The electric guitar, developed for popular music in the United States in the 1930s, usually has a solid, nonresonant body. The sound of its strings is both amplified and manipulated electronically by the performer. American musician and inventor Les Paul developed prototypes for the solidbody electric guitar and popularized the instrument beginning in the 1940s.
Also in the early 1940s, a California inventor, Leo Fender, made some custom guitars and amplifiers in his radio shop. In 1948 he developed the legendary Telecaster (originally named the Broadcaster). The Tele, as it became affectionately called, was the first solidbody electric Spanish-style guitar to go into commercial production.
The electric guitar initially met with skepticism from traditionalists, but country and blues players and jazz instrumentalists soon took to the variety of new tones and sounds that the electric guitar could produce, exploring innovative ways to alter, bend and sustain notes. The instrument's volume and tones proved particularly appealing to the enthusiasts of rock and roll in the 1950s.
Although many people thought rock and roll would be a passing fad, by the 1960s it was clear this music was firmly rooted in American culture. Electric guitarists had become the superstars of rock. Live performances in large halls and open-air concerts increased the demand for greater volume and showmanship. Rock guitarists began to experiment, and new sounds and textures, like distortion and feedback, became part of the guitarist's language. Jimi Hendrix was rock's great master of manipulated sound.
There are two basic types of electric guitars: solidbody and hollowbody. Today, the electric guitar still features in all types of music Ð rock, blues, jazz and big bands Ð and is played by men and women, young and old, throughout the world. Some well-known electric guitarists include Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Chrissie Hynde and Liz Phair.