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“A hot-rod joy ride through mid-20th-century American history” — Jon Pareles, The New York Times Book Review
“The story of these instruments is the story of America in the postwar era: loud, cocky, brash, aggressively new” — Washington Post
“Ian S. Port’s The Birth of Loud reframes the standard history of rock ’n’ roll around the dual creators of the modern electric guitar. . . . Instead of a parade of frontmen and songwriters dueling it out in the charts, Port presents a ground-up account of an at-times begrudging friendship between two Angelenos who created the sound of what we instinctively understand as ‘rock.’ — SF Weekly
The guitar world’s most heated rivalry: Gibson versus Fender, Les versus Leo. The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'N' Roll is a one-of-a-kind narrative that masterfully recreates the rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound—Leo Fender and Les Paul—and their intense competition to convince rock stars like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton to play the instruments they built.
In the years after World War II, music was evolving from big-band jazz into 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.
While Fender was a quiet, half-blind, self-taught radio repairman, Paul was a brilliant but headstrong 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 1969, it was clear that these new electric instruments had launched music into a radical new age, empowering artists with a vibrancy and volume never before attainable.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'N' Roll is the definitive history of the electric guitar and its two foundational personalities, Leo Fender and Les Paul.
Format: New, Softcover
Published: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Scribner Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 352 pages
Dimensions: 6"inches H x 1" inch D x 9" inches W
Weight: 1 lb, 4 oz, before shipping
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian S. Port is an award-winning writer and music critic whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Village Voice, The Threepenny Review, and The Believer, among others. He is also the former music editor of the San Francisco Weekly. A lifelong guitar player and California native, he and his wife now live in New York City. The Birth of Loud is his first book.