Just about every famous rock guitarist has made his name using a Fender guitar. Rock history has been played on a Stratocaster. Uploaded by wallpaperstag.com.
Picture Leo Fender in his California electronics workshop in the late 1930s. Fixing phonographs, radios, and public address systems. Oh…and instrument amplifiers. He had ideas, did Leo. Ideas about perfecting the electric guitar that would lead him to form the Fender Electric Instrument Company in 1946. He tinkered, and fiddled, and created a masterpiece. The first mass-produced, solid body, Spanish-style guitar: The Telecaster.
Jimi Hendrix playing a Stratocaster at Woodstock. Uploaded by jasobrecht.com.
Think Jeff Beck, Steve Cropper, and George Harrison. Pete Townshend smashed a slew of them.
The next step was the Stratocaster. Which is only good enough for the likes of Eric Clapton, Dick Dale, and some guy named Hendrix.
There are other great guitars. Even other great American guitars. But almost everyone who picks up a guitar wants to own at least one Fender. It’s truly a great guitar. A Great American Thing.
Everyone knows how spectacular Jimi Hendrix was. But Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass helped make the album memorable, as did producer Chas Chandler. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.
You know that feeling you get when you hear unknown music and you think, Wow. This changes everything. That’s the reaction I had upon hearing Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Its release came only a couple of months after Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, and the comfortable walls of singles-oriented rock had effectively been blown away.
Uploaded by listal.com.
Are You Experienced contains several of Jimi Hendrix’s (Great American Things, June 15, 2009) best-known songs, including “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Foxy Lady.” Everyone knows about Hendrix’s talent, of course, but the Experience was a three-person group. Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass both contributed significantly to the album’s unique sound. As did the expert production by Chas Chandler, a British musician who made his name as the bass player for the British blues-rock band The Animals.
Rolling Stone named Are You Experienced the number 15 album in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. And a poll in Guitar World magazine named it the greatest album of the millennium. (Must have been crushing to Greatest Gregorian Chants and The World of Madrigals.)
Virtually every African-American performer of consequence has played the Apollo in the last 75 years. Uploaded by emiliogrosso.com.
In 1914, a new building was constructed on 125th Street in the Harlem section of New York City. Named “Hurtig and Seaman’s New Burlesque Theater,” the establishment opened with one now quite ironic rule — no African-Americans were allowed in the audience.
A couple of decades later, things had changed. Ralph Cooper, Sr. decided to do a live version of his popular radio program “Amateur Night Hour” at what was now known as 125 Street Apollo. The program was a hit, and one of its earliest winners was a special 17-year-old girl named Ella Fitzgerald. (She won $25.) The next year, the theater’s headliners would become musical legends: Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.
Uploaded by cm1.theinsider.com.
By the mid-1970s, the Apollo fell on hard times, and in 1975 was converted into a movie theater. Fortunately, its place in the history of African-American culture wasn’t forgotten, and Inner City Broadcasting purchased and refurbished the building. It reopened in 1985 with a well-deserved place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Apollo is now synonymous with music in Harlem, and no wonder. Just look at some of the many entertainers who’ve performed live at the Apollo: Louis Armstrong • Sarah Vaughn • Moms Mabley • Redd Foxx • James Brown • Sam Cooke • Diana Ross & The Supremes • Patti LaBelle • Dionne Warwick • Aretha Franklin • Michael Jackson • Jimi Hendrix • Gladys Knight & The Pips • Marvin Gaye • Luther Vandross • Stevie Wonder • Ben E. King • Mariah Carey • The Isley Brothers
Amateur night at the Apollo continues, a competition that for years could be seen in syndication on the program Showtime at the Apollo…
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.