History Of Rock N’ Roll Guitar Part 3
Rock N’ Roll guitar came about, unsurprisingly, with Rock N’ Roll music. The exact date for Rock N’ Roll’s advent is debatable, but it broadly occurred in the 1950s. Such acts as Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and more, hailed the introduction of a ground-breaking genre, defined by its ‘gritty’ guitar sound, sexually suggestive lyrical content and faster tempos.
The guitar playing in this period also greatly diversified, with the advent of the electric guitar (stemming from Les Paul and Adolph Rickenbacker alike). The first real Rock N’ Roll guitar is a matter of opinion, but Franny Beecher (the first lead guitarist for Bill Haley and His Comets) used a 1954 Les Paul Custom guitar by the Gibson guitar company. This guitar has not changed much in its present-day form (now just “Les Paul Custom”). The guitar featured two simple pick-ups, a bridge, a and four knobs – two for volume and two for tone.
In 1960 we had The Shadows with their unique sound, they won the world but not the USA.
All the guitar heroes such as Eric Clapton, Brian may, etc, were deeply influenced by Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist of The Shadows, Britain’s first rock guitar group.
Hank Marvin used a Fender Stratocaster, a Vox Ac30 and a specific echo box to produce his unique sound.
The Shadoogies play, besides Rock ‘ roll, a tribute to the Shadows in their shows.
Elvis Presley’s lead guitarist, Scotty Moore, favoured a Gibson ES-295. These models were made slightly earlier than the Les Pauls described above, and were a semi-hollow body (typical of the jazz/ blues at the time). These guitars often had large, cumbersome bridge pieces which were largely due to their tremolo system.
Moving into the next decade, the 1960s, an explosion of guitar models took off, as well as a more ingrained rivalry between Gibson (famed for humbucker pickups, glued-in necks and heavy guitars) and Fender (a guitar company who produced guitars with cheaper bolt-on necks, single-coil pickups, and often simple wood-only necks).
Eric Clapton, of Cream, often chose the best of both worlds, performing with Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars alike. Other popular guitars of the time were the Fender Music Maker, which featured one pick-up and the typical bolt-on neck.
John Lennon of The Beatles fame was famed for originally using a 1958 Rickenbacker 325 guitar. These models were 6 stringed, in stark black and white, and had a ‘Z’ shaped body.
Jimi Hendrix made a standard Fender Stratocaster popular, whilst Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin favored a Gibson Les Paul. Keith Richards, the (arguably) rhythm guitar player of The Rolling Stones, a band active largely in the 60s and 70s, used a Fender Telecaster – a Fender with slightly different pickups and body shape.
The 80s saw modified Stratocasters – Superstrats – popularised by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, which were heavily modified Stratocasters, resulting in Gibson hardware and sound, on a Fender Stratocaster body.
The 90s saw the popularisation of Fender Jaguars by Kurt Cobain, and custom ‘Axe’ model guitars popularised by bands like Slayer and Megadeth (80s and 90s).
Modern rocks guitars actually tend to be re-issues of vintage Fender and Gibson models, with people relying on ‘tried and tested’ 60s and 70s models, rather than accepting modern variants. Bands of recent years, from Weezer to The Killers and the even more modern Giant Johnson and Sum 41 all tend to favor older guitar models.