The Birth Of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, And The Guitar-pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll

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“A hot-rod joy ride through mid-20th-century American history” (The New York Times Book Review), this one-of-a-kind narrative masterfully recreates the 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 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 out-maneuvered, 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, Paul was a brilliant but headstrong 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 1969 it was clear that these new electric instruments had launched music into a radical new age, empowering artists with a vibrancy and volume never before attainable.

In “an excellent dual portrait” (The Wall Street Journal), Ian S. Port tells the full story in The Birth of Loud, offering “spot-on human characterizations, and erotic paeans to the bodies of guitars” (The Atlantic). “The story of these instruments is the story of America in the postwar era: loud, cocky, brash, aggressively new” (The Washington Post).


  • 001 TheBirthOfLoud Open

    Duration: 01min
  • 002 TheBirthOfLoud Prologue

    Duration: 11min
  • 003 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter1

    Duration: 15min
  • 004 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter2

    Duration: 15min
  • 005 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter3

    Duration: 13min
  • 006 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter4

    Duration: 17min
  • 007 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter5

    Duration: 10min
  • 008 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter6

    Duration: 09min
  • 009 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter7

    Duration: 18min
  • 010 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter8

    Duration: 11min
  • 011 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter9

    Duration: 06min
  • 012 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter10

    Duration: 18min
  • 013 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter11

    Duration: 13min
  • 014 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter12

    Duration: 08min
  • 015 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter13

    Duration: 15min
  • 016 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter14

    Duration: 15min
  • 017 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter15

    Duration: 18min
  • 018 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter16

    Duration: 14min
  • 019 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter17

    Duration: 13min
  • 020 TheBirthOfLoud Chapter18

    Duration: 13min
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