The Folk Revival

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In the sixties, there was a veritable guitar renaissance, sparked by two different movements.One was the so-called “folk revival,” in which young people with guitars performed topicalsongs of the day. Bob Dylan was the best known and probably the greatest of these singer/guitarists, and his songs influenced hundreds of others.

The second big influence was the arrival of the Beatles in America, and the British Invasion.When the Beatles first appeared, everyone copied their hair styles, clothing (down to theirboots), and—naturally—musical instruments. The Rickenbacker guitar, favored by JohnLennon, and the Hofner bass, played by Paul McCartney, were soon the most in-demandinstruments in music stores across America. Instrument makers rushed to give the Beatlesfree instruments so that they could benefit from the publicity.

The British Invasion also spawned guitar gods like Eric Clapton,influenced by American blues players. A veritable war broke outamong partisans of the Fender Stratocaster versus the equallypopular Gibson Les Paul—some defended one as the “holy grail”of guitar sound, while others went for the other. Added “effects”—from wah-wah to fuzztone—were an additional arsenal in theguitar’s acoustic army. One of the first guitarists to use these effectsin a truly musical way was Jimi Hendrix, whose flamboyant stagepresence only added to his popularity.

Today the guitar is firmly ensconced as one of the most popular instruments among amateurmusicians. Knock on somebody’s front door, and you’ll probably find a guitar in the house.It’s easy to play, portable, and adaptable to just about any style of music.