In 1950 a guy named Leo Fender made the last folk instrument. It may not be the last one that will ever be made, but it certainly is the last one that has been made. He took a solid piece of wood and fastened a pickup to it, which is simply a magnet wound with steel coil that converts the guitar strings vibrations into an electronic signal. The signal runs through an amp and loudspeaker which converts it into sound. Loud sound. Loud enough to hear over the din in a honky tonk or bar or some other sinful nightspot. He called it the Fender Esquire. Leo wasn’t the first guy to make an electric guitar. Les Paul also did it and many of you are saying did it better. Probably true, but Paul was a musician first and he built an musical instrument. It’s a pretty thing, curvy with a glossy finish and rich sound. The Fender guitars were cheap, painted workhorses. Jonathan Richman said it best when he sang it sounds like a tin can falling on a deadend street. This was a thing for the masses. This is exactly what’s needed for any pseudo intellectual guy trying to prove that folk music can, on rare occasion, be electrified. This is the sound of a teenage summertime.
There’s another reason why I’m talking about Fender Guitars today (June 16th, 2009). Earlier this week on June 14th Bob Bogle died after a long fight against cancer. Bob was a founding member of the great surf-twang instrumental group the Ventures. He moved to Seattle around 1957-58 met Don Wilson, bought a Fender Stratocaster and took 6 lessons. They were listening to an old Chet Atkins tune called Walk, Don’t Run when Bob began to work it up on the guitar. It would become a # 2 national hit, held out of the # 1 spot by The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. It would create though an enduring sound of sand, surf, drag races, pipelines. Bob we’ll miss you, and thank you and wish you and your family peace and I hope you found your endless summer.