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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Monday, August 10, 2009


photo from Frank Driggs Collection; scanned from
p.91 of The Art of Bob Dylan: Song & Dance Man (UK 1981 & US 1982)

Leo Fender was born 100 years ago today in Anaheim, California. Here's the rather good entry about him from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website:

It’s safe to say there would be no such thing as rock and roll without its distinctive instrumentation. To put it another way, rock and roll as we know it could not exist without Leo Fender, inventor of the first solid-body electric guitar to be mass-produced: the Fender Broadcaster. Fender’s instruments - which also include the Stratocaster, the Precision bass (the first electric bass) and some of the music world’s most coveted amplifiers - revolutionized popular music in general and rock and roll in particular.

Leo Fender was born in 1909 near Anaheim, California, not far from the future site of his guitar factory. He was an electronics enthusiast and radio repairman who got involved with guitar design after guitar-playing customers kept bringing him their external pickups for repair. Before Fender came along, guitarists met their amplification needs by attaching pickups to the surface of their hollow-bodied instruments. While the question of who designed the first successful solid-body guitar is still being debated, Fender was the first to successfully design and market such an instrument with the introduction of the Broadcaster in 1948. Renamed the Telecaster two years later, Fender’s creation remains a mainstay of country and rock musicians who like its clean, biting sound.

His Precision bass, introduced in 1950, brought a new sound and flexibility to the rhythm section of bands, liberating the bassist from cumbersome standup instruments. The bass-driven soul music of Motown and Stax would have been inconceivable without Fender’s handiwork. In 1954, Fender introduced the Stratocaster, a flashier instrument featuring a contoured, double-cutaway body, three (as opposed to two) single-coil pickups and a revolutionary string-bending (tremolo) unit. Fender’s Strat has been the favored model of such virtuosic rock guitarists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Meanwhile for updated Winterlude Weekends info, please go here.


Blogger joe butler said...

Hi Michael
just heard a rumour that "O little town of Bethlehem" will be a savagely ironic commentary on the plight of the Palestinians.

Or did I just walk down Santa Claus lane?

11:51 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Terrific comment, Joe: thank you. So refreshing to have some pertinent spikiness here. Of course at one time Dylan was among those who provided it.

I don't object to there being a Bob Dylan Christmas Album (Phil Spector's and a lot of early Elvis Xmas tracks get played in our house every year* as we decorate the tree) but that doesn't take away from the sharp virtue of your comment. Perhaps one of the many people who put Dylan tracks up on YouTube with added home-assembled visual footage might care to set some newsreel of contemporary Bethlehem to Bob's reportedly forthcoming recording.

*This doesn't stop me wishing that Christmas came around about once every four years instead.

6:32 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

As a sad coincidence I note that Les Paul died today.

9:07 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

McHenry: Thank you - I hadn't seen that. Remarkable that he was still alive as of early August 2009, really.

9:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another flat out sensational performance by Dylan from the Texas show with Charlie Sexton.
Very high quality audio:
Pat Ford

2:50 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Pat, do you really think so? Because what I hear is some decent guitar-work in the break... and a boring amorphous shlomp from everyone except Charlie Sexton (who of course was never allowed to be so up-front as a Dylan band member), and a wretched parody of a vocal performance from Dylan. This may have come over as exciting background music if you were standing there at the time drinking plenty of beer surrounded by people shouting to each other about cheeseburgers (as US crowds are notoriously wont to do instead of paying attention) but to sit and listen to it properly afterwards is oppressively tedious.

While I was at it I listened to part of the same night's 'I Feel A Change Comin' On', which was a gruesome version of a song I like. Then I listened to the first live performance from back in July - and it was so much better: so much more delicate and attentive and felt, just a couple of weeks earlier. Which shows the shoddy, inevitable process at work on baseball-stadium tours: a process of turning straw into compost.

4:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure I love it Michael. Then again I haven't seen Dylan in concert since 1999. I hate going to concerts for the very reasons you describe. Being an anti-social type my prefered mode of listening to music has always been sitting in a chair with my eyes closed.

Pat Ford

7:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aloha from Puna Hawai'i,

Does being an emigrant from Hibbing allow me to shamelessly drop my ode to Les Paul? Hope so. Mahalo.

9:15 am  

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