The Birth of Loud

Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll
Narrated by: Pete Simonelli
Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
5 out of 5 stars (254 ratings)

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Publisher's 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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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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!

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person found this helpful

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It's fine

The writing is often amateurish and certain biases, blind spots, and factual errors will be obvious to anyone familiar with the history. There's also really no analysis here, just a synopsis of events pulled from other (mostly secondary) sources. Still, of you really like guitars and it's a reasonably entertaining way to distract yourself from something that can't hold your full attention.

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Guitar Geekery.

If you’re a devotee of the guitar, guitar history, amazing players like Hendrix, Dick Dale, Les Paul, and Clapton, then this is for you. It’s not exactly a comprehensive history of the electric guitar, how could any book cover such a vast subject, but focuses on the events leading up to the explosion of the solid body electric guitar into pop music and it’s integral role in the creation of rock’n roll. Focuses mostly on the 2 men at the center of it allLes Paul and Leo Fender, who’s contributions to music cannot be measured and their story was, to me, fascinating.

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The Best Book I've Read This Year

At 63 and having played guitar and bass for 48 years, I finally learned the story behind the instruments I've been performing on. Fender, Gibson, Music Man and Rickenbacker. The story kept my attention throughout. The narrator was just perfect for this book. Highly recommend you listen to this one.

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Very well done. Great story and history.

Great story and history that is hard to put down. I have owned many Fender and Gibson instruments.

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Interesting story!

I love all things rock and roll and this book put all the building blocks into place. Good narration. I just wish the book had a soundtrack that played examples of the songs when they were cited in the text.

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captivating

a phenomenal book detailing history not only of Les Paul and Leo Fender but of many many other important people who made music into what it is today as well as a history of musics evolution overall... I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to anybody with even the slightest interest in music.

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  • P. S. Bristow
  • 05-01-20

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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  • Kevin
  • 05-01-19

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.