Les Paul in 1953

POSTED: August 2, 2019

Sometimes historical details get forgotten and glossed over and, as a result, the shape of historical developments becomes obscured.

I understand how this happens, and I understand that my understanding of the development of, say, the breakfast cereal industry probably contains a lot less detail and subtlety than it should. However, in some areas, I think that what I think approximates to “the truth” and does contain all the requisite subtleties.

Yesterday, while reading an online discussion group, I found two links that demonstrated that my thinking might in fact consist of nothing more than inaccuracies.

When do you think rock music began? But, you ask, what do we mean by “rock music”? Let’s narrow it down.

When do you think that the electric guitar sound and hard rhythm that mark two of the crucial differences between big band music (the music we associate with Bing Crosby, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller) and rock music (the stuff that arguably starts with Bill Haley or Ike Turner, and continues through Link Wray, Dick Dale, Jimi Hendrix, and on) first began?

I think I would have said it started somewhere in the second half of the nineteen fifties and first became noticeable about 1958.

This clip demonstrates that Les Paul had already got that sound invented, and up and running commercially, by 1953. It also shows the extent to which he had invented or refined the idea of multitrack recording and overdubbing.

Les Paul and Mary Ford had had hit records for three years before Alistair Cooke interviewed them on his Omnibus television show.

By the time Eddie Cochran recorded Milk Cow Blues and Link Wray recorded Rumble in the late nineteen fifties, they trod well-travelled paths; and those paths all seem to lead right back to Les Paul.