BOOKSMITH: Ian S. Port / The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll
January 23, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
The Booksmith hosts former SF Weekly music editor Ian S. Port for the Bay Area launch of his first book, The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll. Please join us!
In the years after World War II, music was evolving from big-band jazz into the primordial elements of rock ‘n’ roll — and these louder styles demanded revolutionary instruments. When Leo Fender’s tiny firm marketed the first solid-body electric guitar, the Esquire, musicians immediately saw its appeal. Not to be out-maneuvered, Gibson, the largest guitar manufacturer, raced to build a competitive product. The company designed an “axe” that would make Fender’s Esquire look cheap and convinced Les Paul — whose endorsement Leo Fender had sought — to put his name on it. Thus was born the guitar world’s most heated rivalry: Gibson versus Fender, Les versus Leo.
While Fender was a quiet, half-blind, self-taught radio repairman from rural Orange County, Paul was a brilliant but egomaniacal pop star and guitarist who spent years toying with new musical technologies. Their contest turned into an arms race as the most inventive musicians of the 1950s and 1960s–including bluesman Muddy Waters, rocker Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton–adopted one maker’s guitar or another. By the time Jimi Hendrix played “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969 on his Fender Stratocaster, it was clear that electric instruments–Fender or Gibson–had launched music into a radical new age, empowering artists with a vibrancy and volume never before attainable.
“More than an essential, colorful, and gripping history of the electric guitar, The Birth of Loud introduces Ian Port, the best new non-fiction writer of the past twenty years.” — Daniel J. Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music
“Ian Port’s found a way to tell the story of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll–for some of us, among the postwar American stories, those that help define who we feel ourselves to be–in beautifully-evoked dual portraits of the men who made the instruments. In doing so, he re-situates this story in its context so neatly it is as if it had never been told before at all.” — Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude
Ian S. Port is an award-winning writer and music critic whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Village Voice, The Threepenny Review, and The Believer, among others. He is also the former music editor of the San Francisco Weekly. A California native and lifelong guitar player, he now lives in New York with his wife, Lindsay. The Birth of Loud is his first book.
This event is free and all ages. RSVP appreciated but not required.