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History of Technology of Music

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This file updated 28 May 2019

bluepin1.gif - 947 Bytes1930-1933: Rise of the radio: As one writer has it, coinciding with a world-wide economic crisis.

In review: Gunther Schuler, The Swing Era, The Development of Jazz 1930-1945. 1989.


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fire.gif - 12205 Bytes1931: George Beauchamp and engineer Adolph Rickenbacker create their first electric guitar. But Beauchamp doesn't get a patent until 1937, and by then several other companies are making their own electric guitars. (Chronology of electric guitar)
Note: 1790s: British naval officer Capt George Vancouver RN takes cattle from California to Hawaii since he thinks the Spanish black cattle would do well there. By way of links within a cattle industry, this is the real seed of the origin of the use of the guitar on Hawaii, later the Hawaiian guitar, and later, the electrified guitar. (See associated HoTM files on this topic -Ed)

fire.gif - 12205 Bytes1931++: On the chronology of the electric guitar. Paul H. Tutmarc (born 29 May, 1896) according to a manuscript by his son Bud, in the later part of 1930 or early 1931, then living in Seattle, meets Art Stimpson from Spokane, Washington. Stimpson is an "electrical enthusiast" always experimenting. He had examined telephones, wondering how the vocal vibrations against the enclosed diaphragm were picked up by the magnet coil behind the diaphragm and carried by the wires to another telephone. Bud Tutmarc also made similar examinations. Tutmarc noted that tapping on the telephone was also picked up by the magnetic field created behind the diaphragm, he wondered if he could build his own "magnetic pickup". Guitars in ensembles needed extra volume, and though the Dobro guitars with their aluminum dishes fitted inside did help, it wasn't enough. Tutmarc wondered if with magnifying sound, electrically, how could he magnify the sound of his steel guitar? He started with a rather large, horse-shoe shaped magnet, wound some coils with the smallest wire he could obtain, either No. 38 or No. 40. His first magnetic pickup was about the size of a grapefruit. Tutmarc made contact with another friend, Bob Wisner, a Seattle radio repairman working at Buckley Radio in Seattle (on Saturdays only it seems). Wisner helped Tutmarc to re-wire a radio to get some amplification of his magnetic pickup. Once this was ready, Tutmarc worked on an old round-hole, flat-top guitar and discovered the pickup would pick up the sound from a plucked string and carry it through to the "adapted" radio. So, this large pickup was eventually installed INSIDE the guitar with a polepiece sticking up through a slot he cut in the top of the guitar near the bridge, and the electric guitar was on its way. Being also a woodworker, Tutmarc decided to make a solid body for his electric guitar idea and his first one was octagon-shaped at the bridge end, containing the pickup, and then a long, slender square cornered neck out to the patent heads. Before Tutmarc made this, he electrified every instrument he could get his hands on, such as zithers, pianos and Spanish guitars. He would break up two guitars to get the necks and fretboards and glue them on to a flat-top guitar, which might have three necks with three different tunings. Tutmarc made a solid-body (black walnut) guitar with FIVE sets of strings, this being about 24 inches wide with the neck about 20 inches wide. He had a full, six-string major chord, a six-string seventh chord, a six-string diminished chord, a six-string augmented chord and a six-string ninth chord. This was once demonstrated as an "out of this world" guitar at a Sears-Roebuck store in South Seattle.
Students became interested, and Tutmarc began to wonder about manufacture and sales potentials, so he asked the US Patent Office for information they might have regarding any type of electric, stringed instruments. At the time, a complete search of this kind cost $300. No types, whatsoever, had been presented to the US Patent Office, so Tutmarc understood he was the FIRST. However, Bell and Co. had long covered a patent on an electric pickup.
After building a few guitars out of solid, black walnut, doing the assembly and electrical work himself for his new company, Audiovox Manufacturing Company, Tutmarc employed Emerald Baunsgard as a woodworker and inlay worker. Baunsgard was excellent at black walnut guitars, inlay work, inlaid frets, inlaid pearl position markings and made beautiful, hand-rubbed finishes. The guitars were quickly accepted on the market. Tutmarc also made solid-body Spanish guitars but they were not well received.
In time, with the string bass instrument being large and cumbersome to travel with, Tutmarc wondered about an electric bass instrument, to 1933. His first one he handcarved from solid, soft white pine, the size and shape of a cello. To this instrument he fastened one of his "friction tape" pickups and so in 1933 the first electric bass was created. This was in 1933. A photograph exists of Tutmarc showing this bass to a girl was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.
The idea of the electric bass became important to Tutmarc, who remained dissatisfied with his solid-body "cello size" bass, so using black walnut he made an instrument 42 inches long, a solid-body bass, resembling his usual guitars, and so the electric bass was launched, a new instrument small and light-weight, but capable of producing more sound than several upright, acoustic basses could. Tutmarc's electric guitars, single-necked steel guitars, and double-necked steel guitars AND his new electric bass were advertised in a Seattle school's 1937 Yearbook. Tutmarc's son Bud records that he personally played an electric bass in John Marshall Junior High School, Seattle, in 1937 and 1938.
Tutmarc Senior also began to manufacture amplifiers as designed by the same Bob Wisner who had earlier helped him with the radio-turned-amplifier.
(As to the influence of the Hawaiian guitar on developments, Tutmarc Senior was a great fan of Sol Hoopii, regarded as "the greatest Hawaiian steel guitarist of all time". Tutmarc Senior would get every record Sol would make and "practically wear it out playing it over and over again and trying to learn each song as Sol would play it. It was the joy of the Tutmarc family in 1942 to meet Sol Hoopii personally, and they saw much of each other for the next 11 years until Sol's death in Seattle in 1953.) (Chronology of the electric guitar)

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1932: US singer Della Reese is born in 1932.

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Country music singer Willie Nelson is born in 1933 and raised in Abbott, Texas. He will record more than 100 albums.


In review: David Stowe, Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America. 1993.


In review: Charles K. Wolfe, The Grand Ole Opry: The Early Years, 1925-1935. 1973. (US country music history)

fire.gif - 12205 Bytes8 January 1935: Birth of later "king of rock 'n' roll", Elvis Presley, in East Tupelo, Mississippi. Died 16 August 1977. He was the son of Gladys (a sewing-machine operator) and Vernon Presley (a truck driver). In 1948 the family moved to Memphis, where Elvis enjoyed taking in blues from musicians such as Furry Lewis and B. B. King. In time (1953-1954) he met Sam Phillips of Sun Records, who had been looking for what he found in Elvis, "a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel". Some earlier experimental recording aside, Presley's debut track became That's All Right, a song by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. (Musicians used included lead guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, both then into country music, playing with Doug Poindexter's Starlite Wranglers. The session date is regarded as 5 July 1954. That's All Right soon became a hit, and Scotty Moore started managing Presley. By 1955, Moore backed off from managing Presley, though he continued playing in the band behind the rising star. Presley's new manager became Memphis DJ Bob Neal, and later, Colonel Tom Parker. By 1956, Presley was a national star, recording for RCA and making his national TV debut on 28 January 1956, on the Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show. And the rest is history, recorded in about 300 books on the singer.

1935: Circa: On origins of electric guitar - Click now to HoTM page: techmus2.htm


1936: 1865-1936: Life of Alexander Glazounov, Russian Composer.


playerSMWHT.gif - 2218 Bytes1937: Appears "The Frying Pan patent sketch" - for the 1937 patent application for the Rickenbacker "frying pan" electric guitar. (Chronology of electric guitar)


1938: C. Seashore, The Psychology of Music. New York, 1938.

The late 1930s: Guitar pioneers Floyd Smith and Charlie Christian bring the electric guitar into the jazz world, and redefine the role of the guitar in the swing orchestra ensemble. (Chronology of electric guitar)


In review: Rex Stewart, Jazz Masters of the Thirties. 1972.

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For useful lists of songs songs songs by year. etc – and very impressive – see compilations at (Error 403 - Forbidden): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Songs_by_year