Who Recorded the Electric Guitar First?

Who Recorded the Electric Guitar First?

Who introduced the Electric Guitar to the world?

The evolution of music is marked by groundbreaking moments that redefine and redirect it in new and unknown directions. The invention of the electric guitar was a monumental example of one of the most important of these moments. It truly revolutionized music and opened the door to the many genres that are popular today. But where did it all start? In this post, you will learn about the earliest players and recordings of the electric guitar!

Victor 78 RPM Record - Noi Lane's Hawaiian Orchestra

Hawaiian music introduced the resonator guitar to the world through Sol Hoopii's use of a National Tricone prototype in his first sessions for Columbia in 1926. Remarkably, it also brought the first recordings of an electric guitar to the world's ears through these amazing sides!

On February 22, 1932, history was made in Victor's Studio B in New York City, both in the Hawaiian music world and in the electric guitar world. These Noi Lane (Noelani "Joseph" Lopez) Hawaiian Orchestra sides from Victor issue V-92 (International series) are the first two songs ever recorded for commercial distribution that feature an electrified guitar.

Dreamy Hawaiian Eyes Sheet Music

It's safe to assume that an early pre-Rickenbacker "Ro-Pat-In" Frying Pan electric steel guitar was used for the recording, as there weren't any other choices for instruments like this in the very early 30s.

The First Spanish Guitar Solo

The standard electric guitar took a surprisingly long time to really catch on after it had already swept through the steel guitar world! But on September 23, 1935, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys stepped into the recording studio in Dallas, TX, and everything changed. 

Leon McAuliffe
At Bob Wills' encouraging "Take it away, Mr. Leon. Play that guitar now!" 18-year-old bandmember Leon McAuliffe (who later went on to become a legendary steel guitarist) recorded the earliest standard, or "Spanish," guitar solo utilizing an early amplifier and a Volu-Tone pickup on one of his acoustic guitars. Soon after, the earliest electrified guitars began to gain growing popularity!
Bob Wills 78 RPM Record Vocallion 03096
The ground-breaking session introduced the sound of the electrified Spanish guitar on their track "Get with It" (take Dal 127-1), which was released on Vocalion 03096 in December of 1935.
Bob Wills "Get With It" 78 RPM Record

Don't forget George Barnes' contribution!

It's also worth mentioning George Barnes’ when telling the story of the electric guitar. Although there is some confusion about his earlier recording sessions, which actually featured a national resonator guitar, he was an early pioneer of recording the electric guitar.  

George Barnes - Jazz guitarist

By 1938, the electric guitar was being manufactured by larger guitar makers and used regularly for larger live performances across the world. Barnes' performance on Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘It’s a Low-Down Dirty Shame‘  in 1938 is significant because it’s the earliest recording to feature a production electric guitar, as opposed to an acoustic with a pickup attached after the fact. 

Big Bill Broonzy - "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" Link

In Conclusion 

The importance of the electric guitar's influence on music cannot be understated. From its humble beginnings in the mid-30s, it went from being a mere novelty to a lasting iconic force in many genres that are more popular today than ever. Luckily, these extremely early examples of its performances still live on today and continue to influence the development of music as it moves forward!
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