November 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IX

Introduction

Welcome to the end of the 20th Century. Not actually, of course, that was 20 years ago now. I mean, in the ‘Story of Modern Music’, having covered almost 350 years so far, welcomes you to the very end of the century that really transformed mankind’s potential and bestowed opportunities hitherto unforeseen and unthought‑of, including musically.

If you would like to (re)visit any of the first eight chapters of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

I did think of trying to compress the last three decades into a single article and then thought better of it on the grounds that doing so might diminish the impact of the period within the overall picture. So, just for now, the millennial years will have to wait. The result is that the 1990s will have its own dedicated article, although it will be a slightly more diminutive read compared to the previous five decades/articles.

The Story of Modern Music Part IX 1990-1999

It is quite tricky to pinpoint exactly what the ‘90s meant to music devotees. It seemed to depend where you lived, your age and, perhaps, what socio‑economic ‘class’ you belonged to. Whether it was grunge, alternative, Britpop or dance music that floated your boat, there was a new and exciting scene to associate with and belong to. The psychological attachment to a musical style was important to many, especially young people who were looking for some structure to life while the old order of social and political systems seemed to be disintegrating around them. Although not quite as disobedient and defiant as previous musical archetypes, there was still an underlying seething resentment of ‘the man’, which various groups saw as attempting to control their chosen form of exuberant self‑expression. In a sense, they were tapping into the anger of the marginalised.

With previous decades, it was notable that births of familiar artists outnumbered deaths, while the ‘90s saw that trend beginning to reverse. Many future artists that may well achieve sustained fame may have been born in the ‘90s but not yet discovered, while the stars of previous eras are getting, let’s be honest, a bit long in the tooth.

Similarly, it is becoming difficult to distinguish what definitive musical gems will rise from the seeming homogeneity of releases to become revered as ‘classic’ in years to come. Arguably, the 1990s marked the last vestiges of milestone singles and albums. From then on, listening habits began to change fundamentally and that, in turn, changed the way we regard significance, at least through the traditional lens of sales figures.

Historical Context 1990-1999

Some commentators called the 1990s as the ‘best decade’, although that clearly depended on your circumstances and point of view! The dawn of the 1990s experienced widespread international political restructuring, especially in Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War and the fracturing of the communist Eastern Bloc. The 1990s also saw the growth in environmental consciousness based on dire scientific predictions about global warming and climate change. Ironically, scaremongering about ‘greenhouse gases’ led to an expansion of ‘green’ industries in developed countries. Similarly, many commentators observed signs of societal dysfunctionality, leading to prescient dystopian novels such as ‘Generation X’ by Douglas Coupland (1991), ‘Random Acts Of Senseless Violence’ by Jack Womack (1992), and ‘Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel (1994). The wealth gap between the haves and have‑nots was striking; a morally unjustifiable trend that would only worsen from the 1990s onwards. The increase in the pace of technological change in post‑industrial countries fuelled the migration towards ‘digitocracies’ and resulted in manufacturing being outsourced to low‑cost developing countries on a massive scale. A period of unprecedented growth in the use of the Internet fuelled unsustainable speculation in the value of high‑tech companies, known broadly as the ‘dot‑com bubble’, a phenomenon that was bound to burst, which it ultimately did. Many companies that had become reliant on IT during the decade were fearful of the impact of Y2K on computer systems that were not prepared for the turn of the millennium.

Twin Peaks & The X-Files

Year

Global Events

1990

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of soviet communism, East and West Germany were reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany.

Political internee and equal rights campaigner, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years. His return to freedom effectively marked the end of apartheid in South Africa.

The ground breaking American cult TV series Twin Peaks burst onto screens. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and starring Kyle MacLachlan. It is considered a landmark in television drama.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched into low Earth orbit. The telescope was designed to look into deep space.

The first Middle East Gulf War started after Iraq invaded and annexed neighbouring Kuwait. A U.S.‑led coalition of 35 countries responded with Operation Desert Storm resulting in a coalition victory.

1991

Communist rule of the soviet USSR ended, resulting in a break up into a number of separate countries. The dismantling of the communist state effectively ended the 45‑year old Cold War between Russia and America.

British computer scientist and engineer, Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project, effectively launching the Internet, initially to research institutions and then to the general public.

1992

The infamous Los Angeles riots took place after 4 LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force in the arrest of African-American Rodney King the previous year. The incident had been videotaped and broadcast widely on TV, sparking renewed civil rights activism.

Founded in 1918, Central European country Yugoslavia descended into bitter civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a devastating military conflict that lasted until 1995.

1993

Democrat politician Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the U.S.A.

Another massive American cult TV series, The X-Files was first broadcast, created by Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

The European Union (EU) succeeded the European Economic Community (EEC) when 12 countries signed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling a process of closer political and economic union.

1994

The trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico came into effect.

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela was elected as president of South Africa. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a cease fire in Northern Ireland, paving the way for de‑armament and the subsequent peace process.

The 38Km (23.5mile) Channel Tunnel rail link beneath the English Channel from Folkestone in England to Calais in France was opened for business.

1995

The phenomenally successful multi‑national online auction and e‑commerce website eBay was launched, founded by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and based in San Jose, California.

Former professional American footballer O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the double murder of former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The criminal trial, held in Los Angeles, was widely broadcast on TV.

1996

Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell by using nuclear transfer in Scotland, UK. Dolly died in 2003 at the age of 6.

Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles was formally divorced from Diana, Princess of Wales in London.

1997

The British crown colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China after 156 years of British rule.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France at the age of 36. Her lover, Egyptian socialite Dodi Fayed, was also killed in the crash, sparking many conspiracy theories.

Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and humanitarian missionary Mother Teresa died of a heart attack in Rome at the age of 87.

The Pacific Rim countries were hit by the major Asian Financial Crisis, starting in Thailand and spreading rapidly across east and southeast Asia, resulting in an international financial contagion that threatened a severe worldwide economic meltdown.

1998

The male virility drug Sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra, became available for use in America. It was originally discovered by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as a treatment for heart‑related chest pain.

The Internet search engine Google Search was launched. It is the most widely used search engine on the World Wide Web, with over 90% market share in 2019, handling more than 5 billion searches per day.

Multinational technology giant, Apple Inc. launched the highly successful iMac computer.

The multilateral Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast by the Republic of Ireland and Britain as part of the on-going Northern Ireland peace process.

The first module of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into low Earth orbit. The ISS has served as a multinational microgravity research laboratory.

1999

The Euro became the official single currency for the majority of European Union (EU) countries, known commonly as the Eurozone. The security of the Euro is overseen by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.

Politician, Vladimir Putin became President of Russian Federation, succeeding former president, Boris Yeltsin.

Musical Genre Development 1990-1999

The 1990s was a decade of sometimes dysfunctional music set against a background of major political change and social polarisation/alienation.

One phenomenon of the 1990s that isn’t genre‑specific but which built on the perennial success of pop music was the ‘boy band’ and its all‑girl equivalent. Artists included Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, *NSYNC, Take That, Westlife, All Saints, S Club 7, Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. The record company ‘manufactured’ bands didn’t have it all their own way; solo pop music artists were also highly successful during the 1990s, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, and Mandy Moore.

Spice Girls

American heavy metal saw a resurgence including bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera achieving massive popularity. Meanwhile, British heavy metal was also prospering with NWOBHM bands such as Def Leppard, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

Metallica

Hip‑hop became increasingly divisive, inciting gang warfare, gun violence and drug use, fuelling rivalry between east and west coast artists, and resulting in a number of high profile deaths including Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

Tupac Shakur

The English ‘Manchester movement’ (or ‘Madchester’ as it was often called) was strong in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The scene centred on venues like the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, run by post‑punk band New Order and led by local bands such as Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Charlatans, although the latter were actually based in the west midlands. The music isn’t necessarily a genre per se, it was more of a loose social and cultural grouping that also encompassed fashion, art and media. The OTT craziness of the Manchester scene was faithfully represented in the film ’24 Hour Party People’, made in 2002, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Other artists associated with the vital hotpot based around the UK’s North West were The Verve, Inspiral Carpets and James, as well as Scottish band Primal Scream. The Manchester ‘baggy’ zeitgeist would be important in the growth of the drug‑fuelled rave scene later in the decade.

Happy Mondays

A fusing of genres led to the emergence of trip hop as a discrete genre that grew from its roots in Bristol, UK and was pioneered by artists like Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead, Morcheeba and Sneaker Pimps. Sometimes referred to as ‘downtempo’, it is typified by taking electronica, hip‑hop, house, funk, dub, soul and psychedelia and creating something altogether different and fresh. While its roots were clearly experimental and atmospheric, trip hop was influential in that it led to other popular mainstream forms that became subsumed in the electronic dance craze (see below) of the 1990s and early 2000s, including breakbeat, bigbeat, drum ‘n’ bass, IDM, dubstep and acid jazz. Like the Manchester movement, trip hop was very much a UK‑led genre, which had little mainstream success in the U.S.

Massive Attack

Like punk before it, alternative rock and its counterpart, experimental noise rock, is a musical genre that railed against the major record corporations that ran the music business and the mainstream pop and rock products they marketed. Independent producers and record labels that existed outside the studio system were very much part of an active underground movement, particularly in America, and this is where a number of bands came to public attention at the start of the 1990s. Compared to the mainstream, alternative artists found it relatively difficult to garner wide audience appeal, so word of mouth, radio and record releases were the way that the message got out. The alternative moniker is more of an umbrella term relating to artists’ status in the system, rather than having definitive identifiable genre characteristics. Notable alternative artists include Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies. Before they signed to a major label, R.E.M. were seen as alternative and this started a broadening of the definition that included other major artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, Radiohead and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The start of the new millennium saw other alternative rock artists emerge including The Strokes, Interpol and The Rapture, extending and ensuring alternative rock’s destiny into the 21st Century.

Sonic Youth

Grunge is a specific genre of music that developed in the Pacific North West of the United States and more specifically its epicentre in and around Seattle in Washington State. Like alternative/noise rock, grunge was an underground movement centred on an independent record label, in this case, Sub Pop records based in Seattle. Grunge is influenced by punk, metal and alternative styles resulting in something altogether different from all of them. Grunge is characterised by slow, raw arrangements and a distinctly distorted lo‑fi sound. Compositions often followed a quiet‑loud‑quiet structure. Lyrics tended to be downbeat, melancholic, anti‑consumerist and often depraved with a focus on cultural alienation and social isolation. While all of the following rejected the term ‘grunge’ as defining their music, especially after signing to major labels, the early pioneers of Seattle’s grunge scene included Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. The core grunge scene had largely fizzled out and diversified by the end of the 20th Century. A revival of the grunge ethic evolved in the 2010s to include artists like Courtney Barnett, Wolf Alice and Yuck.

Nirvana

Britpop was essentially an upbeat and positive British reaction to the dark and depressing American grunge scene. The music and its cultural background (nicknamed ‘Cool Britannia’) lasted approximately from 1993‑1997 before fizzling out. The major bands of the Britpop period included the ‘big four’; Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede. Collectively they expanded popularity to include other artists such as Supergrass, Cast, The Lightning Seeds, Sleeper and Elastica. The so‑called ‘Battle of Britpop’ between Oasis and Blur around 1995 was a media‑fuelled highlight catching the public’s imagination at the time. Britpop was important for influencing many quintessentially British bands that came along for the ride including Coldplay, Travis, Feeder, Stereophonics, Elbow, Snow Patrol and Keane. Further influences included Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys in the 2000s.

Oasis

Dance music (in this context, Electronic Dance Music – EDM) was a phenomenon that had its roots in the late 1980s but exploded in the early 1990s and lasted well into the 2000s. Dance music comprises largely electronically produced progressive dance music intended for use at nightclubs, festivals and (often illegal) raves by DJs who mixed and re‑mixed heavy beats through loud PA systems to audience rapture. In fact, many record labels and DJs became far more celebrated than the musical artists they played in their DJ sets. The predominant sub‑genres of dance music include house, techno, trance, drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, although these only represent the tip of the dance sub‑genre iceberg. Dance beats generally comprise programmed synthesizers, samplers and drum machines to produce buoyant, insistent 4/4 dance rhythms. Dance music also became synonymous with recreational drug use such as ecstasy (MDMA) as well as party holiday destinations such as Ibiza and Mykonos islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the famous artists of the dance scene include The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital, KLF, The Shamen, The Future Sound of London, 808 State, Groove Armada, Aphex Twin, Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. Later artists built on the foundation, include Pendulum, SBTRKT and Skream. DJs became pivotal in promoting the dance craze and became famous in their own right, including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Paul Van Dyk and Armin van Buuren. There are many sub‑genres of dance including acid house, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), ambient, breakbeat, downtempo, jungle and UK garage, all ensuring that dance music remains up‑to‑date and relevant in the 21st Century.

The Prodigy

Musical Facts 1990-1999

Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

23

January

1990

American guitarist and co-founder of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allen Collins died from pneumonia in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 37.

8

February

1990

American country and rock & roll singer and songwriter, Del Shannon committed suicide as a result of depression at his home in California at the age of 55.

18

February

1990

English singer Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance with other members of pop/rock band Queen at the Brit Awards ceremony, held in London.

20

March

1990

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their career-defining classic 7th studio album, ‘Violator’ in the UK.

26

March

1990

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic studio album, ‘Still Got The Blues’.

3

April

1990

Highly acclaimed Grammy award winning American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan died from cancer at her home in Hidden Hills, California at the age of 66.

10

April

1990

American East Coast rappers Public Enemy released their politically charged 3rd studio album, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’.

16

April

1990

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 6th studio album, ‘The Good Son’.

26

June

1990

Prolific American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their successful and significant 6th studio album, ‘Goo’.

24

July

1990

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 5th studio album ‘Cowboys From Hell’.

21

August

1990

Legendary American blues guitarist and singer B.B. King received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6771 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

August

1990

American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and four others died tragically in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin at the age of 35.

31

August

1990

The funeral service of American blues/rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan took place at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.

3

September

1990

English heavy metal rock band Judas Priest released their 12th studio album, ‘Painkiller’.

21

September

1990

American thrash metal rock band Megadeth released their superb classic 4th studio album, ‘Rust In Peace’.

6

October

1990

American Heavy metal band Metallica began recording their massive studio album ‘Metallica’ (aka the ‘black album’) in Los Angeles, California.

9

October

1990

American thrash metal band, Slayer, released their mega 5th studio album, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’.

29

October

1990

Legendary award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter John Lee Hooker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

8

January

1991

English guitarist and songwriter, Steve Clark of hard rock band Def Leppard died of alcohol poisoning at his home in London, at the age of 30.

15

February

1991

Successful English pop singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and actor Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

21

March

1991

Legendary American inventor and founder of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, Leo Fender died from Parkinson’s disease in Fullerton, California at the age of 81.

8

April

1991

English trip-hop pioneers, Massive Attack, released their successful debut studio album, ‘Blue Lines’ in the UK, including the dance anthem, ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.

20

April

1991

English guitarist and front man of rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott died in a house fire at his home in Essex at the age of 44.

23

April

1991

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with New York Dolls, Jonny Thunders died in mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 38.

30

July

1991

American heavy metal rock band Metallica released their massively successful single ‘Enter Sandman’.

12

August

1991

American heavy metal band Metallica released their career-defining 5th studio album, ‘Metallica’, often referred to as ‘the black album’.

27

August

1991

American alternative rock band from Seattle, the home of grunge rock pioneers, Pearl Jam burst onto the scene with the release of their astonishing platinum-selling debut studio album, ‘Ten’.

10

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their ‘90s anthem for disaffected youth, the near perfect hit single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

17

September

1991

American hard rock band, Guns n’ Roses, released their 3rd and 4th studio albums ‘Use Your Illusion’ parts I & II on the same day in the U.S.

23

September

1991

Scottish alternative rock band, Primal Scream released their massive 3rd studio album, ‘Screamadelica’.

24

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their career-defining classic 2nd studio album ‘Never Mind’ in the U.S. Well over 30 million copies have been sold so far.

24

September

1991

American alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 5th studio album, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, produced by Rick Rubin.

28

September

1991

American jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis died of complications from a stroke, pneumonia, and respiratory failure in a hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65.

14

November

1991

Legendary American guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

November

1991

Massive Irish rock band, U2, released their storming 7th studio album, ‘Achtung Baby’ in the UK.

24

November

1991

English singer with pop/rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury died of pneumonia resulting from AIDS at his home in London at the age of 45.

15

January

1992

Rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and country music legend, Johnny Cash were both inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

29

January

1992

Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon died of heart failure in Burbank, California at the age of 76.

21

February

1992

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 6th studio album ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’.

31

March

1992

English heavy metal rock band Def Leppard released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Adrenalize’.

20

April

1992

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their upbeat, commercial 10th studio album, ‘Wish’.

21

April

1992

American rap rockers, Beastie Boys, released their 3rd studio album, ‘Check Your Head’.

27

April

1992

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their great 7th album, ‘Henry’s Dream’.

9

May

1992

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen made his live American TV network debut on ‘Saturday Night Live’ with show host Tom Hanks.

21

July

1992

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their cult, cool, classic 8th studio album, ‘Dirty’.

29

September

1992

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their sophomore studio album, ‘Dirt’.

6

October

1992

American rock band R.E.M. released their classic top‑selling studio album, ‘Automatic For The People’.

3

November

1992

American rock band Bon Jovi released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Keep The Faith’.

10

November

1992

American rock band Rage Against The Machine released their outstanding and career defining eponymous debut album ‘Rage Against The Machine’.

9

December

1992

Although not officially announced until January 1993, English bass guitarist Bill Wyman left The Rolling Stones.

21

December

1992

Legendary American blues guitarist, Albert King died from a heart attack at his home in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 69, just 2 days after his last concert.

6

January

1993

English bass guitarist Bill Wyman officially announced that he was leaving The Rolling Stones after more than 3 decades with the band.

23

March

1993

English alternative/electronic rock band Depeche Mode released their 8th studio album, ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ in the UK.

20

April

1993

Emerging English alternative rock band Radiohead released their debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’ in the UK.

29

April

1993

English session guitarist, songwriter and producer who played extensively with David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars among others, Mick Ronson died from liver cancer in London at the age of 46.

23

August

1993

English new romantic band Duran Duran received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1770 Vine Street.

21

September

1993

American alternative grunge rock band, Nirvana released their 3rd and final studio album, ‘In Utero’.

19

October

1993

American rock band Pearl Jam released their major 2nd studio album, ‘Vs.’.

9

November

1993

American East Coast rappers Wu-Tang Clan released their incendiary debut studio album, ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’.

19

November

1993

American grunge rock band Nirvana recorded their classic live acoustic concert and album, ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ at Sony Music Studios.

23

November

1993

American rock band, Guns N’ Roses, released their 5th studio album, ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’

24

November

1993

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist, nicknamed The ‘Master of the Telecaster’ and ‘The Ice Man’, Albert Collins died from lung cancer at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 61.

4

December

1993

Non-conformist American guitarist and composer extraordinaire, Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 52.

1

February

1994

American pop punk rock band Green Day released their breakthrough 3rd studio album, ‘Dookie’.

1

March

1994

American grunge band Nirvana played their last ever live concert, interrupted by a power cut, in Munich, Germany.

1

March

1994

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his 3rd studio album, ‘Mellow Gold’.

8

March

1994

American alternative rock band, Nine Inch Nails released their career-peak 2nd studio album, ‘The Downward Spiral’.

5

April

1994

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain died from a self‑inflicted shotgun wound in Seattle, Washington at the age of 27.

19

April

1994

Alternative rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic, career-defining 8th studio album, ‘Let Love In’.

26

April

1994

American country music legend Johnny Cash embarked on a whole new period of his career with the release of his classic studio album, ‘American Recordings’.

27

April

1994

The famous San Francisco music venue the Fillmore reopened its doors at 1805 Geary Boulevard. It had been closed since 1989 after being damaged in an earthquake.

23

May

1994

Influential American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Joe Pass died from liver cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age 65.

24

May

1994

American rappers, Beastie Boys, released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Ill Communication’ in the U.S.

14

July

1994

English rave band The Prodigy released their breakout 2nd studio album ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’.

22

August

1994

Pioneering English trip-hop band, Portishead released their ground breaking debut studio album, ‘Dummy’.

23

August

1994

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley released his first and only studio album, ‘Grace’. A modern classic.

26

September

1994

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their great sophomore studio album, ‘Protection’ in the UK.

4

October

1994

Versatile American ‘redneck jazz’ guitarist Danny Gatton died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds at his home in Newburg, Maryland at the age of 49.

1

November

1994

American grunge band Nirvana released their impressive award-winning live album, ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’, 6 months after Kurt Cobain’s death.

5

December

1994

English indie rock group The Stone Roses released their sophomore studio album, ‘Second Coming’.

13

March

1995

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘The Bends’ in the UK.

13

June

1995

Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and producer Alanis Morissette released her classic 3rd studio album, ‘Jagged Little Pill’.

14

June

1995

Renowned Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher died of MRSA following liver failure caused by medication and alcohol in London at the age of 47.

9

August

1995

American guitarist Jerry Garcia of psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead died from a heart attack while at a rehabilitation centre in California at the age of 53.

2

September

1995

12 years after it was founded, America’s homage to contemporary music, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum opened on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio and was celebrated with an all-star concert.

26

September

1995

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their great 10th studio album, ‘Washing Machine’.

2

October

1995

Australian artists, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue released the haunting and elegiac duet single ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’.

7

November

1995

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their eponymous 3rd studio album, ‘Alice In Chains’.

21

November

1995

American rock legend, Bruce Springsteen released his 11th studio album, ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.

17

January

1996

Music greats, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground were all inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5

February

1996

Australian alternative rockers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their dark 9th studio album, ‘Murder Ballads’.

16

April

1996

American alternative rock group Rage Against The Machine released their sophomore studio album, ‘Evil Empire’.

17

May

1996

American blues, soul and funk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson died of a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Yokohama, Japan at the age of 61.

15

June

1996

Legendary American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald died of complications from diabetes in Beverley Hills, California, at the age of 79.

18

June

1996

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his classic, top-selling 5th studio album, ‘Odelay’.

17

July

1996

English bass guitarist with R&B band The Animals and Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler died of an aneurism in Newcastle, at the age of 57.

10

September

1996

American alt-rock group R.E.M. released their classic 10th studio album, ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’.

13

September

1996

American rapper Tupac Shakur died of gunshot wounds following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 25.

19

September

1996

American jazz guitarist George Benson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7055 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

October

1996

English/American guitarist Slash announced that he was leaving rock band Guns N’ Roses after a relationship breakdown with the group’s lead singer Axl Rose.

2

November

1996

Sublime American singer and guitarist, known as ‘the songbird’, Eva Cassidy died from cancer in Bowie, Maryland at the age of 33.

10

January

1997

American soul legend James Brown received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street.

12

February

1997

English singer and songwriter David Bowie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

4

March

1997

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic 10th studio album, ‘The Boatman’s Call’.

9

March

1997

American rapper Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) was shot and killed in Los Angeles, California at the age of 24.

11

March

1997

English former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London.

7

April

1997

British dance/electronica/big beat duo, The Chemical Brothers, released their massive studio album, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ in the UK.

14

April

1997

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their classic 9th studio album, ‘Ultra’ in the UK.

29

May

1997

Renowned American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley died tragically from accidental drowning in Wolf River Harbor, Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 30.

4

June

1997

English bass guitarist and founder of rock band Small Faces, Ronnie Lane died from pneumonia resulting from multiple sclerosis in Trinidad, Colorado at the age of 51.

16

June

1997

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘OK Computer’ in the UK.

30

June

1997

British rave band, Prodigy, released their massive zeitgeist‑defining 3rd studio album, ‘The Fat Of The Land’ in the UK.

22

August

1997

German industrial metal rock band Rammstein released their massive 2nd studio album, ‘Sensucht’ (translated crudely as ‘Desire’).

11

September

1997

American blues legend John Lee Hooker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

September

1997

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their eponymous sophomore album, ‘Portishead’ in the UK.

12

October

1997

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist John Denver died tragically in plane crash in Monterey Bay, California, at the age of 53.

19

October

1997

American guitarist, best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Glen Buxton, died of complications from pneumonia in a hospital in Mason City, Iowa at the age of 49.

10

November

1997

Highly-regarded American session guitarist and one of the most recorded musicians in popular music history, Tommy Tedesco died of lung cancer in Northridge, California at the age of 67.

22

November

1997

Australian singer and front man of the rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence committed suicide in Sydney, Australia at the age of 37.

19

January

1998

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Carl Perkins died from throat cancer in Jackson-Madison County Hospital, Tennessee, at the age of 65.

30

January

1998

English pop singer and songwriter Sir Elton John received his knighthood from Her Majesty The Queen.

19

February

1998

Legendary American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard.

20

April

1998

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mezzanine’ in the UK.

14

May

1998

American singer and actor, Frank Sinatra died from a heart attack at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

6

July

1998

Legendary American singer, guitarist and actor, nicknamed the ‘King of the Cowboys’, Roy Rogers died of heart failure in Apple Valley, California at the age of 86.

25

July

1998

American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Tal Farlow died of oesophageal cancer in New York City at the age of 77.

17

August

1998

Mexican-American guitar legend Carlos Santana received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

15

September

1998

American heavy metal rock artist, Marilyn Manson released his massively successful classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mechanical Animals’.

24

September

1998

American icon and rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

1

October

1998

American guitarist, singer and songwriter and founder of rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.

2

October

1998

American country & western ‘singing cowboy’ Gene Autry died of lymphoma at his home in Studio City, California at the age of 91.

6

October

1998

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age (QOTSA) released their self-titled debut album, ‘Queens Of The Stone Age’.

13

October

1998

The Crossroads Centre in Antigua, founded by English blues/rock guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, opened its doors to help clients with drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

3

November

1998

American alternative rock singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Beck, released his 6th studio album, ‘Mutations’, the follow up to the massive ‘Odelay’.

29

November

1998

American jazz pioneer of the 7-string guitar, George Van Eps, died of pneumonia in Newport Beach, California at the age of 85.

25

December

1998

English pop/rock band, The Beatles, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

December

1998

American surf rock band The Beach Boys received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

15

March

1999

Legendary American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

28

April

1999

American rock band Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Boulevard.

17

May

1999

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his mega-successful 5th studio album, ‘Play’.

15

June

1999

After a long break, American Latin rock band Santana released their highly successful 17th studio album, ‘Supernatural’.

16

June

1999

English rock singer, drummer and member of progressive rock band Genesis, Phil Collins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

24

June

1999

English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. The proceeds were used in support of the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua as a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

11

August

1999

American rock band KISS received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

7

September

1999

American virtuoso guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Steve Vai released his astonishing 5th studio album, ‘The Ultra Zone’.

2

November

1999

American alternative rock band Rage Against The Machine released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Battle Of Los Angeles’ in the UK.

23

November

1999

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his adventurous 7th studio album, ‘Midnite Vultures’.

17

December

1999

American smooth jazz, funk and soul saxophonist, Grover Washington Jr. died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 56.

26

December

1999

Highly acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Curtis Mayfield, died from complications of diabetes in a hospital in Roswell, Georgia at the age of 57.

Curtis Mayfield

Tailpiece

The 1990s was certainly a strange decade both musically and culturally, notably as a segue to the 21st Century. While it seems very recent, it is actually receding into long‑term memory, thereby affecting our perceptions of what it meant to us at the time. Still to come, the new millennium is temptingly beckoning and it will prove as frustrating as it was liberating.

Now… we have a minor problemo. I was hoping to conclude this series of articles conveniently in December at the very end of the current decade. However, there are still one, two or maybe even three articles still to write before we are done. December 2019’s article will therefore, ceteris paribus, interrupt the sequence in that it will cover a summary of 2019 through the eyes of CRAVE Guitars, meaning that the ‘History of Modern Music’ will resume early in 2020, all being well. This series has been a gargantuan task thus far, so perhaps a short break in proceedings won’t do any harm. Heaven knows what will follow after it has been concluded though. Looking into the crystal ball of the future is largely futile, so I’ll have to start thinking hard about the ‘next big thing’ very soon. However, that can wait for next year/decade. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It is a moral travesty that, if you have got everything, you think you can get away with anything.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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August 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part VI

Introduction

So, here we are again, good people. Like the immortal rose‑tinted glasses of the ‘Summer of ‘69’, 50 years on, the summer 2019 is beginning to degrade and enter the memory banks while the evenings are inexorably drawing in again. Perhaps it is poignant to recount the past and reflect a little on how we got to where we are now.

 

If you would like to (re)visit any or all of the first five parts (and over 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

In the last article, the world of music transformed seemingly overnight with the rise of rock ‘n’ roll acting as a significant catalyst for American and British youth culture in the 1950s. Of course, it wasn’t quite like that in reality – so many different ingredients came together to create an irresistible phenomenon. If the 1950s wasn’t enough to challenge the traditionalists, things were about to get a whole lot more liberal and lively in the 1960s. Even greater social change compounded the consternation of the older, and typically more old-fashioned, conservative generation.

 

The Story of Modern Music Part VI 1960-1969

While rock ‘n’ roll now seems to be a permanent fixture in the minds of modern music lovers, in its purest form, it didn’t last that long before it became diluted and music evolution moved on rapidly. However, the influence of rock ‘n’ roll was pervasive, acting as a major stimulus to all other sorts of genre developments. The 1960s stood alone from previous and subsequent decades in terms of political, cultural, economic, technological climate and this was reflected in the distinctive music emerging over the same period. For many readers, the 1960s is now within ‘living memory’ – it is, just about, for me. Up to now, much of the chronology will be history, picked up second hand from written or pictorial records. From here on in, readers may well have some experience of these events for real. For a younger audience, be patient, we’ll get to your era soon. There is a lot to get through this month, so it focuses only on one decade with a few photos again.

 

Historical Context 1960-1969

Although fundamental human equality was still a pipedream for many in the west, freedom of expression and individual liberties probably characterised the ‘Swinging Sixties’ more than anything else, including the Sexual Revolution and civil rights movements. People felt able to say and do things that were unthinkable in previous decades. People were also able to protest against what they felt were moral injustices. Many families experienced benefits from improving economic prosperity and technological advancement. The Cold War and the space race dominated international relations, particularly between the capitalist ‘west’ and communist ‘east’. The latter part of the 1960s saw symbols of the peace & love movement, gaudy fashion and hippie ‘flower power’, all kaleidoscopically prevalent. If there was a decade that could live up to the description of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, the 1960s would be it.

1960s (Furthur Bus)

Year

Global Events

1960

America launched the first satellite navigation geo‑positioning system into space, called Transit for use by the U.S. Navy, entering operational service in 1964.

 

The oral contraceptive pill was approved for use by married women in America followed by Britain in 1961.

 

The classic great American novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, written by author Harper Lee was published.

 

The classic and ground breaking psychological horror film, ‘Psycho’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins was released.

1961

Democrat politician John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the U.S.A. JFK’s election heralded a new wave of hope and optimism set against the background of the Cold War.

 

The American‑backed military invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba intended to topple Fidel Castro failed, thereby escalating political tensions.

 

The infamous Berlin wall separating east and west Germany was constructed. It remained until 1989 when it was symbolically destroyed by the German people.

 

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space aboard the Soviet Vostok 1 capsule.

 

Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to go into space aboard a Mercury spacecraft.

1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis between United States and the Soviet Union narrowly avoided escalation into a full‑scale nuclear world war.

 

American actress and cultural icon Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose at the age of 36. Her death was ruled controversially as probable suicide.

 

Marvel’s fictional super hero Spider‑Man made his first comic book appearance.

 

The first satellite television transmission and telephone calls took place over the Atlantic ocean from Europe to North America, relayed by the American Telstar communication satellite.

1963

American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Former U.S. Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the murder only to be killed while in police custody by local night club owner, Jack Ruby, fuelling many conspiracy theories.

 

Democrat politician Lyndon B. Johnson became 36th President of the U.S.A. following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

 

The infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay was closed as a prison. The island is now a museum and tourist attraction run by the U.S. National Park Service.

1964

Sidney Poitier became the first African American actor to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for his role in the film ‘Lilies of the Field’.

 

South African anti‑apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela was jailed, having been charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

1965

America joined the Vietnam War by sending U.S. Marines into battle supporting the South Vietnamese against the Chinese‑backed North Vietnamese National Liberation Front (the Viet Cong).

 

American space missions took a significant step forward with the launch of manned Gemini low Earth orbiting capsules. The successful programme ended in 1966.

 

Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to make a spacewalk, lasting 12 minutes after exiting the Voskhod 2 spacecraft.

 

Renowned British Fashion designer Mary Quant launched the iconic mini skirt in London, encouraging young women to dress to please themselves.

1966

The Chinese Cultural Revolution began, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, intended to preserve Chinese Communism and purge capitalism from its society. The oppressive campaign lasted until Mao’s death in 1976.

 

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, California in 1966, intended to patrol African American neighbourhoods and protect residents from acts of police brutality. It ceased operation in 1982.

 

The classic, ground breaking science fiction TV series Star Trek was first broadcast, created by American producer and screenwriter, Gene Rodenberry.

1967

British sailor Sir Francis Chichester became the first person to circumnavigate single‑handedly around the globe in his yacht the Gypsy Moth IV.

 

Argentinian Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a major figure in the Cuban Revolution, was executed while in military detention in Bolivia at the age of 39. His death secured his status as a political martyr and counter‑culture rebel icon.

 

The first successful human heart transplant took place, carried out by Dr Christiaan Barnard in South Africa.

 

The first American Football Super Bowl took place between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay won.

 

1968

Russia brutally crushed the Prague Spring uprising in Czechoslovakia, forcing the country to subordinate its national interests to those of the ‘Eastern Bloc’.

 

The classic science fiction film, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was released, directed by Stanley Kubrick.

 

American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by lifelong criminal James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

The ambitious American Apollo space program got underway with the first manned flight aboard Apollo 7. The program ended in 1972 with Apollo 17.

1969

Supersonic passenger flight became possible with the introduction of the Anglo‑French Concorde airliner.

 

The cult classic counter-culture movie ‘Easy Rider’ was released, starring Dennis Hopper (also directing) and Peter Fonda.

 

American Senator Ted Kennedy  drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing 28‑year old Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to Senator Bobby Kennedy.

 

Police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City, sparking demonstrations and the start of the gay civil rights movement in the United States.

 

Followers of the cult leader Charles Manson carried out a series of 9 brutal murders including that of actress Sharon Tate.

 

American manned space mission Apollo 11 successfully landed on the Moon. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon’s surface, with Armstrong proclaiming, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

 

Republican politician Richard Nixon was elected as the 37th U.S. president. Infamously, he remains the only American President to have resigned from office, following the Watergate scandal.

 

The United Kingdom abolished the death penalty substituting it with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Musical Genre Development 1960-1969

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ were particularly important and memorable for music in America and Europe. The musical revolution that began with rock ‘n’ roll in the previous decade rapidly morphed and diversified on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of the decade, rock and pop were firmly established as major commercial genres that continue to flourish and adapt to the current day. The 1960s was also a time in which large outdoor music festivals flourished, especially towards the end of the decade, with major events like Newport, Monterey and Woodstock in America and Hyde Park and the Isle of Wight in the UK. In addition, the 1960s saw the introduction of the music compact cassette, which made music not only cheaper but also more portable. As the famous quote, probably attributed to American comedian Charles Fleischer (1950-) goes, ‘if you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there’. If that is the case, this article might just serve as a timely reminder.

Woodstock Festival 1969

R&B, gospel, and jazz started to evolve into urban African American soul music, made popular by record companies specialising in the genre. One of these labels was Motown in Detroit, Michigan featuring artists such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Another record label that was hugely influential at the time was Stax Records based in Memphis, Tennessee which was significant for its racially integrated production of southern soul and blues music, including house band Booker T & the M.G.’s and artists like Otis Redding. Atlantic Records which began in New York also promoted soul artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett. Some other popular soul and R&B artists of the 1960s include The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and the Jackson Five. Racial segregation was a major hurdle for aspiring black musicians and soul is often seen as being closely associated with the American civil rights movement.

Diana Ross & The Supremes 1966

Surf music originated in the early 1960s on the west coast of America, particularly around the surfing culture of Orange County in southern California. It was influenced by instrumental rock ‘n’ roll artists like Link Wray, The Ventures and Duane Eddy. Surf is, however, distinct from rock ‘n’ roll and was important in the formation of modern rock music. Surf music tended to fall either into instrumental tunes performed by the likes of Dick Dale & The Deltones or harmonised vocal songs characterised by The Beach Boys. The musical style is heavily based around reverb‑drenched electric guitar sounds often making use of a guitar’s vibrato and the amplifier’s tremolo effect. Lyrics focused on, unsurprisingly, surfing, girls, cars and sunny west coast beach culture. Surf was relatively short‑lived and was taken over by many other American and European genres from the mid‑1960s onwards.

The Beach Boys

Up to the early 1960s, British artists were in the shadow of American acts and were often playing catch‑up. While not a genre in its own right, the so‑called ‘British Invasion’ began around 1963 with many artists from Britain becoming massively popular in the United States. UK artists sometimes took American songs and gave them a British sound. Perhaps the most significant phenomenon was coined ‘Beatlemania’, when Merseybeat pop group The Beatles broke onto the American music scene circa 1963 and spearheaded the export of UK music to the USA. Other British artists included The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Cream, The Hollies and The Who. By the end of the decade American artists had largely regained their homeland audiences. Various attempts to recreate the phenomenon have only been partially successful, for instance Britpop in the 1990s with artists like Oasis, the Spice Girls and Robbie Williams.

 

The Beatles – Live at Shea Stadium 1965

By the mid‑1960s, there was a strong revival of folk music, notable especially for songs with a social and moral conscience, widely articulating the feelings and messages of the various turbulent protest movements of the time. Songs encompassed issues such as poverty, class, the Vietnam War, social injustice and racial segregation. Songs also began to exhibit a stronger leaning towards the emerging rock oriented music scene. Perhaps the most significant artist of the period was Bob Dylan who controversially and ultimately successfully fused acoustic folk and electric rock genres.

Bob Dylan

Pop music is a diverse genre that attracts a lot of debate. It developed not from the broader traditional popular music of previous decades but from rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1950s and ‘pop’ became a commonly used term since the 1960s to describe non‑classical highly commercial and easily accessible youth‑oriented music. From about 1967, there was a clear divergence between rock music and pop music. Rock became harder edged and played by ‘real’ musicians recording albums while pop was refined into short catchy radio friendly ‘singles’ that were largely industry driven, highly produced, easily packaged, widely marketable and hugely profitable. Musically and lyrically, pop songs are generally uncontroversial and tended not to challenge the listener to any significant degree. Pop artists would sometimes appear and disappear overnight, as it was the songs, sales and chart position that mattered more to the record companies, rather than the performer. The term ‘one‑hit‑wonder’ is often associated with the throwaway appeal of pop music consumption. Conversely, the corporations assert that profits enable investment in new artists. Successful pop artists from the 1960s included The Monkees, The Shadows, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Everly Brothers, The Bee Gees and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Pop music continues to evolve and has had a number of peaks since the 1960s including in the early 1980s with artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna and late 2000s including the likes of P!nk, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Pop therefore represents considerable mainstream economic business to the industry.

The Monkees

Experimental psychedelic rock was popular during the late 1960s and is often associated with the hippie/flower power counterculture. It is also associated with the widespread use of cannabis and manufactured hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (acid). Song lyrics frequently referenced drugs and altered/elevated states of consciousness. Songs were often long and comprised extended instrumental extemporisation and improvisation (often called jamming). Musicians regularly used esoteric instruments like the sitar, tabla vibraphone and organ, much of it influenced by Asian, Indian and oriental music. Psychedelic rock and folk rock became closely associated with simple messages of peace and love that began with 1967’s ‘Summer of Love’ phenomenon and reached a climax at the Woodstock festival in 1969. Many rock bands of the period stretched the boundaries of the genre, including the Grateful Dead, The Velvet Underground, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Moody Blues, Gong, Hawkwind and early Pink Floyd.

Grateful Dead – Live at Woodstock 1969

Ska is a genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and came to popular prominence in the early 1960s. Ska was influenced by Caribbean calypso and Latin music combined with American jazz and R&B. Ska developed heavy basslines and offbeat accents producing a distinctive up‑tempo dance rhythm. Jamaican producers began recording ska on their own labels which were then played on DJ sound systems. Ska became popular not only in Jamaica but also in Britain, being associated with the decade’s mod and skinhead sub‑cultures. Importantly, ska was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Key players in the genre were Prince Buster, Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd and Duke Reid. Ska experienced a major revival in Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the back of the punk rock boom through Two Tone Records and artists like The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Selecter, and The Beat.

Prince Buster

Classic rock music, or simply just rock, really came into its own as a separate broad genre during the 1960s deriving from America and the UK. Rock’s origins stem from rock ‘n’ roll, blues, folk, country and R&B. Experimentation with sound and composition mean that there are many, many sub‑genres and crossover styles of rock music. Rock is predominantly performed by a band with vocals, one or more electric guitars, bass and drums played in an un‑syncopated 4/4 rhythm and comprising a verse and chorus structure. Rock became distinct for increasing use of volume and distorted electric guitar sounds. Classic rock was the starting point for the various offshoots that followed including hard rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, folk rock, progressive/contemporary rock, heavy metal, glam rock, soft rock, AOR, roots rock, jazz rock, punk rock, new wave, post‑punk, grunge, alternative rock and indie. Many of these styles of rock music remain popular to the current day. Culturally, rock music has often been connected with political activism as well as changes in social attitudes to race, sex, crime and drug use, and is often seen as an expression of young people’s rebellious rejection of adult uniformity and conformity. Artists associated with classic rock include The Kinks, Small Faces, Free, Bad Company and Jeff Beck.

The Kinks

Hard rock split from pop and rock during the latter half of the 1960s. As rock music was beginning to define itself throughout the 1960s, an offshoot rapidly developed that had its own distinctive sound. Hard rock took commercial rock and gave it a heavier and more aggressive style. Hard rock vocals tended to be in the higher registers and were often raspy and guttural. The hard-edged, loud, distorted guitar‑heavy music was influenced by blues, rock and garage. Hard rock could often be identified by catchy ‘power chord’ riffs and impressive lead guitar solos. Hard rock quickly became associated with excluded and defiant young people and the lyrics frequently had a distinctly anti‑authoritarian slant. This sometimes hostile approach to the mainstream was characterised by some acts destroying their instruments on stage, for instance by Pete Townsend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The hedonistic rock lifestyle went hand in hand with the music, resulting in musicians reportedly partying as hard as they played, regularly destroying property. Many rock artists developed drug and alcohol dependencies, which resulted in some high profile deaths, including Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Notable hard rock bands from the 1960s include The Who, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf and The Rolling Stones and later in the early 1970s by bands like Rainbow, Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Kiss, Queen, AC/DC, Alice Cooper and Van Halen.

Led Zeppelin 1968

Musical Facts 1960-1969

Michael Stipe (REM)

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

4

January

1960

American singer, songwriter, producer, artist and former frontman of indie rock band R.E.M. Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia.

22

January

1960

Australian singer, songwriter and co-founder of rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, New South Wales.

9

February

1960

Legendary American singer Elvis Presley received his first star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

March

1960

American rock ‘n’ roll singer and now soldier, Sargent Elvis Presley set foot in the UK for the first and only (confirmed) time while his forces plane was refuelled at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, Scotland.

13

March

1960

British/Irish bass guitarist, best known as a member of rock band U2, Adam Clayton was born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England.

31

March

1960

American blues rock guitarist, Popa Chubby (a.k.a. Theodore ‘Ted’ Horowitz) was born in The Bronx, New York City.

4

April

1960

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley recorded his classic hit single, ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ at RCA studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

6

April

1960

American guitarist and member of blues/rock groups The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and The Dead, Warren Haynes was born in Asheville, North Carolina.

17

April

1960

American rock ‘n’ roll singer and guitarist Eddie Cochran died tragically following a car accident in Wiltshire, UK, at the age of just 21.

23

April

1960

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and key member of heavy rock band Def Leppard, Steve Clark (1960-1991, 30) was born in Hillsborough, Sheffield.

10

May

1960

Irish singer and songwriter Paul Hewson, a.k.a. Bono, front man of massive rock band U2 was born in Dublin.

1

June

1960

Great English bass guitarist with indie rock icons The Cure, Simon Gallup was born in Duxhurst, Surrey.

6

June

1960

American virtuoso rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Steve Vai was born in New York.

20

June

1960

English bass guitarist and co-founder of new romantic band Duran Duran, John Taylor was born in Solihull, Warwickshire.

27

October

1960

American soul singer Ben E. King recorded his first songs as a solo artist after leaving The Drifters, the classics, ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘Stand By Me’.

7

November

1960

American guitarist and songwriter with rock band KISS from 2002, Tommy Thayer, nicknamed ‘The Spaceman’ was born in Portland, Oregon.

8

February

1961

After changing their name from The Quarrymen, English pop band The Beatles made their debut appearance at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, their first of 292 performances at the venue.

7

May

1961

Welsh guitarist and long-term member of hard rock band Motörhead, Phil Campbell was born in Pontypridd.

12

May

1961

English guitarist, songwriter and member of post-punk band, The Cult, Billy Duffy was born in Manchester.

29

May

1961

Award-winning American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Melissa Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas.

3

June

1961

English guitarist and founding member of psychedelic rock bands Ozric Tentacles and Nodens Ictus, Ed Wynne was born in London.

10

June

1961

American bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, former member of alternative rock band Pixies and currently fronting The Breeders with her twin sister, Kim Deal was born in Dayton, Ohio.

10

June

1961

American guitarist and member of The Breeders with her twin sister, Kelley Deal was born in Dayton, Ohio.

23

July

1961

Multi-talented award-winning English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, DJ and co-founder of Depeche Mode, Martin Gore was born in Dagenham, Essex.

8

August

1961

Irish guitarist and songwriter with rock band U2, The Edge (a.k.a. David Evans) was born in Barking, Essex, England to Welsh parents.

13

September

1961

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of thrash metal rock band Megadeth, Dave Mustaine was born in La Mesa, California.

16

September

1961

English guitarist, singer and songwriter with indie rock band My Bloody Valentine, Bilinda Butcher was born in London.

3

October

1961

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee welcomed its first inductees, Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose and Hank Williams.

10

October

1961

English bass guitarist and actor best known as member of new wave/pop group Spandau Ballet, Martin Kemp was born in London.

10

February

1962

American bass guitarist and songwriter, best known as a member of heavy rock band Metallica, Cliff Burton (1962-1986, 24) was born in California.

11

February

1962

Talented American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, including guitar, bass and drums, Sheryl Crow was born in Kennett, Missouri.

2

March

1962

American singer, songwriter, founder and front man of the rock band that bears his name, Jon Bon Jovi was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

8

April

1962

American guitarist, co-founder and ex-member of rock band Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin (a.k.a. Jeffrey Dean Isbell) was born in Lafayette, Indiana.

2

August

1962

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Robert Allen Zimmerman formally changed his name to… the one and only Bob Dylan.

25

August

1962

Northern Irish guitarist who has been a member of hard rock bands Def Leppard, Dio and Whitesnake, Vivian Campbell was born in Belfast, County Antrim.

11

October

1962

English pop group The Beatles had their song ‘Love Me Do’ reach no. 4 in the UK singles chart, their first record to do so.

16

October

1962

Australian/American bass guitarist and co-founder of rock band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Balzary (a.k.a. Flea) was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

17

October

1962

English newcomers, The Beatles made their first regional television appearance playing 2 songs live on Granada’s ‘People And Places’ show.

18

November

1962

Great American guitarist, songwriter and long-time member of metal rock band Metallica, Kirk Hammett was born in San Francisco, California.

24

November

1962

English guitarist and songwriter with the Stone Roses and The Seahorses, John Squire was born in Altrincham, Cheshire.

8

December

1962

American guitarist, well known for his 10-year stint with heavy metal band Megadeth, Marty Friedman was born in Washington D.C.

9

January

1963

English drummer, Charlie Watts joined the rock band The Rolling Stones, starting a long-term membership of the group.

19

January

1963

English pop/rock band, The Beatles made their first recorded UK TV appearance on the ITV/ABC show, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’.

2

February

1963

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, the ‘songbird’, Eva Cassidy (1963-1996, 33) was born in Washington D.C.

22

March

1963

Emerging English pop group The Beatles released their debut studio album ‘Please Please Me’ in the UK. Merseybeat had well and truly arrived.

27

May

1963

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan released his classic 2nd studio album, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’.

30

June

1963

Impressive, prolific Swedish virtuoso neoclassical heavy rock guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen was born in Stockholm.

3

August

1963

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of heavy metal rock band Metallica, James Hetfield was born in Downey, California.

9

August

1963

Popular British weekly pop music television show, ‘Ready Steady Go!’ was first broadcast by ITV. The show ran until December 1966.

9

August

1963

Multi-award-winning American soul/R&B singer and actress, Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey.

30

August

1963

Dutch technology company Philips introduced the Compact Cassette to Europe at the Berlin Radio Show, followed by an American launch in November the same year.

13

October

1963

Emerging English pop band The Beatles made their first major TV appearance on ITV’s famous variety show, ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’.

31

October

1963

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, ex-member of post‑punk rock band The Smiths, as well as a successful solo artist and collaborator, Johnny Marr was born in Manchester.

31

December

1963

American guitarist, singer and founding member of thrash metal rock band Anthrax, Scott Ian was born in Queens, New York.

1

January

1964

The BBC’s popular chart music television programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was first broadcast in the UK. The show ran for over 42 years until July 2006.

13

January

1964

American folk singer Bob Dylan released his 3rd studio album ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, which became a political anthem for social change in 1960s America.

5

February

1964

American bass player and ex-member of rock bands, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded and Jane’s Addiction, Duff McKagan was born in Seattle, Washington state.

7

February

1964

‘Beatlemania’ struck America when The Beatles landed at New York’s JFK Airport on their first visit to the USA.

9

February

1964

‘Beatlemania’ struck again when English pop band The Beatles made their American TV debut on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.

11

February

1964

English pop band The Beatles made their debut live performance in America at the Washington Coliseum in front of 8,000 screaming fans.

26

May

1964

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Lenny Kravitz was born in New York City.

30

May

1964

Great American guitarist with rock bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, as well as several solo projects, Tom Morello was born in New York.

3

June

1964

Great American guitarist with thrash metal rock band Slayer, the formidable Kerry King was born in Los Angeles, California.

19

June

1964

English rock band, The Animals, released their seminal hit single, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’.

10

July

1964

English pop/rock group The Beatles released their 6th studio album ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in the UK.

24

July

1964

The Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, U.S.A. descended into controversy when Bob Dylan performed an electric rather than acoustic set.

13

November

1964

English rock band The Rolling Stones released their cover of the classic Willie Dixon blues song, ‘Little Red Rooster’ as a single in the UK.

23

December

1964

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and long-time member of rock band Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder was born in Evanston, Illinois.

20

January

1965

The self-proclaimed ‘father of rock ‘n’ roll’, legendary American DJ Alan Freed died from uraemia and cirrhosis in hospital in Palm Springs, California at the age of 43.

28

January

1965

Emerging English rock band, The Who made their debut television appearance in the UK on the ITV music show ‘Ready Steady Go!’

14

February

1965

Australian/French multi-instrumentalist, including guitar, known for working with alternative rock bands Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Grinderman, Warren Ellis was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

8

March

1965

Legendary American folk guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his first top 40 hit single, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ in the U.S.

12

May

1965

English rock band The Rolling Stones recorded their trademark song ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ at RCA’s studio in Hollywood.

17

May

1965

Prolific composer, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and founder of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

16

June

1965

Legendary American folk singer and guitarist Bob Dylan recorded his classic song, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ at Columbia studios in New York.

23

June

1965

English guitarist and founding member of rock band Oasis, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs was born in Manchester.

23

July

1965

British/American guitarist, member of hard rock bands Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, as well as a successful solo artist, Saul Hudson (a.k.a. Slash) was born in London.

29

July

1965

The full-length film ‘Help!’, featuring a certain English pop quartet, The Beatles, was premiered in London.

6

August

1965

English pop group The Beatles released their 5th studio album, ‘Help!’ in the UK, which was also the soundtrack to their film of the same name.

15

August

1965

English pop band The Beatles broke the (then) record for an audience of 55,600 at Shea Stadium in New York City.

20

August

1965

English rock band The Rolling Stones released their massive hit single, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.

28

August

1965

Canadian country music singer, songwriter and guitarist, Shania Twain, the ‘Queen of Country Pop’ was born in Windsor, Ontario.

30

August

1965

American folk guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in the UK.

13

October

1965

English rock band The Who recorded their classic single ‘My Generation’ at Pye Recording Studios in London, UK.

21

October

1965

Pioneering American rock ‘n’ roll bass player, forever associated with singer Elvis Presley, Bill Black died of a brain tumour in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39.

26

October

1965

HM Queen Elizabeth II presented members of the English pop band The Beatles with MBEs at Buckingham Palace in London.

29

October

1965

English rock band, The Who released the single ‘My Generation’ in the UK, reaching number 2 in the British singles chart.

12

November

1965

Emerging young English singer, songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan performed his first single, ‘The Wizard’ on national UK TV music programme ‘Ready Steady Go!’

12

November

1965

American rock band Velvet Underground performed their debut live performance at Summit High School in New Jersey.

19

November

1965

English guitarist, songwriter and lead man for alternative rock band Spiritualized, Jason Pierce was born in Rugby.

21

November

1965

Avant-garde Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer and actress, Björk Guðmundsdóttir was born in Reykjavík.

25

November

1965

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, a member of punk rock bands Rancid and Transplants, Tim Armstrong was born in Albany, California.

3

December

1965

English pop/rock group The Beatles released their 6th studio album ‘Rubber Soul’ in the UK.

3

December

1965

English rock band, The Who, released their classic debut studio album, ‘My Generation’ in the UK.

10

December

1965

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, front man of alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr., the great J. Mascis was born in Amherst, Massachusetts.

4

March

1966

Member of The Beatles, John Lennon, made his infamously controversial statement that the band was “…more popular than Jesus…”.

18

March

1966

American guitarist and founder of heavy rock band, Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell was born in Tacoma, Washington.

25

March

1966

Renowned Canadian blues rock guitarist, Jeff Healey (1966-2008, 41) was born in Toronto.

5

April

1966

American guitarist and co-founder of rock band, Pearl Jam, Mike McCready was born in Pensacola, Florida.

22

April

1966

English garage rock band The Troggs released their version of the Wild Ones’ song, ‘Wild Thing’, which became a classic hit single of its time.

1

May

1966

English pop/rock band, The Beatles performed their final UK live appearance at the NME Poll Winners’ Party, held at the Empire Pool, Wembley in London.

13

May

1966

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their dark and sinister hit single, ‘Paint It, Black’ from the album ‘Aftermath’ (U.S. release).

16

May

1966

Original American surf pop/rock band, The Beach Boys released their best-selling classic 11th studio album, ‘Pet Sounds’ in the U.S.

16

May

1966

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan originally scheduled the release date of his classic 7th studio double album, ‘Blonde On Blonde’. It didn’t actually become available until early June.

26

May

1966

English pop/rock band, The Beatles recorded ‘Yellow Submarine’ at Abbey Road Studios in London.

30

May

1966

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock bands Pavement and the Jicks, Stephen Malkmus was born in Santa Monica, California.

16

July

1966

British music icons Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed the short-lived blues/rock super group Cream.

5

August

1966

English pop/rock group, The Beatles released their classic 7th studio album, ‘Revolver’ in the UK.

20

August

1966

American guitarist, songwriter and founder of heavy metal rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Lance Abbott (1966-2004, 38) was born in Arlington, Texas.

12

September

1966

Featuring an American/British pop-rock band, The Monkees show premiered on American TV network NBC.

20

September

1966

Portuguese/American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and member of rock band Extreme, Nuno Bettencourt was born in Terceira, Azores.

23

October

1966

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded ‘Hey Joe’, their debut single, which peaked at number 6 in the UK chart.

2

November

1966

American blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt died of a heart attack in a hospital in Grenada, Mississippi at the age of 73.

6

November

1966

American virtuoso rock guitarist, member of rock bands Mr Big and Racer X, as well as successful solo artist, Paul Gilbert was born in Carbondale, Illinois.

17

November

1966

American surf band, The Beach Boys had a number one hit in the UK singles chart with the classic song, ‘Good Vibrations’.

17

November

1966

Talented American singer, songwriter and guitarist, the graceful Mr Jeff Buckley (1966-1997, 30) was born in Orange, California.

25

November

1966

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their debut live performance in the UK at the Bag O’Nails Club in Soho, London.

7

December

1966

English guitarist and songwriter who has worked with bands Oasis, Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Gem Archer was born in Durham.

9

December

1966

English blues/rock super group Cream, comprising Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, released their debut studio album, ‘Fresh Cream’ in the UK.

13

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, made their UK TV debut on popular music programme ‘Ready Steady Go!’.

13

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their classic track, ‘Foxy Lady’ (a.k.a. ‘Foxey Lady’ in the U.S.), released as a single in May 1967.

16

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut single in the UK, ‘Hey Joe’, reaching no. 6. It failed to chart in the U.S.

23

December

1966

After 3 years on air, UK TV network channel ITV broadcast the final episode of the popular music programme, ‘Ready Steady Go!’ following a Musicians’ Union ban on miming on television.

29

December

1966

Anglo‑American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience made their first UK TV appearance on the BBC’s ‘Top Of The Pops’, performing their single, ‘Hey Joe’.

4

January

1967

American rock band, The Doors, released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘The Doors’.

11

January

1967

Anglo‑American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their classic song, ‘Purple Haze’ at De Lane Lea Studios in London. It took 3 takes in 4 hours to complete.

14

January

1967

American heavy metal guitarist, singer and songwriter, founder of heavy metal band Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde was born in New Jersey.

17

January

1967

English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist and session musician, Richard Hawley was born in Sheffield.

3

February

1967

Pioneering English record producer and studio engineer, Joe Meek murdered his landlady and then committed suicide in London at the age of 37.

17

February

1967

English Blues rock band John Mayall and the Blues Breakers released their 2nd studio album, ‘A Hard Road’ with Peter Green replacing Eric Clapton as guitarist.

20

February

1967

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain (1967-1994, 27) was born in Aberdeen, Washington state.

12

March

1967

American rock band, The Velvet Underground released their debut studio album, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’, with iconic cover art by pop artist Andy Warhol.

17

March

1967

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan was born in Chicago, Illinois.

12

May

1967

Anglo‑American rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut studio album, ‘Are You Experienced’ in the UK.

29

May

1967

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock bands Oasis and High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher was born in Manchester.

1

June

1967

English pop/rock band, The Beatles released their classic 8th studio album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in the UK.

1

June

1967

Aspiring English singer David Bowie released his eponymous debut studio album, ‘David Bowie’ in the UK.

7

June

1967

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction as well as former member of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Navarro was born in Santa Monica, California.

16

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ officially arrived with the start of the legendary 3-day Monterey Pop Festival in California. Artists included The Animals, Simon & Garfunkel and Sly & The Family Stone.

16

June

1967

English psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd released their classic single, ‘See Emily Play’, written by Syd Barrett.

17

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ continued with the 2nd day of the 3-day Monterey International Pop Festival in California. Artists included Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Steve Miller Band and The Byrds.

18

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ continued with the 3rd and final day of the Monterey International Pop Festival in California. Artists included Buffalo Springfield, Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who.

24

June

1967

German guitarist with Industrial Metal rock band Rammstein, Richard Z. Kruspe was born in Wittenberge.

12

July

1967

Great American guitarist and founding member of heavy rock band Dream Theater, John Petrucci was born in New York.

4

August

1967

English psychedelic progressive rock group, Pink Floyd released their debut studio album, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’.

25

September

1967

American rock band The Doors released their all-time classic 2nd studio album, ‘Strange Days’.

30

September

1967

English broadcaster the BBC aired their pop music channel Radio 1 for the very first time in the UK. The first record played by DJ Tony Blackburn was, ‘Flowers in the Rain’ by The Move.

3

October

1967

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Woody Guthrie died from Huntington’s Disease in New York City at the age of 55.

9

November

1967

The brainchild of Jann Wenner, the very first issue of Rolling Stone music magazine was published in the USA, featuring a photo of John Lennon on the front cover.

10

November

1967

English blues/rock super group Cream released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Disraeli Gears’ in the UK.

1

December

1967

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their sophomore studio album, ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ in the UK.

7

December

1967

Shortly before his tragic death, American soul singer Otis Redding recorded his classic single, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’.

10

December

1967

American soul singer, Otis Redding was killed tragically when the plane in which he was travelling crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of 26.

16

December

1967

English rock band, The Who, released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Who Sell Out’ in the UK.

27

December

1967

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his classic debut studio album, ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’.

13

January

1968

American country music legend Johnny Cash performed two live shows at the notorious Folsom State Prison in California.

21

January

1968

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their cover version of Bob Dylan’s, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ at Olympic Studios in London.

30

January

1968

American psychedelic rock band, The Velvet Underground released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘White Light/White Heat’.

8

March

1968

The famous New York live music venue Fillmore East opened its doors at 105 Second Avenue and East 6th Street in Manhattan. It closed 3 years later on 27 June 1971.

6

April

1968

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd announced that guitarist and singer Syd Barrett had left the band he helped to found.

15

April

1968

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and original member of alternative rock band Radiohead, Ed O’Brien was born in Oxford.

20

April

1968

After changing their name from Roundabout, English hard rock band Deep Purple played their first live concert as Deep Purple in Tastrup, Denmark.

24

May

1968

English rock band, Small Faces released their classic 4th studio album ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’.

24

May

1968

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their massive hit single, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.

28

May

1968

Multi-talented Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur and sex symbol, Kylie Minogue was born in Melbourne, Victoria.

5

June

1968

Marc Bolan’s band Tyrannosaurus Rex released their debut album, ‘My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair… But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows’ in the UK.

15

June

1968

Acclaimed American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery died of a heart attack at his home in Indianapolis at the age of 45.

28

June

1968

English progressive rock group Pink Floyd released their sophomore studio album, ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ in the UK. It was the only Pink Floyd album to feature both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour.

29

June

1968

The first Hyde Park Free Concert was held in London, UK, featuring Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Roy Harper.

5

July

1968

The legendary San Francisco live music venue Fillmore West opened its doors at 10 South Van Ness Avenue. It stayed at this location until 4 July 1971.

10

July

1968

English guitarist Eric Clapton announced that the blues/rock super group Cream were splitting up, after just 3 studio albums.

13

July

1968

Under their original name, Earth, English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath played their first live concert at The Crown pub in Birmingham.

17

July

1968

The unique psychedelic animated film ‘Yellow Submarine’, featuring characters based on The Beatles premiered in London.

5

August

1968

Influential American country guitarist and principal sideman for Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, one of the famed ‘Tennessee Three’, died tragically in a fire accident in Hendersonville, Tennessee at the age of 40.

9

August

1968

English blues/rock super group Cream released their 3rd studio album, ‘Wheels Of Fire’.

6

September

1968

English blues/rock guitarist Eric Clapton recorded the guitar solo on The Beatles’ song, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

7

September

1968

English rock band The New Yardbrids, later to become Led Zeppelin performed their live concert debut at Gladsaxe, near Copenhagen in Denmark.

14

September

1968

The animated series based around a fictional pop band, ‘The Archies’, from the original comic strip, premiered on CBS TV in America.

20

September

1968

English Heavy rock band, Led Zeppelin started recording their ground-breaking debut album ‘Led Zeppelin (I)’ in London, to be released in 1969.

7

October

1968

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative rock band Radiohead, Thom Yorke was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

14

October

1968

English psychedelic folk rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex released their 2nd studio album, ‘Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages’.

25

October

1968

Nine days after its American launch, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their final studio album ‘Electric Ladyland’ in the UK.

9

November

1968

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin performed their debut London concert at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm. Members’ tickets cost 16 shillings.

21

November

1968

English bass guitarist and songwriter, principally with Britpop band Blur, Alex James was born in Bournemouth.

22

November

1968

English group, The Beatles released their highly regarded 9th studio double album, ‘The Beatles’, a.k.a. the ‘White Album’ in the UK.

26

November

1968

Aside from their 2005 reunion gigs, English blues/rock super group, Cream played their final ‘Farewell Concert’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

29

November

1968

Emerging British/American blues/rock band Fleetwood Mac released their classic instrumental hit single ‘Albatross’.

6

December

1968

British rock band, The Rolling Stones released their classic 7th studio album, ‘Beggars Banquet’ in the UK.

24

December

1968

American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, prolific musical collaborator as well as solo artist, Doyle Bramhall II was born in Dallas, Texas.

5

January

1969

Controversial American rock singer and songwriter, Brian Warner, better known as the artist Marilyn Manson, was born in Canton, Ohio.

12

January

1969

British rock band Led Zeppelin released their self‑titled debut studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin’ on Atlantic Records in the UK.

13

January

1969

English band The Beatles released their studio album ‘Yellow Submarine’ as a soundtrack to the psychedelic animated film of the same name featuring the Fab Four.

14

January

1969

American singer, songwriter, drummer and guitarist with rock bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl was born in Springfield, Virginia.

22

January

1969

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young released his eponymous debut album, ‘Neil Young’.

30

January

1969

English rock band The Beatles made their final live public performance, filming their famous unannounced rooftop gig atop the Apple Studio building in London for the film ‘Let It Be’.

21

February

1969

Welsh singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer with rock band Manic Street Preachers, James Dean Bradfield was born in Pontypool.

22

February

1969

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles started recording their classic studio album, ‘Abbey Road’ at the famous London recording studio of the same name.

24

February

1969

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed their final UK live indoor concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London.

12

March

1969

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of indie rock/britpop band Blur, Graham Coxon was born in Rinteln, Germany where his father was stationed with the British Army.

7

April

1969

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his classic sophomore studio album, ‘Songs From a Room’.

9

April

1969

American folk rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his change of direction 9th studio album, ‘Nashville Skyline’.

13

May

1969

Prolific and inventive American rock guitarist, Buckethead (a.k.a. Brian Carroll) was born in Pomona, California.

14

May

1969

Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter, Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse released their sophomore studio album, ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’.

16

May

1969

Before pioneering glam rock, English singer, songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan with Tyrannosaurus Rex released their 3rd studio album, ‘Unicorn’.

23

May

1969

English rock band, The Who released their ground breaking epic rock opera double album, ‘Tommy’ in the UK.

26

May

1969

John Lennon and Yoko Ono promoted world peace through an 8-day ‘bed-in’ in Canada proclaiming ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

4

June

1969

American country artist Johnny Cash released his classic live album, ‘At San Quentin’, recorded at the (in)famous high security prison in California.

20

June

1969

Emerging English singer David Bowie recorded his first hit single ‘Space Oddity’ at Trident Studios, London.

3

July

1969

English guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and founder of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex at the age of 27.

11

July

1969

Emerging English rock singer and songwriter David Bowie released his classic debut single, ‘Space Oddity’ in the UK.

1

August

1969

The point at which aspiring rock band Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath, announced at a concert held at the Pokey Hole Club in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK.

5

August

1969

American singer and songwriter Iggy Pop launched his long and varied music career, with or without The Stooges, with the release of his/their debut studio album, ‘The Stooges’.

15

August

1969

The legendary hippie counter-culture Woodstock Festival ‘Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music’ Arts Fair began at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near Bethel, New York, attended by over 400,000 people. Tickets were priced at $6 per day. Artists included Melanie, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez.

16

August

1969

The second day of the legendary Woodstock Festival took place in upstate New York. Artists included Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who and Jefferson Airplane.

17

August

1969

The third and (sort of) final day of the legendary Woodstock Festival took place on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm 43 miles south west of the town of Woodstock, New York state. Artists included Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears and CSN&Y.

18

August

1969

As the last of 32 acts, American guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix closed the fabled Woodstock Festival by playing a 2-hour set at 9:00 in the morning with a temporary band.

30

August

1969

After changing their name from Earth, English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath played their first live concert as Black Sabbath at a local pub in Workington, Cumbria.

5

September

1969

Talented American guitarist, son of Frank and carrying on the formidable family legacy, Dweezil Zappa was born in Los Angeles, California.

7

September

1969

English guitarist, best known as a member of Britpop group Cast and his work with alternative rock artist Robert Plant, Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson was born in Liverpool.

22

September

1969

Canadian/American roots/folk/country rock artists, The Band released their classic self-titled 2nd studio album, ‘The Band’.

25

September

1969

American guitarist, songwriter, producer and one-time member of rock band Guns N’ Roses (2006-2014), Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal was born in Brooklyn, New York.

26

September

1969

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles released their classic final studio album with the iconic zebra crossing cover photograph, ‘Abbey Road’ in the UK.

3

October

1969

Influential American delta blues singer and guitarist Skip James died in Pennsylvania at the age of 67.

10

October

1969

American rock guitarist and composer Frank Zappa released his outstanding, classic career-peak studio album, ‘Hot Rats’.

10

October

1969

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their classic studio album, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ in the UK.

16

October

1969

Anglo‑American rock trio the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their 3rd and final studio album, the classic ‘Electric Ladyland’ in the U.S.

18

October

1969

American music family, The Jackson 5 made their debut on American TV, appearing on ABC’s ‘Hollywood Palace’.

22

October

1969

English hard rock group Led Zeppelin released their classic multi-million-selling 2nd studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin II’ on Atlantic Records in the U.S.

28

October

1969

Award-winning multi-genre American guitarist, singer and songwriter Ben Harper was born in Pomona, California.

4

November

1969

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 2nd studio album, ‘David Bowie’ (also released as ‘Space Oddity’ after the hit single from the album).

7

November

1969

English progressive rock group, Pink Floyd released their 4th part live, part studio experimental double album, ‘Ummagumma’, with cover art by Hipgnosis.

14

November

1969

Cartoon bubblegum pop group, The Archies began the longest ‘one hit wonder’ UK singles chart-topping streak (8 weeks), with their classic song, ‘Sugar, Sugar’.

27

November

1969

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, a member of heavy rock band Alter Bridge, as well as pursuing many side projects, Myles Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

29

November

1969

English rock band, The Rolling Stones, released their classic 11th studio album, ‘Let It Bleed’ in the UK.

6

December

1969

A man was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels during The Rolling Stones set at the infamous Altamont Free Festival in California.

14

December

1969

American music family, The Jackson 5 made their American Network TV debut, appearing on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.

Jackson 5 TV Network Debut 1969

Tailpiece

Well there you go… that’s the 1960s in a proverbial (and quite sizeable) nutshell. An appreciation of music genre development and music facts from the 1960s catalogues the seemingly sudden eruption of creativity that took place against the background of momentous global events. The vibrancy and liberalism of the 1960s was exploratory, liberating and empowering for many, mostly young people at the time. Much of the optimistic idealism was, perhaps in hindsight, naively transient and disappointingly ephemeral. All good things come to an end and things were about to change quite fundamentally all over again.

 

How the heck do you follow the decade of decadence? Well, that will be the fascinating story of the 1970s, which will unfold in all its hedonistic, nihilistic grime and glory. Intrigued? Why not come back for the next enthralling episode of the ‘History of Music’. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “I’m glad I’m alive. What else would I do?”

 

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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August 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI

Hello again, guitar history fans and welcome to August 2018’s article in the series on the history of the guitar. There is no point in beating about the bush, it’s time to dive right back in where we left off last month with the birth, and now – to extend the analogy – the growth of the electric guitar from early years to adolescent hood.

 

If you wish to recap on previous articles before starting here, the ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

 

The Modern Solid Body Electric Guitar

This part of the guitar’s story covers the period of fundamental and rapid innovation as well as pragmatic entrepreneurialism that starts around the late 1940s and early 1950s, a period of intense creativity that would come to define the modern electric guitar. Once the essential foundations were laid by Rickenbacker, Gibson and a few others, the popularity of the guitar was about to explode.

 

Since the time of the guitar ‘big bang’, instruments would continue to be improved and refined; an incremental process that continues unabated up to the current day. However, nothing like the level of creativity that heralded the ‘dawn’ of the electric guitar era. It was the start of a so‑called ‘golden era’ that would last about 15 years.

 

While acoustic guitars continued to develop after the 1930s, they were just about as loud as they were going to get without some form of amplification. Electric archtop and early solid body electric guitars had started the ball rolling during the first half of the 1930s and guitarists were buying into the increasing trend for electric guitars of one sort or another.

 

While not alone in influencing guitar development, today’s ‘big two’ companies – Fender and Gibson – have between them, been responsible for, or at last instrumental (sic!) in, many of the major innovations and landmark electric guitars since the 1950s. Therefore, the focus here is predominantly, but not exclusively, on the contribution from these two major manufacturers.  Much credit though is due to the vast number of other guitar builders – way too many to mention them all by name – that have played their part in developing the musical landscape over the decades, and which we enjoy today. Without their competition to keep the ‘big two’ on their toes, the quality and price equation might have gone too far in opposite directions. Thankfully, there is no monopoly in the guitar market – far from it in fact – and that fact, as it turns out, is a very good thing for musicians all over the world.

 

However, before the story moves on to Fender and then Gibson, we need to take a short diversion before getting back on track…

 

Bigsby Guitars

No history of the formation of the electric guitar would be complete without some mention of Paul Adelburt Bigsby (1899-1968). P.A. Bigsby was a motorcycle racer, inventor, designer and builder based in California. Bigsby has often been quoted as saying confidently, “I can build anything”.

Paul Bigsby

 

Historically, Bigsby might be better known for his iconic Bigsby vibrato systems. Less well known is that Bigsby was also responsible for pioneering solid body electric guitars as well as for revolutionising pedal steel guitars.

1957 Bigsby Vibrato (ES-175)

 

Bigsby collaborated with lap steel guitarist Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphey (1923-1999) of Spade Cooley’s orchestra in the 1940s. Murphey helped to persuade Bigsby to start making guitars in the first place, in around 1946/1947. Bigsby built Murphey several steel guitars by 1947, with two or three necks. Murphey’s successor in Cooley’s band, another steel guitarist called Speedy West (1924-2003), not wishing to be outdone, also commissioned Bigsby to build him a custom pedal steel guitar in 1948.

Joaquin Murphey & Speedy West

 

Around the same time, successful country and western artist and good friend, Merle Travis (1917-1983) asked Bigsby to fix a wayward vibrato on his Gibson L-10 guitar. Bigsby subsequently went on to build a complete solid body electric guitar for Travis, based on a sketch Travis had made. Travis’s Bigsby guitar attracted a lot of attention and other artists queued up for Bigsby to make further custom guitars, including for acclaimed session guitarist with the ‘Nashville A-Team’, Grady Martin (1921‑2001).

Merle Travis & Grady Martin

 

Bigsby’s guitar designs not only seem familiar, but also seem well ahead of their time for 1948, especially when compared to anything else on the market. The Bigsby Merle Travis guitar has a single cutaway body not dissimilar to Gibson’s Les Paul models and a neck/headstock outline that bears a notable resemblance to Fender’s Stratocaster. Bigsby’s design predated both the Les Paul (1952) and the Stratocaster (1954) by several years. Many have contended that Gibson and Fender plagiarised, rather than simply being influenced by, Bigsby’s original designs. Hindsight provides the opportunity to speculate but the truth is shrouded in idle debate and misinformation.

Bigsby – Fender & Gibson Comparison

 

Partly because he wanted to make most of the parts himself, Bigsby only produced a very small number of finished custom‑built instruments up until 1956, where after he concentrated on the vibrato business. However, as his guitars never entered full production, his legacy consists of a few unique examples of his craftsmanship. Unfortunately, Bigsby kept no records of his creations. The company he founded undertook extensive research and can document 47 steel guitars and only 6 standard guitars, along with a few other custom instruments surviving to the current day. Others may yet come to light at some point to be authenticated.

1948 & 1956 Bigsby
1949 Bigsby Mandolin

 

Bigsby’s name is now synonymous with his ubiquitous vibrato tailpieces, which have adorned countless guitars since the 1950s. Bigsby sensibly filed a patent for his ‘tailpiece vibrato’ in November 1952, which was granted by the U.S. Patent Office in March 1953. The rest, as ‘they’ say, is history.

Bigsby Vibrato Patent

 

When his health started to fail, Bigsby sold his company to retired Gibson president Ted McCarty in 1966. Paul Bigsby died 2 years later in 1968 at the age of 68. Subsequently, Gretsch bought the Bigsby enterprise from McCarty in 1999. Bigsby Guitars is now making limited edition guitars under the patronage of Gretsch.

Bigsby BY48T-600

 

Many of those aware of Bigsby’s pioneering work feel that he should be given greater credit for his contribution to guitar history. One might only wonder at the course of modern guitar history had Bigsby capitalised on his creative designs. Bigsby may have been first in a lot of areas but it was other companies that catered for the market and it is the commercial success brought about by mass production which is where the story then continues.

Bigsby Logo

 

Fender Solid Body Electric Guitars

Clarence Leonidas ‘Leo’ Fender (1909-1991) was an electrical engineer by trade. He started out in business as Fender Radio Service in 1938, repairing radios, phonographs and valve amplifiers. Recognising the growing demand for his skills from the music industry, Fender looked to use his growing expertise in that area. Along with business partner and former Rickenbacker employee Clayton ‘Doc’ Kauffman, Fender co‑founded the short‑lived K&F Manufacturing Corp in 1945. K&F’s intention was to manufacture musical instruments and amplifiers, including lap steel guitars that were particularly popular at the time.

1945 K&F Lap Steel & Amp

 

By 1946, Fender had parted ways with Kauffman and established the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, based in Fullerton, California. The company, known to most simply as Fender, has become one of the pre‑eminent and most widely recognised manufacturers of electric guitars, basses and amplifiers in the world. Historically, Fender is particularly important because of its ground breaking role in making electric instruments and amps accessible to mass markets eager for the new‑fangled technology in the 1950s.

 

Fender Fullerton Factory 1959

 

Leo Fender’s vision had less to do with building small numbers of bespoke instruments and more to do with commercial large‑scale manufacture of instruments using tried and tested production methods. Fender wanted the electric guitar to be straightforward to manufacture as well as easy to service and maintain. Leo Fender asked George William Fullerton (1923-2009) to join the company in 1948. Fullerton’s appointment was important, as he would become a long‑term business associate not only at Fender but also in subsequent post‑Fender enterprises, including Music Man and G&L (an acronym standing for George & Leo).

 

Even though Fender had introduced amplifiers in 1947, Fender’s business began focusing on guitar designs and in c.1949 the company started making prototypes of what would eventually become the iconic Telecaster. The early prototypes used a body largely designed by George Fullerton. The first prototype exhibited a 3‑a‑side lap steel‑style headstock, while the second attempt looked more Fender‑like. Both prototype headstock designs bore a similarity to those seen on Bigsby’s guitars.

1949 Fender Broadcaster Prototypes #1 & 2

 

Fender offered the first mass-produced Spanish-style solid-body electric guitar to the public in 1950. The initial few guitars were single pickup models called the Esquire, although confusingly, a small number of Esquires were also ordered with two pickups.

1951 Fender Esquire

 

The production dual pickup model was originally named the Broadcaster until Gretsch objected to the use of the name, as they had produced drums using the Broadkaster name since the 1920s. Fender complied and for a short period between February and August of 1951, the guitar appeared with no name on the headstock, leading to the popular nickname ‘Nocaster’ to describe its curious temporary anonymity.

1951 ‘Nocaster’ Headstock

 

Fender filed a patent for the Telecaster design in April 1951, which was awarded quite quickly by the U.S. Patent Office in August 1951. The familiar twin pickup single cutaway guitar, now formally named the Telecaster was made available to the public from mid‑1951 and has, remarkably, remained in continuous production ever since.

Fender Telecaster Patent 1951

 

Although instantly recognisable nowadays, the Telecaster was unlike anything that had come before. The way they were put together was revolutionary; using a modular construction comprising a single cutaway slab body of solid ash wood and a removable maple neck secured by four screws on the back of the body. The simple and sturdy design proved not only resilient but also efficient and relatively cheap to manufacture using established assembly line techniques of the time.

1952 Fender Telecaster

 

While there have been many variants of the Telecaster over the years, including the Custom, Deluxe, Thinline and Elite, the original fundamental design elements have remained largely unchanged over many decades.

Fender Telecaster Variants

 

Not content with the success of the Telecaster, Fender and this team went on to design and market the enormously popular Stratocaster in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, the Stratocaster employed a futuristic double cutaway ash body with deep rib and forearm contours for player comfort, 3 single coil pickups and a clever floating vibrato system. Fender retained the bolt‑on maple neck, albeit with a shapelier headstock than the Telecaster and eerily reminiscent of Bigsby’s earlier design. Fender filed a patent application for the Stratocaster’s ‘tremolo’ (a misnomer – it is actually a vibrato) design in August 1954, which was subsequently awarded in April 1956. The Stratocaster, like the Telecaster before it, became phenomenally successful with consumers and has been in continuous production since its launch.

Fender Stratocaster Patent 1956
1953 Fender Stratocaster Prototype
1954 Fender Stratocaster

 

Just as revolutionary for bass players, Fender also pioneered the commercially successful electric solid-body bass guitar. The Precision bass first appeared shortly after the Telecaster in 1952 and before the Stratocaster. Before the Precision, bass players had to contend with cumbersome acoustic, hollow body, fretless upright basses. The Precision was an ergonomic godsend, especially for travelling musicians. Like a guitar, the Precision featured a fretted neck making the instrument much more accessible to neophytes wanting to jump on the bandwagon of popular electric guitar music in the 1950s and 1960s. The 34”‑scale fretted neck gave practical credence to the new bass’s name – Precision. Fender filed a patent for the bass guitar in November 1952, which was awarded in March 1953.

Fender Precision Bass Patent 1953

 

Initially, the Precision took many design cues from the Telecaster before updates in 1954 and 1957 gave it the now‑familiar characteristics more akin to the Stratocaster. Not resting on their laurels, Fender followed up the hugely successful Precision with the twin‑pickup offset Jazz bass in 1960.

1954 & 1959 Fender Precision & 1960 Fender Jazz

 

These four models – Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision and Jazz – represented the enduring ‘core’ models around which Fender experimented with other designs. It is very unusual in industrial design history to ‘get it right’ first time and then for those products to remain relevant for over six decades (… so far, and counting). However, Fender seemed to have achieved just that. Fender, however, not content to stand still, kept innovating.

 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Fender also introduced two luxury contoured offset‑waist body models; the 25½”‑scale Jazzmaster in 1958 and the shorter 24”‑scale Jaguar in 1962. Both models used entirely new single coil pickups and both had separate, complex ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead’ circuits. The controls were not intuitive, which put off some players. The high‑price of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar may also have deterred customers and both models failed to attract the intended target audience – traditional jazz guitarists wedded to the competition’s archtop designs. However, both the Jazzmaster and Jaguar gained a significant boost from an unexpected source. Popular west coasts surf musicians including The Beach Boys and The Ventures adopted the new offsets and gave them some legitimacy. Ultimately though, poor sales led to Fender discontinuing the Jaguar in 1975 and the Jazzmaster in 1980. Wisely, Fender has subsequently successfully reissued both models for newer generations to discover.

1959 Fender Jazzmaster & 1962 Fender Jaguar

 

One of the key success factors for Fender was the introduction of custom colour options in addition to the limited standard blonde and sunburst finishes. Custom colours were based on popular automobile paints made by DuPont during the American car craze of the 1950s. Customers could custom order new guitars from a range of exciting colour finishes for an additional 5% upcharge. Fender was also open to accepting standard colour guitars for factory refinishing in the custom colours. Popular names for the custom colours included Olympic White, Lake Placid Blue, Daphne Blue, Sonic Blue, Shoreline Gold, Burgundy Mist, Sherwood Green, Surf Green, Foam Green, Fiesta Red, Dakota Red, Candy Apple Red, and Shell Pink. Early models with genuine custom colours are relatively rare and have since become highly desirable with vintage guitar collectors; some guitars fetching a hefty premium on the vintage market compared to the standard colours. Many of those original custom colours phased out by 1969 to 1972 have now become very popular again as standard colours in the 21st Century.

Fender Custom Color Chart 1960

 

Strategically, Fender tried to cover all bases by also introducing a range of short-scale (initially 22½” and then 24”) ‘student’ models including the Musicmaster (1956), Duo‑Sonic (1964), Mustang (1964) and Bronco (1967). To differentiate the ‘student’ instruments from the pro‑level models, Fender designed hardware and finishes that was unique to these models. The Musicmaster and Bronco had single pickups, while the Duo‑Sonic and Mustang had two pickups. The Mustang and Bronco also featured bespoke vibrato systems while the Musicmaster and Duo‑Sonic had fixed bridges. While these budget models have found a strong following by those in the know, they have had chequered histories, all having been discontinued and reissued over the years. Seen as peripheral to the ‘core’ classics, the high volume low cost guitars undeservedly attract a lower profile and lower resale values on the vintage collector market despite being made at the same factory, by the same staff, using the same materials and tools.

1959 Fender Musicmaster, 1963 Duo-Sonic,1964 Mustang & 1968 Bronco

 

In the minds of most guitarists, Fender was a solid‑body guitar maker. After the failure of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar to persuade traditionalists to change brand, Fender attempted to compete with Gibson’s popular ES range of semi‑acoustic guitars. Fender introduced the fully hollow‑body Coronado in 1966, designed by German luthier and Rickenbacker guitar designer Roger Rossmeisl. The Coronado retained Fender’s ‘bolt‑on’ maple necks with six‑a‑side headstocks, although the pickups used were unusually DeArmond single coil models. Unfortunately for Fender, the ill‑fated Coronado proved a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1972. After a short‑lived venture into archtop jazz guitars with the rare Montego and LTD models between 1968 and 1972, Fender tried again in1976 with the introduction of the upmarket semi‑hollow humbucker‑equipped Starcaster. Like the valiant attempts before it, the Starcaster met with the same consumer resistance and proved equally unsuccessful, resulting in it being summarily discontinued in 1982. Notably, both the Coronado and Starcaster models were reissued by Fender in 2013 and continue in production today.

1967 Fender Coronado II 1972 Montego & 1976 Starcaster

 

There have been many other Fender solid body electric guitars over the years including the Bass V & VI, the Electric XII, Bullet and Lead amongst numerous others.  In addition, there were many variations on a theme, for instance the Coronado came in Antigua, Wildwood, XII and bass versions. Similarly, the Musicmaster and Mustang also had short‑scale bass models. Other examples include parts‑bin oddities like the Swinger and Maverick. Many later experiments were undertaken by the Japanese arm of Fender without any risk to the company’s ‘Made in USA’ standing. Japanese‑only models include the Performer, Katana and the Gibson‑like set neck Flame. Many of these low volume under‑the‑radar guitar models are often described as ‘forgotten Fenders’.

 

As covered in Part IV of the story, Fender has also sustained a very successful line of guitar and bass amplifiers dating from the late 1940s right through to the current day, including landmark valve amps such as the Princeton, Champ, Bassman and the mighty Twin Reverb (among many others). Like Marshall and Vox from the UK, Fender amps have become synonymous with modern electric guitar music.

 

The successful honeymoon period for Fender was, however, not destined to last forever. In early 1965, Leo Fender sold his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), reportedly for $13m. Despite investment and efforts to diversify the product lines, manufacturing quality varied considerably due to poor management and cost cutting, particularly during the 1970s. Industry reputation and credibility waned and Fender sales suffered significantly, especially in the face of aggressive competition from Japan. One of the strategies adopted by Japanese companies at the time was, despite the existence of U.S. patents, to flagrantly copy American guitar designs. Japanese companies produced large numbers of guitars built to high standards and sold at low prices. This shameless targeting of American products placed an already struggling Fender under considerable pressure. By 1981, Fender had brought in Dan Smith from Yamaha as Marketing Director to oversee selective guitar redesigns and, along with Fender luthier (and founder of the Fender Custom Shop) John Page, to breathe new life into Fender’s fortunes.

Dan Smith

 

After making considerable improvements across the business, 20 years after being sold to CBS, a management buyout was initiated by CEO William Schultz (1926‑2006). In retrospect, Schultz is now widely regarded as ‘the man who saved Fender’. Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company was acquired from CBS by its own employees in 1985 and the newly privatised company was renamed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). The sale did not, however, include the existing Fullerton factory, so Fender was forced to construct a new plant at Corona, California which started limited manufacturing in late 1985.

William Schultz

 

After two years of restructuring the business, the post‑CBS Fender American Standard Stratocaster was introduced in 1987. While superficially similar to previous models, the American Standard was a significant model that signified the company’s return to form and commercial prosperity. In the same year (1987), Fender set up their in‑house Custom Shop (nicknamed ‘The Dream Factory’), based at their Corona facility in California. The aim of the Custom Shop was to showcase just what Fender’s master luthiers were capable of building.

1987 Fender American Standard Stratocaster
Fender Custom Shop Logo

 

Fender’s headquarters are now based in Scottsdale, Arizona, with North American manufacturing facilities in Corona, California, and Ensenada in Mexico. Off-shore production of budget Squier guitars and basses is based in Korea and Japan. Fender has continued to innovate, introducing ‘custom shop’, ‘vintage reissue’ and ‘relic’ instruments and a range of electronics to a market hungry to recapture the ‘golden years’ of pre‑CBS Fender instruments and amps.

 

We have become so familiar with the Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster and Precision, that we sometimes forget just how revolutionary these designs actually were back in the 1950s and what they, perhaps unwittingly, came to represent. Looking a little more broadly helps to put things into context. Loud and brash electric guitars undoubtedly helped to define the musical uprising brought about by the advent of rock ‘n’ roll. At the same time, a western social and cultural transformation was taking place in the wake of post‑WWII austerity and despite prevailing conservative Cold War political paranoia. Affluent and often puritanical middle class values allied to consumers’ relentless drive to satisfy materialistic aspiration were fuelled by media, film and television. Opposing the status quo was a growing urban resentment, an angry youthful rebellion boosted by emerging anti‑conformist liberalism and radical demands for greater personal freedoms. Fundamental change was, arguably, inevitable. The turmoil created in the 1950s began to reshape the fabric of society in both the U.S. and the UK and this, in turn, propelled musical experimentation and creativity at a pace never seen before. Fender’s electric guitars not only enabled that particular wave to be ridden with verve, passion and a certain degree of teenage angst, but also came to symbolise many defining events for a frustrated generation, a subversive movement that would last well into the 1960s. When Marlon Brando was asked the question in the film ‘The Wild One’ (1953), “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” he retorted disinterestedly “whadda you got?” For a while at least, it was hip to be cool and cool to be hip.

 

If there are any guitars that qualify for the terms ‘iconic’, ‘classic’ and ‘industry standard’, these original Fender models have to be up there with the best and most enduring industrial design wonders of all time. In particular, the timeless design of the ‘Tele’ and the ‘Strat’ have persisted in the minds of guitarists over many decades, and will surely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

 

Those ‘new’ guitars back in the 1950s are now hugely valuable vintage instruments and are part of our collective music heritage. Vintage Fender guitars, basses and amplifiers are much sought after by collectors, musicians, dealers and enthusiasts alike, with many key models originally made prior to the CBS takeover in 1965 now reaching high vintage guitar market values. Authentic vintage instruments associated with successful artists (and with documented provenance) attract an even higher price premium on the collectable market, for instance, Eric Clapton’s famous c.1956 ‘Blackie’, which was sold for $959,500 to Guitar Center at Christie’s in New York in 2005.

Eric Clapton’s ‘Blackie’ (c1956)

 

Gibson Solid Body Electric Guitars

The history of Gibson guitars is much longer than that of its main current‑day rival Fender and much of this has already been covered elsewhere. The crucial part that Gibson played in this stage of guitar evolution is picked up again here in the mid‑20th Century.

 

During the 1940s, popular American jazz guitarist, performer and musical inventor Les Paul (1915-2009) – born Lester William Polsfuss – had become increasingly unhappy with the compromises experienced by electric acoustic archtop guitars. In an attempt to overcome the shortcomings, Les Paul had been actively experimenting with guitar design from around 1939. A famous early prototype electric guitar assembled by Les Paul out of hours at the Epiphone factory around 1940 was nicknamed ‘the log’, which was essentially a solid piece of 4”x4” pine timber running the length of the body, providing the base for the strings, bridge assembly and pickups. To make the design appear more guitar‑like, Les Paul attached a traditional guitar neck and two hollow guitar ‘wings’ from an Epiphone archtop on either side of the ‘plank’.

Les Paul & The Log

 

Les Paul had originally approached Gibson as early as 1941 but no interest was shown by the company.  He tried again in 1945 or 1946 and his ideas were once again rejected. It wasn’t until 1950 that newly‑appointed Gibson president, Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty (1909-2001) brought in Les Paul to act as a consultant in response to Fender’s newly launched solid body electric guitars. Like Leo Fender, McCarty could not play the guitar, so he worked very closely with those who could.

Ted McCarty

 

In 1951, Gibson began producing prototypes of a solid body electric guitar designed by McCarty in consultation with Les Paul. One of the many prototype designs (shown following restoration below) is relatively close to the final production in all but detail.

1951 Gibson Les Paul Prototype

 

Gibson was already losing ground, and business, following the introduction of Fender solid body guitars that appealed to young musicians exploring new musical ideas. To many consumers, Gibson’s models were seen as staid and, compared to the modernistic Stratocaster, frankly old fashioned, tired and boring. For Gibson, it was important that any sold body electric guitar design would be all‑new while also remaining consistent with the values, quality and reputation of the company. It was also crucial that the new instrument would be quite different from Gibson’s competition, whether existing or emerging. Crucially, before the new guitar was launched, McCarty agreed a deal with Les Paul for it to carry Les Paul’s name on the headstock and for him to be an integral part of Gibson’s advertising campaign.

Les Paul Headstock Logo
1952 & 1953 Gibson Les Paul Adverts

 

In July 1952, Gibson launched the now-iconic solid-bodied guitar, the Gibson Les Paul Model, finished in metallic gold, equipped with dual P90 pickups and a trapeze tailpiece similar to those found on the company’s archtop guitars. For a number of years, the Les Paul Model and its variants were the only solid body guitars made by Gibson. The range was extended from the basic ‘gold top’ to the upmarket black and gold Les Paul Custom in 1953 featuring a standard bridge, one P90 pickup and a unique Alnico V ‘staple’ pickup at the neck, a unique design intended to appeal to jazz guitarists.

1952 Gibson Les Paul Model & 1953 Les Paul Custom

 

To broaden appeal, Gibson introduced two affordable slab‑body single cutaway Les Paul models, the Junior with a single P90 pickup in 1954 and Special with dual‑P90 pickups in 1955. These rather utilitarian models retained the body outline but with few of the upmarket features of the carved‑top Les Pauls.

1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior & Special

 

By 1957, the Les Paul’s P90 single coil pickups began to be replaced with Gibson’s PAF (Patent Applied For) humbucking pickup. The process started with the now‑iconic 3‑pickup Les Paul Custom ‘Black Beauty’.

1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty

 

1958 saw the Junior and Special updated to a new double cutaway body and the option of cherry or outrageous TV Yellow, a colour allegedly designed to show up well on black & white TV screens of the time.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Junior and 1961 Les Paul Special

 

Following poor sales of the original Les Paul ‘gold top’ model, the guitar was rejuvenated in 1958 by renaming it the Standard. The Standard’s specification was changed substantially – a cherry sunburst finish was applied to a maple‑capped mahogany body, the PAF pickups became the norm and a tune‑o‑matic bridge and ‘stop’ tailpiece were standardised. Some, but not all, of the tops exhibited an attractive matched 2‑piece ‘flame’ maple top. Around 1,700 of the now‑legendary ‘Burst’ Les Paul Standards were produced between 1958 and 1960 and all have become highly collectable on the vintage guitar market. The original sunburst Standards have become the aspiration of many guitar enthusiasts. These rare instruments are widely regarded as representing the epitome of Gibson guitar’s ‘golden age’.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

 

The Les Paul models weren’t the only new instruments aiming to establish Gibson’s electric guitar credentials. The late 1950s saw a number of new guitar designs including the McCarty‑designed ES-335 semi‑acoustic, which first appeared in 1958. The ES‑335 was significant because of a solid centre block running through the body and on which the pickups and bridge were mounted, essentially much like Les Paul’s ‘log’ experiment. The semi‑hollow body construction was important in reducing acoustic feedback in high gain situations compared to fully‑hollow archtops. Gibson also released a lower cost hollow‑body ES model with dual P90s, called the ES-330 and two upmarket siblings, the ES‑345 and ES‑355.

1958 Gibson ES-335

 

The late 1950s was a period of intense innovation at Gibson. In addition to the Les Paul and the ES series, Gibson designed two ‘modernistic’ guitars intended to compete with Fender’s popular solid guitars, the Explorer and Flying V, both of which were introduced in 1958. A third ‘modernistic’ series model, the Moderne, was patented and prototypes might have been constructed but no actual verified examples have ever come to light, let alone reached the vintage collector market. The Moderne has become something of a myth and an original 1950s example is seen by many collectors as the ‘Holy Grail of guitar collecting’. Gibson (re‑)issued a Moderne in small numbers in the early 1980s and again occasionally since.

 

While the futuristic Flying V and Explorer models were well ahead their time, sales of these radical instruments was very poor. In 1958, Gibson sold only 81 Flying Vs and 19 Explorers. The following year (1959), only 17 Flying Vs and 3 Explorers were sold. It is hardly surprising then that both models were withdrawn by 1959-1960. A few further examples were constructed in the early 1960s from parts. As only small numbers of the original release Explorers and Flying Vs were made, they have become very highly sought after and valued. Gibson, however, would return to these original designs and has successfully reissued both the Flying V and Explorer many years later.

Gibson Modernistic Series Patents 1958
1958 Gibson Explorer & Flying V
1982 Gibson Moderne

 

Like Fender, Gibson recognised that they had to cater for the lower end of the market in order to attract new and younger players to the fold. In order to make budget guitars accessible without affecting sales of their premium models, Gibson introduced a range of simple low cost ‘student’ guitars, called the Melody Maker, from 1959. The basic Melody Makers, featuring distinctive narrow headstocks, slab bodies and all‑new Fender‑like narrow single coil pickups, were produced in large numbers at Gibson’s Kalamazoo plant alongside the classics. The Melody Maker’s body shape went through four incarnations during its lifetime, with only 2 bearing a similarity to existing Gibson electrics. Although the Melody Makers proved very popular and sold in large numbers, they were nevertheless withdrawn by 1971. Gibson has re‑used the Melody Maker name on a number of occasions since the original models.

1960, 1964, 1965 & 1967 Gibson Melody Makers

 

Despite the now‑legendary reputation of the Les Paul Standard, sales of the model remained relatively stagnant and, in 1961, Gibson were forced to take action. Effectively, production of the Les Paul ceased and a new design was introduced in 1961, even though it retained the ‘Les Paul’ moniker.  The new model was another design shift with a thin double cutaway mahogany body with contoured upper bouts and pointed ‘devil’ horns. Allegedly, Les Paul didn’t favour the guitar’s design and no longer wanted to be associated with it. In addition, Les Paul separated from his wife Mary Ford and the divorce settlement may also have been a pecuniary factor in his decision to drop his name from the guitar. By 1963, after Les Paul’s name was removed, the model was re‑designated the Gibson SG (standing for ‘Solid Guitar’). The Gibson SG has remained in continuous production since 1961 and, ironically, it has become the company’s most commercially successful model in Gibson’s long history. Like the single cutaway Les Paul before it, the SG model came in a number of variants, the single‑P90 Junior, the dual‑P90 Special, dual‑humbucker Standard and 3‑humbucker Custom.

1961 Gibson Les Paul Standard (SG)

 

The single cutaway Gibson Les Paul may have gone but it was not forgotten. It reappeared in 1968, and then only after second hand guitars became popular at around the time of the British blues explosion, led by guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Peter Green, as well as other contemporary musicians of the time, including Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Paul Kossoff. The Les Paul has had numerous variants over the years including notable models such as the Les Paul Deluxe, Professional, Recording, Artisan and Studio models, and many guitarists have had signature models released to celebrate the artists’ association with the company.  Since its reintroduction in the late 1960s, the Les Paul has remained in continuous production and, along with the Fender Stratocaster, it has become one of the most recognisable design icons of modern‑day guitar music.

Gibson Les Paul Recording & Deluxe

 

Gibson continued to innovate into the early 1960s, introducing more convention‑busting designs. McCarty, hired famed car designer Ray Dietrich (1894‑1980) to cash in on the American automotive craze of the time. The new model was called the Firebird, which featured a more rounded‑off Explorer‑like outline, through‑body construction and rear‑facing banjo tuners. These first Firebirds, produced in 1963‑1964, were known informally as ‘reverse’ bodied because the upper treble bout was more pronounced than the bass bout. Again, due to poor sales and high manufacturing costs, Gibson simplified the fundamentals and ‘flipped’ the body to produce the ‘non‑reverse’ Firebird, made between 1965 and 1969, when it was withdrawn. As with many of other unsuccessful early Gibson solid body designs, the company has reissued the Firebird in both ‘reverse’ and ‘non‑reverse’ formats since. Other variants were made including the 12‑string Firebird XII and the Thunderbird bass.

1964 Gibson ‘Reverse’ Firebird III & 1966 ‘Non-Reverse’ Firebird V

 

McCarty stood down from Gibson in 1966 and became president of Bigsby Guitars. McCarty later collaborated with, influenced and mentored up‑and‑coming ambitious American luthier Paul Reed Smith of PRS Guitars. Smith honoured McCarty’s contribution to guitar building by dedicating him with a PRS McCarty model. McCarty died in 2001 at the age of 91.

 

As with competitors, Fender, Gretsch and Rickenbacker, the 1970s was a period of controversial experimentation while under ‘corporate’ ownership. Gibson produced many other solid body electric guitars than have been mentioned so far. Among the many ‘forgotten Gibsons’ of the period, there are some notable examples, including the Challenger, Corvus, Firebrand, Invader, L6-S, Marauder, RD series, S‑1, Sonex‑180 and the Victory.

 

While Gibson may have had considerable success with guitars, it has never quite found the same formula for basses, amps and acoustics as some of its competitors, including Fender. That doesn’t mean to say they haven’t made notable examples; they have, it’s just that they haven’t had the popular impact and longevity to warrant mainstream success alongside the recognised ‘classics’.

 

After McCarty’s departure, Gibson came under increasing commercial pressure. Things came to a head in 1969, when Gibson’s parent company, Chicago Musical Instruments Ltd (CMI) was taken over by a South American brewing company called ECL and then became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments in 1974. In the same year, Norlin shifted production of Gibson guitars from its long‑term home in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1984, Gibson finally closed its old factory at Kalamazoo.

Gibson Kalamazoo Factory

 

Following a similar pattern to Fender’s travails at the time, Gibson underwent a period of poor quality control and severe financial difficulties, often blamed on corporate interference by executives who knew little about, and cared little for, the company’s pedigree and its customer base. Ultimately, as happened with Fender, the company returned to private ownership in January 1986 to focus on its core business. The Gibson Guitar Corporation was close to liquidation when it was bought by three businessmen, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman and Gary A. Zebrowski. Under the new management, the business was once again repositioned as a maker of high quality professional musical instruments.

Henry Juszkiewicz

 

While production of Gibson’s sold body guitars remained in Nashville, further production plants were also opened in Memphis, Tennessee (1984) for semi‑hollow models, as well as Bozeman, Montana (1989) for acoustic guitars. After having bought out its main American competitor Epiphone in 1957, Gibson strategically repositioned Epiphone as a budget brand and relocated production of Epiphone guitars to Japan in 1970 and then to Korea in 1983, mainly producing low‑cost versions of famous Gibson models.

 

In order to cater for the more exclusive end of the market, Gibson produced select instruments under an in‑house Custom Shop operation. Juszkiewicz built on the internal Custom Shop operations, the roots of which date back to around 1984 (3 years before Fender established its Custom Shop), and which became a separate facility based in Nashville from October 1993.

Gibson Custom Shop Logo

 

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, still a private company, has its headquarters based in Nashville, Tennessee and continues to develop and produce high quality instruments into the 21st century. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Gibson. In May 2018, after a period of unsuccessful diversification into peripheral consumer electronics products and rapidly rising debts, Gibson entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The widely anticipated move was intended to give the company sufficient time to restructure the business, with Henry Juszkiewicz still as CEO. Gibson intends to focus on profitable core musical instrument products, while divesting itself of the remainder of its ill‑fated and loss‑making lifestyle ventures. It is likely that Gibson’s rationalisation programme will succeed and the company will avoid liquidation. Like the phoenix symbolised on its Firebird guitars, Gibson will surely rise again from the ashes and achieve long‑term financial security.

Gibson Factory Sign

 

Many vintage Gibson solid body electric guitars are highly regarded by collectors, musicians and enthusiasts alike, with many key models reaching high or very prices on the vintage guitar market with the 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard is held in particularly high esteem. It will be interesting to see if a resurgent Gibson will be able to recapture the pinnacles of past glory. Watch this space…

 

Other Major American Electric Guitar Brands

While it might seem from the previous two sections that Fender and Gibson were the only companies responsible for all the key milestones in the solid guitar’s evolution, this is in fact far from reality. There have been innumerable manufacturers from around the globe that have been highly influential in shaping the market.

 

Epiphone – Epiphone’s illustrious history dates back to 1873 when the Stathopoulo family emigrated from Greece, via Turkey, and arrived in New York in 1903. The family set up a business in America making banjos and mandolins. By the end of WWI, the company became ‘The House Of Stathopoulo’, then changed its name to the ‘Epiphone Banjo Company’ in 1928, the same year that they started producing acoustic guitars. The name Epiphone derived from a combination of owner Epaminondas Stathopoulo’s nickname, ‘Epi’, and the Greek word ‘phon-’ meaning ‘sound’ or ‘voice’. In addition to musical instruments, Epiphone started producing amplifiers in 1935. Epiphone was Gibson’s main competitor in the production of high‑quality instruments, particularly archtop guitars in the 1930s and 1940s, such as the De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph models. It was only after World War II that Epiphone began to struggle, eventually resulting in its acquisition by Gibson in 1957. Initially, the new generation of Epiphone guitars were still made in Gibson’s American facilities, even though many of their instruments were re‑branded Gibson models. During the 1960s, Epiphone’s Casino, which was effectively their version of the Gibson ES-330, became particularly famous because of an association with English pop/rock band The Beatles. In recent decades, the Epiphone brand has come to represent the affordable end of Gibson’s output, complementing the parent company’s product lines. In the early 1970s manufacturing was migrated to the Far East, first in Japan, then Korea and, since 2004, Epiphone guitars have been made in a dedicated factory in Qingdao, China. Other well‑known model Epiphone names from their past include Emperor, Riviera, Sheraton, Olympic, Wilshire and Crestwood.

 

Epaminondas ‘Epi’ Stathopoulos
Epiphone Logo

 

Gretsch – Another famous manufacturer with a long history dating back to 1883 is Gretsch. The company was founded by Friedrich Gretsch (c.1856-1895). Gretsch arrived as a 17 year old German immigrant to the United States in 1872. By 1883, aged 27, Gretsch was manufacturing banjos, tambourines, and drums from a modest shop in Brooklyn, New York. It wasn’t until the big band era of the 1930s that guitars became part of Gretsch’s core business with models like the Synchromatic and Electromatic. Gretsch became hugely successful with the explosion of blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll music in the 1950s. The man behind many of Gretsch’s iconic designs including the flamboyant White Falcon was guitarist Jimmie Webster (1908‑1979), who worked as sales and demonstration representative for Gretsch. NB. Webster was known as the inventor of the ‘Touch System’ of playing in the 1950s, popularised by Van Halen as ‘two‑hand tapping’ in the late 1970s. The demand for Gretsch guitars during this period enabled Gretsch to compete head on with Gibson and Fender. Gretsch’s association with guitarist Chet Atkins propelled their now‑iconic 6120 from 1955 to massive popularity. Like many other companies in the 1960s, Gretsch struggled and was bought out by Baldwin Pianos in 1967. By 1981, after a period of significant decline Baldwin finally wound up production of Gretsch instruments. Fred W. Gretsch purchased the brand name in 1985 and several attempts were made to restart production, including manufacturing in the Far East. Gretsch has been under Fender patronage since 2002 with Fender having the controlling interest and the Gretsch family retaining ownership. A rejuvenated Gretsch company, with Fender’s support and endorsement from rockabilly guitarist Brian Setzer has, once again, become successful. Well‑known model Gretsch names from their history include the White Falcon, Country Gentleman, Tennessean, Viking, Anniversary, Jet and Corvette, often carrying obscure and confusing numerical model numbers.

Friedrich Gretsch
Gretsch Logo

 

Rickenbacker – Rickenbacker’s history is shorter than some of its competitors and has been widely covered in other parts of the guitar’s story. Rickenbacker only emerged in the early 1930s first as Ro‑Pat‑In then as Electro before formally adopting the Rickenbacker name. Rickenbacker was crucial in the early development of the electric guitar. However, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Rickenbacker’s fortunes found a new lease of life and took a major upturn that would lead to the current day. In 1953, Adolph Rickenbacker sold his company to music industry businessman F.C. Hall (1909‑1999), founder and CEO of media company Radio-Tel. Under Hall’s ambitious leadership, the company introduced a number of innovative guitar models, which proved popular with many bands during the nascent rock ‘n’ roll era. In an inspired move, Halll hired illustrious guitar maker Roger Rossmeisl (1927-1979) in 1954. Rossmeisl was responsible for the design of Rickenbacker guitars including a number of iconic instruments released in the late 1950s, including the ‘Capri’ 300 series guitars from 1958 and the equally influential 4000 series basses from 1957. Both of these designs, along with a number of others, are still in production today. Rickenbacker’s artist association with, particularly, The Beatles and The Byrds in the 1960s, cemented the brand’s rightful place in guitar history.

Adolph Rickenbacker
Rickenbacker Logo

 

Danelectro – While it may not be an obvious choice for coverage, it is worth mentioning Danelectro. The company was founded in 1947 by Lithuanian immigrant Nathan ‘Nat’ Daniel (1912-1994) and based in New Jersey. The company started out by making guitars, basses and baritones for other companies including Silvertone models for the Sears & Roebuck department stores and mail order, and Airline models for Montgomery Ward. The strategy enabled Danelectro to start making guitars using its own name by 1954. Daniel innovated by using unorthodox materials and construction techniques, at least hitherto unusual in the guitar building industry. The resulting instruments have a distinctive look and sound that also enabled the company to produce no-frills instruments at competitive prices for the mass market. In a clever move under the Silvertone brand, they produced guitars with a valve amp built into the guitar case, so customers could buy everything they needed in one convenient, portable package. The brand is important historically because it enabled many young aspiring musicians to buy instruments at low cost. The unique approach also attracted many professional players to use Danelectro instruments, including guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page and Beck. Like many other American companies, including Fender and Gibson, Danelectro struggled in the 1960s and was sold to industry giant MCA in 1966, only for the factory to be closed down in 1969. The brand was resurrected and started making guitars again in 2006.

Nathan Daniel
Danelectro Logo

 

PRS – Compared to some of the well established brands that have been around much longer, PRS Guitars is really the new‑kid‑on‑the‑block, founded by American luthier Paul Reed Smith in Annapolis, Maryland in 1984. In a relatively short period of time, PRS has gained an enviable reputation for high quality instruments and amps, cleverly finding a niche in the market that is different from their competitors. Taking design influences from Fender and Gibson amongst others and adding something new and fresh of their own, PRS managed to build substantial market share rapidly from seemingly nowhere.  Having guitarist Carlos Santana on board from the start and bringing in ex‑Gibson president Ted McCarty as Smith’s mentor didn’t harm the company’s credibility either. PRS introduced stunning instruments, starting with the Standard and Custom, recognised for their immaculate craftsmanship. Many PRS instruments have distinctive features including exquisite highly figured tone woods, superbly engineered hardware and distinctive unique ‘bird’ fingerboard inlays. The company grew swiftly; relocating to a major new American factory in 1996 and from 2003 PRS established a range of more affordable SE (standing for ‘Student Edition’) models manufactured in Korea. PRS’s success demonstrates that the industry’s barriers to entry are not insurmountable and with the right strategy, it is still possible to enter the market and to grow market share despite well‑established competition, and without being straightjacketed by historical constraints.

 

Paul Reed Smith
PRS Guitars Logo

 

 

Other Guitar Brands From Around the World

Guitar design, production and sales are not restricted to just a few large American companies. In America alone, there are many thousands of guitar manufacturers past and present. Many names will be familiar, such as Ernie Ball/Music Man, Peavey, Guild, Jackson, Dean, BC Rich, Ovation, Supro, National, Kay, Harmony, etc., through to innumerable custom and boutique luthiers. Some of these manufacture instruments in the U.S. while others are American companies that source part or all of their guitars from the Far East. A quick look around the globe highlights many other fertile guitar making territories…

 

Europe – Particularly following World War II when embargoes and tight trade restrictions limited exports of guitars from America, a combination of high demand for guitars and low supply provided an opportunity for some enterprising European companies to fill the gap. Many of these guitars followed the influence of American designs in the knowledge that young people in Europe aspired to emulate their American counterparts. Britain and continental Europe have produced many guitar brands over a long period of time including from illustrious companies such as Burns, Duesenberg, Eko, Framus, Hagstrom, Höfner, Hohner, Patrick James Eggle, Shergold, Gordon Smith, James Trussart, Vigier, Vox, Warwick, Watkins, Zemaitis, etc.

 

Far East – The Far East isn’t only responsible for producing low cost guitars for American and European guitar brands. During the 1970s, Japanese firms were producing affordable, high quality copies of American guitars, taking advantage of high labour prices and poor quality control in the U.S. However, there has also been a notable history of guitar manufacture in its own right, including some very quirky and idiosyncratic models. Many of the big names from Japan include, Aria, ESP/LTD, Ibanez, Italia, Teisco Tokai, Yamaha, etc.

 

Eastern Bloc – While not widely recognised as a guitar‑making region, largely because of its nationalistic political regime and economic protectionism, the Eastern Bloc countries have produced a diverse range of instruments over an extended period of time. There is a vast array of models bearing many unfamiliar names such as, Aelita, Formanta, Jolana, Migma, Tokina, etc.

 

As you might expect, the fascination with the world’s favourite instrument is genuinely global and they have been made in every corner of the world, including Australia, Canada, South America and, to a lesser extent, the middle east (where the guitar’s story began after all!) and Africa.

 

Other Factors

Although this section focuses on electric guitar production, it is worth remembering that acoustic guitar manufacturing is also thriving in the 21st Century with famous specialist brands such as Martin (based in Pennsylvania since 1833) and Taylor (based in California since 1974) at the forefront of innovation and technological development. Of the major American electric guitar makers, it is only really Gibson that also has a reputable range of professional acoustic instruments. Elsewhere, Yamaha has a strong range of Far Eastern acoustic guitars. There are numerous other manufacturers to be found producing fine acoustic guitars at all price points in the market.

 

The 21st Century landscape of guitar production is one of global diversity and differentiation. Modern guitars may have been hugely influenced, if not defined, by a small number of American companies but it is by no means a monopolistic industry; quite the opposite in reality. The long‑term viability of guitar making is inextricably linked to the music industry and what happens will rely heavily on musical trends and influences.

 

There have been many challenges to the dominance of the electric guitar, notably during the 1980s and 1990s with proliferation of synthesizers and in the 2000s as home production of electronic music became affordable and accessible. However, the popularity of the guitar seems (relatively) assured, despite many cynical commentators regularly proclaiming ‘the death of guitar music’. Digital technology is bringing a new challenge to guitar makers, so it will be up to countless luthiers around the world to rise to the challenge, seek new opportunities, adapt the guitar and make it truly a universal instrument and secure its future success for generations to come.

 

End of Part VI

Over these last six instalments, I have covered the guitar’s history from its vestigial beginnings in the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ to the birth and proliferation of the electric guitar. There is just a little of the long and winding path left to travel and I hope you’ll join me for the remainder of the story. The next article has yet to be written, due to personal circumstances. While I hope to publish it next month, it is by no means certain. Fingers crossed. Until next time…

 

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Contrary to popular opinion, great minds most definitely do not think alike. Similarly, great musicians do not play or sound alike.”

 

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

 

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