The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll

THE BIRTH OF LOUD                                 IAN S. PORT

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 radically new age, empowering artists with vibrancy and volume never before attainable.


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 I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at

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