was a mix of jazz, blues and country and the Hawaiin lap guitar didn’t quite fit in.  Les Pauls tinkering with electric guitar design led to a model he called “the log”.  Initially, it was little more than a 4-foot piece of lumber with hardware attached.  He later added the body of a sawn away Epiphone guitar for looks.

Patent application for one of our electric guitar inventors, Leo Fender's Bass Electric Guitar
“Fender Bass Guitar Patent” by C. Leo Fender, inventor – US Patent Office, Patent D187001.

Electric Guitar Inventors: Leo Fender

A few years later,  Clarence Leonidas Fender, better known as Leo Fender, improved on the basic design with a solid body.  His Fender Telecaster became the first successful mass-produced solid body electric in 1950, followed by the Fender Stratocaster in 1954, just in time for the birth of rock and roll.  The Stratocaster featured three separate pickups and a string bending tremolo bar.

Along the way, Fender also introduced the Fender Precision Bass and Fender Bassman Amplifiers that replaced the stand-up bass used by most groups with what we recognize today as the Bass Guitar.

Early rock bands had a piano or sax at as the lead instrument, a stand up double bass, and a drum set.  The guitar guys changed everything but the drums in most modern rock bands.   Leo Fender and Les Paul are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.