The first song to use the electric guitar

electric guitar

For nearly a century, the electric guitar has been a part of popular culture. After debuting as a new instrument in the early 1930s, pioneers such as Leo Fender and Les Paul propelled the six-string into the future. And its evolution gradually became the weapon of choice for history’s most influential musicians. Since its inception, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Nirvana have used it to change the world. Despite technological advances in other areas of music, the electric guitar is still as popular as ever.

The list of classic songs and albums that feature the guitar is nearly endless, but it had to begin somewhere. Because the history of the guitar is somewhat murky. Lost records and the passage of time may have hampered determining the first song to use the electric guitar. Today’s organized digital systems differ vastly from the record-keeping methods of the 1930s. Fortunately for fans, it hasn’t.

Some, albeit misguided, historians claim that Eddie Durham’s performance on The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra’s ‘Hittin the Bottle‘, was recorded on September 30th, 1935. It was the first song in history to use an electric guitar.

When Durham recorded his performance, he was playing a resonator guitar, which was first introduced by Los Angeles’ National String Instrument Corporation in 1927. Resonators are louder than traditional wooden models because they use metal cones. They are not electric guitars. An electrified six-string guitar requires both a magnetic pickup and an amplifier to function.

As a result, Durham did play the first song to feature an electric guitar. This monumental honor goes to George Barnes, a contemporary of his. According to the Musician Union, Barnes performed on more recordings than any other guitarist in history. It included 100 blues records in the 1930s alone.

Barnes continued to have a successful session career for the next two decades. It appeared on more than 200 albums, including those by crooning icon Frank Sinatra, jazz heavyweight Louis Armstrong, and country greats Homer & Jethro. According to Bob Dylan recorded ‘Mixed-Up Confusion’ in 1962, but he never released it. Bob Dylan recorded ‘Mixed-Up Confusion‘ in 1962, but it was never released.

Barnes achieved notable recognition through his electric guitar performance on Big Bill Broonzy’s 1938 hit ‘It’s a Low-Down Dirty Shame.‘ It is the first known song in history to include a real electric guitar. A jazzy number, it demonstrates why Barnes was such a sought-after figure in the industry. It indicates the array of rip-roaring flourishes that would follow on the instrument in the coming years. The Second World War had not yet begun, demonstrating how forward-thinking it was.

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