If you can’t tell the difference between a Fender Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul, this is clearly not the book for you. However, if you know Hendrix was a Strat guy and underneath that black spray paint and all those stickers, Joe Strummer always rocked a Tele, then this is likely to be your new Bible.
Painstakingly researched and written in a relatable, almost conversational style, longtime music journalists Brad Tolinski and Alan Di Perna have written a 400-page love note to the greatest musical instrument ever constructed: the electric guitar. The book starts in the early 1920s when the genesis of the modern day electric axe first started, in California, naturally. While, interesting, the first chapter or two are a bit academic and heavy in minutia, but the book quickly picks up once the authors start to introduce the Godfathers of the of the modern electric guitars, folks like Clarence “Leo” Fender (founder of Fender guitars), Les Paul (musician and luthier, best known for the iconic Gibson Les Paul), Paul Reed Smith (founder of PRS guitars) and Adolph Rickenbacker (founder of Rickenbacker guitars). The personalities of these folks are what drives the focus of the book. There are some incredible stories though out about gall of the founders and oftentimes luck that led to these companies taking off, like a teenage Smith who talked his way backstage at a Ted Nugent concert to get the rocker to check out and hopefully endorse his guitar. While Nugent didn’t make the PRS his go-to guitar, Carlos Santana did when approach in a similar manner by a ballsy Smith. Also impressive is the story of how Rickenbacker wooed The Beatles early on in their careers, charming the band and getting them to check out the instruments in a hotel suite on their first trip to New York.
The book, though squarely aimed at guitar fans, is a fantastic history lesson and a must read for anyone who has ever picked up a guitar.
Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar by Brad Tolinski and Alan Di Perna/Hardcover/400 pages/Doubleday/2016 /