Parnassus Books is thrilled to welcome Ian S. Port, author of The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll. Presented with WXNA-FM, with guitar demonstration featuring Fanny's House of Music.
Before the rock revolution, the guitar was a little noticed instrument, barely loud enough for dancing crowds to actually hear, and even early amplifiers that were invented to fix the problem dulled the senses with scratchy feedback. Enter the tinkerers, obsessives, and technical wizards. If Bill Gates and Steve Jobs birthed the age of the personal computer, then Leo Fender and Les Paul birthed the age of rock ‘n’ roll. In The Birth of Loud, Ian Port tells the compelling, quintessentially American story of how Fender, a southern California radio repairman, and Paul, one of America’s most popular guitarists and a relentless technical innovator, transformed a background instrument into the power tool of the counterculture.
At the close of World War II, southern California was a fertile ground for the coming change. Les Paul’s star as a performer and sonic pioneer was on the rise, and his open recording sessions attracted inventors like Fender who were curious to see how Paul obtained his edge. Tracking these two fathers of the electric rock sound across decades, The Birth of Loud brings the experiments of the era thrillingly to life. Most remarkably, it spotlights, in dazzling scenes of virtuosity unleashed, the way that rock gods such as Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix took up Fender and Paul’s successive innovations and introduced to the world a sound that was, by turns, hallucinatory, ecstatic, and unforgettable. By the time Fender and Paul finished putting their stamp on American music, the world could hear that this loud new form of expression was here to stay.
Ian S. Port is an award-winning writer and music critic whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The Threepenny Review, and The Believer, among others. He is also the former music editor of the San Francisco Weekly. He lives in New York with his wife, Lindsay. The Birth of Loud is his first book.