There has been a long love affair with the guitar, ever since its evolution from the lute of the Middle Ages. Classical guitar music from maestros, such as Andres Segovia and Julian Bream, has enthralled audiences. Jazz guitar too has many fans, as exemplified by Herb Ellis and Charlie Christian. It is rock and pop music that has produced the most feted heroes however.
The late 1950s introduced rock and roll to the world. Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry gave electric guitar music to the world and every teenager played air guitar in their bedrooms. Elvis burst onto the scene, ably assisted by his guitarist, Scotty Moore. As the 1960s dawned, boys formed groups and practiced in their garages and back yards.
One of the groups to make the big time were The Beatles, who learned to play their instruments by listening to imported American records and copying them. It's a lot easier today with sheet music, guitar tabs and downloads available for the backlog of songs. Computer software and tutorials are there to help budding guitarists learn their chords. Guitar music has always been the backbone of rock music, although the 1980s was a decade in tune to the electronic sound of the keyboard and synthesizer.
Having an individual style ensures rock icon status, making guitar music instantly recognizable as the work of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Brian May of Queen or Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Their personal style is as unique as a fingerprint and their technique has been honed to perfection. Some guitarists are flamboyant on stage, such as Hendrix who played with his teeth sometimes and set his guitar on fire. Pete Townsend of The Who was prone to smashing his guitars against the amplifier.
Certain guitarists have defined a genre and made it their own. Dick Dale made surf music; beloved of drive in surfing movies, known around the world and Ry Cooder will be forever associated with bottle neck guitar. In the 1970s, punk music opened up opportunities and more credence was given to energy and passion than ability. Guitar music, for a while, was reduced to three chords as a counter movement to ever more elaborate, progressive rock.
Today, guitar based bands dominate as ever on both sides of the Atlantic and across Europe. Guitar music will never go away, no matter how many computerized recording gadgets are invented. Young bloods will continue to practice Stairway to Heaven in their bedrooms, driving their parents insane.