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  • The Birth of Loud

  • Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll
  • By: Ian S. Port
  • Narrated by: Pete Simonelli
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Music
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (29 ratings)

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Summary

A riveting saga in the history of rock ‘n’ roll: the decades-long rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound - Leo Fender and Les Paul - and their intense competition to convince rock stars like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton to play the instruments they built.

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 outmaneuvered, 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. 

©2019 Ian S. Port (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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Must read/listen for every modern music lover

Surprisingly good book. So much so I have written a review and I cannot remember the last time I did that. I was introduced to people who played a huge part in the development of modern music yet I had no prior knowledge of them ( Carole Kaye, Paul Bigsby etc) The book flows, well researched and I highly recommend it

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Researched, good story

I did not like the writing in the very first few pages--at all--- but the rest of the book is quite good.

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  • E. Protzman
  • 23-01-19

Thoughtful Music History

Hard to imagine any guitar player or guitar fan not thoroughly enjoying this book. There’s lots to learn. But new facts aren’t a main intention of the author. Rather, this is a very well conceived and disciplined reflection of the promise of the title.
The book’s only flaw is when it veers toward historical fiction by imagining interior feelings, weather specifics and facial expressions these men may well have experienced but they play out as subjective decorative guesses.
However it is easy to recommend this book and know that if the title intrigues you you’ll get the promised story and it is a delightful contribution to 20th-century music history.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Rare Reviewer
  • 18-02-19

Rock My Soul

Terrific story well presented. I’m 76 and have grown up and old with the instruments and the music. My son had a Stratocaster and I had a Les Paul. This was a fascinating tale worth reading by anyone who has enjoyed the music through the years.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Delzona
  • 30-11-19

A fantastic story!!

Anyone who has the least little interest in guitar based music really should read (listen) to this book! It’s such an intriguing story of two men and one woman who through their efforts enabled the electric guitar to become the iconic instrument it is today!! The narrator has a pleasant voice and pacing that makes the book a pleasure to listen too. I only wish the story was longer!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony Christiano
  • 25-10-19

Could not stop listening!

This was easily one of the most interesting stories I’ve come across. It inspired me to go back and re-listen to all the old music I’d cast aside so despondently, and allowed me to listen with new ears. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and within hours of the first day I started listening, posted about how great I thought it on fb. History is as important to the past as it is to the future!

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  • Robert Jason
  • 10-07-19

Great story, bland narrator

The stories of Les Paul and Leo Fender are fascinating for guitar enthusiasts, like me. Their rivalry and the innovations it spawned are legendary. And while the book itself is quite good, a little dry here and there, I really didn't care for the narrator at all. His voice is very high school math teachery. It's odd because it kind of fit the material, but in the end, I just didn't enjoy listening to him read.

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  • Ex
  • 08-09-21

not much of a heated rivalry

more of the story of two innovators in the right time than it was a true rivalry where there was any real conflict.

better as a history of how the electric guitar became the dominant instrument for half a century.

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  • Reinhold Baker
  • 02-09-21

Worth listening to again and again.

Ian S. Port sure is a talented writer. I'm in chapter 25 at the moment and have no idea how many times I have already thought about listening to the book again after I finish the first.
Right now he is talking about how Muddy Waters introduced the Telecaster to England for the first time and why he had not played the guitar for 4 years before the tour.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Efrain Viscarolasaga
  • 31-08-21

loved it

great listen. as a recreational guitar played but a lover of the hardware, it's a great history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rik
  • 20-08-21

Leo Fender & Les Paul, admired

Excellent research, 98.6% accurate detail, and turn-the-page storytelling unfortunately hampered by a heavy-handed, melodramatic writing style. If you’re interested in the history of these two men and their contributions to the electric guitar and how it transformed popular American culture, this is a must–read. Just be prepared prepared to slog through some overblown language.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Northwest Student
  • 29-06-21

No waist!

This tree is an incredible book! Not a single word goes to waste in this engaging account of an incredibly interesting history. My father met Les Paul and has been a lifelong music industry guy, so I had a bit of a personal connection going into this book, but I can’t imagine any fan of rock ‘n’ roll not thoroughly enjoying this book.

1 person found this helpful