Leo Fender and Les Paul rightfully deserve all the credit for the proliferation of the modern electric guitar in the second half of the 20th century. But in fact, two other men should be credited for the actual invention of the electric guitar.
In 1890, a naval officer named George Breed submitted a patent for a new instrument that utilized wire strings and a magnetic pickup. Even though it was small, this guitar design required some complicated circuitry and battery operation that made it very heavy.
George Beauchamp enters the story a few decades later. His new guitar design worked impeccably. It was known as the frying pan Hawaiian guitar.
The need for an electric guitar stemmed from the fact that the instruments used to play jazz and Hawaiian music in the 1920s were totally muting the sound of the acoustic guitar.
The Frying Pan
Beauchamp came to develop his frying pan-like guitar after studying Breed’s ideas with his partner Paul Barth. After building the pickup, they called another craftsman to build the wooden neck and body.
The first electric guitar in history was born, known now as the 1931 frying pan.
The team behind it was able to collaborate with people who helped them mass produce the frying pan under the name Rickenbacker A-22. Even despite the great depression, a new version with an aluminum body was developed.
Soon enough, the frying pan was being played in live jazz shows and recordings. Its momentum stretched into the early 50s up until the iconic Les Paul’s model came to be created and shake up the music world.