Like most people, I’m intrigued by controversy – especially when it has to do with our beloved instrument, the guitar…
Les Paul is generally credited with creating the first solid-body electric guitar he called “The Log,” though it was Leo Fender who made the solid-body electric guitar available to the masses through mass production with the “Fender Broadcaster.”
Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of controversy that surrounds just who actually invented the solid-body electric guitar, some documented, and a lot of it not. I’m going to stir the pot a bit here, and share something that I just heard this morning from a friend of mine.
Every morning before heading off to the office, I go to a local coffee house to go through e-mails and review my day’s calendar. By the time I finish that, a couple of friends usually join me and we shoot the breeze before we all head into our respective places of work. This morning, I brought along the guitar I spec’d out for Saint Guitar Company (don’t worry, I’ll have pictures and a full review in the next couple of days…) to show my friend Phil from Phil ‘N The Blanks, a local cover band here in the Sillycon Valley.
Phil and I were discussing the guitar, when our friend Kim sat down with us. She noted the beauty of the guitar, and said, “Hey! You wanna know a cool story?” And she then recounted a tale of how her grandfather, Kenneth Clark, had known Les Paul back in the day, and had shared with him his ideas behind building a solid-body electric guitar. Soon after, Kenneth contracted a disease that left him in quarantine for five years! Yikes! But during that time, Les apparently ran with the idea, and successfully created what is generally recognized as the first solid-body electric guitar.
Who knows whether or not this is true? None of this is documented, but it sure stirs the pot, doesn’t it? Of course, let’s not take anything away from the venerable LP. Without him, we wouldn’t have multi-track recording or reverb. Even Leo Fender is accused of stealing ideas for creating the Broadcaster, but he created an industry where none had existed. Is this an apologia? Not really. But it does go to show that the people who are attributed with inventing something usually are the ones who’ve gotten their invention to the public first.