(WICHITA, Kan.) — "The electric guitar is an abomination," the classical guitar master Andres Segovia once said. But 80 years after its creation, the amplified instrument can be found on music stages across the world.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is celebrating the 80th birthday of the electric guitar by showcasing about 50 guitars, including the first electric guitar that was ever made.
In 1932 an orchestra leader in Los Angles named Gage Brewer received the first electric guitar. It was created by a group of men from the Ro-Pat-In Corporation, later called the Rickenbacher International Corporation, who discovered the potential for amplifying the guitar with electricity.
"The 1920's is when it all started to come together because a lot of people became interested in amplifying instruments electronically," says Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum Director Eric Cale.
Portable amplifiers and radios that could be plugged into an electric outlet were being developed and there was a growing desire to make the guitar more audible in larger concert halls and to be heard over an orchestra, according to Cale.
Brewer had access to the first electric guitar because he was one of the few guitar-playing orchestra leaders in Los Angles. He soon made the decision to bring the new instrument to Wichita because he was from the Midwest. He and his band developed music and performed with the electric guitar on the radio and across the country. The move inspired many Wichitans to become leaders in developing the amplified instrument.
The collection at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum shows the history of the electric guitar from the earliest designs to the familiar instruments that are played today.
"A collection of this scope and this size, you could not see anywhere else except at the Experience Music Project in Seattle," said Cale. The Experience Music Project is a nationally known music museum that was created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
You can learn more about the history and see the electric guitars on display at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum now until November 11th.