“The Birth of Loud” explores the history that has created rock ‘n’ roll as we know it today. courtesy Scribner

Ian S. Port discusses the history of the electric guitar

The author of “The Birth of Loud” spoke about the iconic rivalry that shaped rock ‘n’ roll.

On Jan. 30, TU hosted Ian S. Port for an event centering on his book, “Birth of Loud,” which investigates the history of guitars and the rivalry between Les Paul and Leo Fender. The event took place at Tyrrell Hall, where people were excited to hear how their favorite bands and musicians were formed with the very instruments they played with. The crowd consisted mostly of older people, yet they were loud with anticipation.

Unlike any presentation or concert, the crowd didn’t cease to talk as Dr. Sean Latham, the Director of the Oklahoma Center Humanities and Arts came up to welcome Port. Instead, they got louder and applauded. It was like they were reliving and rediscovering a part of their life that they had left behind.

After a few moments, Port greeted everyone and thanked everyone for coming out to hear him speak. It didn’t take long for him to get into a discussion about the importance of the electric guitar in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Port went on to explain that “no one person created it” and “it was not invented for music,” but rather an entire generation.

He then proceeded to explain how music genres expanded in the United States in the 20th century: the most popular ranging from jazz, blues, country and hillbilly western swing, a type of jazz-country fusion. At the time, people loved the sound that came with it, especially the guitar. The only flaw, which was major, was the guitar was not loud enough to project sound over roaring crowds and among the band. If it did, it would produce feedback. Aside from this, there was not really a difference between the acoustic and electric guitar.

Nevertheless, there were two music loving kids with a fierce passion for tinkering with electronics from different parts of the U.S. that wanted to produce a different sound. Little did either of them know is that their ideas would change the course of what we consider rock and roll in the latter half of the 20th century.

Port described the lives of two music innovators: Leo Fender, a shy kid raised on country music who tinkered with radios and built amplifiers and guitars for a living. The other was Les Paul, a charismatic showman who thrived off of the belief that he would be a star. Like Fender, he also loved country music and loved pulling apart electronics and putting them back together. Port went on to say how their rivalry went from friendly competition to all-out war in seeing who could succeed in the music business.

Port went on to play samples of songs that included the early influences of the guitar before Fender and Paul as well as after. The list consisted of songs from Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. He concluded that both Fender and Paul were influential and that both played an equal part in the birth of the rock and roll genre that we know today, evident in the continued success of both of their brands. At the end of the event, he was open to answering any questions that the audience had regarding the musicians and their equipment and held a book signing, special thanks to Magic City Books. “The Birth of Loud” is available at Magic City Books or on Amazon.

Post Author: Karelia Alexander