In their new book, Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar[1], renowned guitar journalists Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna trace the eight-decade evolution of the world's sexiest, most influential musical instrument.

Here they spotlight 10 major milestones in the electric guitar's journey from gimcrack novelty to high-performance rock machine.


The first-fully functioning solid-body electric guitar to be manufactured and sold. While primarily designed for Hawaiian-style steel playing-horizontally on the lap, it also could be adapted for playing vertically against the torso. The instrument earned its bizarre nickname because its circular body and long neck made it resemble a frying pan.


2. Gibson[2] ES-150 (1936)

The first commercially successful electric guitar, the ES-150 achieved unprecedented notoriety due in large part to its endorsement by prominent guitar players of the day, such as Eddie Durham, Floyd Smith and Charlie Christian. As for its rather unexciting name, the “ES” stood for Electric Spanish, while the “150” reflected an instrument/amplifier bundle priced at around $150.


3. Fender[3] Telecaster (1951)

The first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. It's simple yet effective design and bright “single-coil” sound revolutionized electric guitar manufacturing and popular music. The ultimate workingman's instrument, the Telecaster remains in production year after year after year...


4. Gibson[4] Les Paul (1952)

Designed by Ted McCarty with guitarist Les Paul as a consultant, this instrument was the first solid-body electric guitar sold by the Gibson Guitar Corporation. Initially something of a commercial failure, the Les Paul was discontinued in 1961. The iconic instrument, however, was saved from the dustbin of history

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