Book Review: The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock & Roll
Ian S. Port
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 6, 2019
How exciting, telling rock's story via the development of the solid-body electric guitar, the music's defining instrument. Former San Francisco Weekly Music Editor Ian Port accomplishes this in a fast-paced, cinematic style that brings all the necessary scholarship herein to life. At its core is the friendship and exchange of ideas between famed jazz guitarist Les Paul and two engineers: the wonky Leo Fender and the more flamboyantly rough-hewn Paul A. Bigsby. The trio spent a chunk of the Forties drinking beer in Paul's backyard, dreaming of what a solid-body electric should be – an instrument that projects clearly in an auditorium or noisy bar without feedback. (Little did they realize that many a Sixties guitarist would desire that whistling and howling.) When "boards bolted together with strings and a pickup" became the Fender Telecaster and ate into Gibson's sales, the latter's Ted McCarty approached Paul, who'd bugged them for years with a prototype solid-body called "The Log." Paul didn't design the guitar bearing his name, but he gladly lent his fame to Gibson's Telecaster answer. He comes off as a narcissist, Fender a workaholic, and scenes like Dick Dale blowing up Fender amp prototypes and sending them back read like a perfect movie montage.
The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock & Rollby Ian S. Port
Scribner, 352 pp., $28