Ian Port Releases The Birth Of Loud


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Before rock 'n' roll, the guitar was a little noticed instrument, barely loud enough for audiences to hear. Even early amplifiers that were invented to fix the problem dulled the senses with scratchy feedback. Enter the tinkerers, obsessives, and technical wizards. If Bill Gates and Steve Jobs birthed the age of the personal computer, then Leo Fender and Les Paul helped usher in the age of rock 'n' roll. In Ian S. Port's rollicking The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll(Scribner, on-sale: January 15, 2019; $28.00/hardcover), Port recounts the quintessentially American entrepreneurial story of how Fender, a southern California radio repairman, and Paul, one of America's most popular guitarists and relentless innovators, transformed what was once a background instrument into the power tool that altered the course of popular music. At the close of World War II, southern California was fertile ground for the coming change. Hollywood's Les Paul was seeing his reputation grow, and his open garage recording sessions attracted players and inventors like Fender who were curious about how Paul obtained his edge. Tracking across decades these two fathers of the electric rock sound, The Birth of Loud captures Paul as one of the guitar's first ambassadors, popularizing the instrument, and Fender as its first mass producer, driven to make guitars widely and inexpensively available to the masses. Readers meet a young California guitarist named Dick Dale who fried some 40-50 amplifiers in his quest to perfect his Fender Stratocaster's machine gun-like "surf guitar" sound. In an ironic twist, Dale would cause deafness in one of Leo Fender's ears in a freak accident at Fender's laboratory. And Fender was all about the bass, too. Readers follow legendary L.A. session bass player Carol Kaye who, with Fender's new Precision Bass on her lap, introduced the driving bass lines that sent Beach Boys classics and many other 1960s and 1970s hits to the top of the charts. Most remarkably, The Birth of Loud dazzlingly spotlights the way that rock gods such as Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix took up Fender and Paul's successive innovations and introduced a sound that was, by turns, hallucinatory, ecstatic, and unforgettable. By the time Fender and Paul finished putting their stamp on American music, the world could hear that this loud new form of expression was here to stay. The Birth of Loud captures the fascinating confluence of 20TH century American entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, performance, and music, produced by Leo Fender's and Les Paul's competitive drive to create the perfect electric guitar. Their creations would transform culture. Their story is The Birth of Loud.

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