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The need for an amplified guitar became apparent during the big band era, as jazz orchestras of the 1930s and 1940s increased in size, with larger brass sections. Initially, electric guitars used in jazz consisted primarily of hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies to which electromagnetic transducers had been attached.

[edit] Early years

Sketch of Rickenbacker "frying pan" lap steel from 1934 patent application.

Electric guitars were originally designed by an assortment of luthiers, guitar makers, electronics enthusiasts, and instrument manufacturers. Guitar innovator Les Paul experimented with microphones attached to guitars.[2] Some of the earliest electric guitars adapted hollow bodied acoustic instruments and used tungsten pickups. This type of guitar was manufactured beginning in 1932 by Electro String Instrument Corporation in Los Santos under the direction of Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp. Their first design was built by Harry Watson, a craftsman who worked for the Electro String Company. This new guitar which the company called "Rickenbacker" would be the first of its kind.[3]

The earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by guitarist and bandleader Gage Brewer. The Wichita, Kansas-based musician had obtained two guitars, an Electric Hawaiian A-25 (Fry-pan, lap-steel) and a standard Electric Spanish from his friend George Beauchamp of Los Angeles, California. Brewer publicized his new instruments in an article in the Wichita Beacon, October 2, 1932 and through performances that month.

The first recordings using the electric guitar were made by Hawaiian Style players such as Andy Iona as early as 1933. Bob Dunn of Milton Brown's Musical Brownies introduced the electric Hawaiian guitar to Western Swing with his January 1935 Decca recordings, departing almost entirely from Hawaiian musical influence and heading towards Jazz and Blues. Alvino Rey was an artist who took this instrument to a wide audience in a large orchestral setting and later developed the pedal steel guitar for Gibson. An early proponent of the electric Spanish guitar was jazz guitarist George Barnes who used the instrument in two songs recorded in Chicago on March 1st, 1938, Sweetheart Land and It's a Low-Down Dirty Shame. Some historians incorrectly attribute the first recording to Eddie Durham, but his recording with the Kansas City Five was not until 15 days later.[4] Durham introduced the instrument to a young Charlie Christian, who made the instrument famous in his brief life and is generally known as the first electric guitarist and a major influence on jazz guitarists for decades thereafter.

The first recording of an electric Spanish guitar, west of the Mississippi was in Dallas, in September 1935, during a session with Roy Newman and His Boys, an early Western swing dance band. Their guitarist, Jim Boyd, used his electrically amplified guitar during the recording of three songs, "Hot Dog Stomp" (DAL 178-Vo 03371), "Shine On, Harvest Moon" (DAL 180-Vo 03272), and "Corrine, Corrina" (DAL 181-Vo/OK 03117).[5][6][7] An even earlier Chicago recording of an electrically amplified guitaróalbeit an amplified lap steel guitarówas during a series of session by Milton Brown and His Brownies (another early Western swing band) that took place January 27-28, 1935, wherein Bob Dunn played his amplified Hawaiian guitar.[8]

Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include: Jack Miller (Orville Knapp Orch.), Alvino Rey (Phil Spitalney Orch.), Les Paul (Fred Warring Orch.), Danny Stewart (Andy Iona Orchestra), George Barnes (under many alias), Floyd Smith, Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, George Van Eps, Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman Orch.) Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, and Arthur Cruddup.

Early electric guitar manufacturers include: Rickenbacker (first called Ro-Pat-In) in 1932, Dobro in 1933, National, AudioVox and Volu-tone in 1934,Vega, Epiphone (Electrophone and Electar), and Gibson in 1935 and many others by 1936.

The version of the instrument that is best known today is the solid body electric guitar, a guitar made of solid wood, without resonating airspaces within it. Rickenbacher, later spelled Rickenbacker, did, however, offer a cast aluminum electric steel guitar, nicknamed The Frying Pan or The Pancake Guitar, developed in 1931 with production beginning in the summer of 1932. This guitar is sounds quite modern and aggressive as tested by vintage guitar researcher John Teagle. The company Audiovox built and may have offered an electric solid-body as early as the mid-1930s.

Another early solid body electric guitar was designed and built by musician and inventor Les Paul in the early 1940s, working after hours in the Epiphone Guitar factory. His log guitar (so called because it consisted of a simple 4x4 wood post with a neck attached to it and homemade pickups and hardware, with two detachable Swedish hollow body halves attached to the sides for appearance only) was patented and is often considered to be the first of its kind, although it shares nothing in design or hardware with the solid body "Les Paul" model sold by Gibson. In 1945, Richard D. Bourgerie made an electric guitar pickup and amplifier for professional guitar player George Barnes. Bourgerie worked through World War II at Howard Radio Company making electronic equipment for the American military. Mr. Barnes showed the result to Les Paul, who then arranged for Mr. Bourgerie to have one made for him

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