For such a famous musical instrument, many myths exist about the electric guitar. Even some juke box heroes might not know the fact behind all of these three major electric guitar myths which all relate to the development and popularization of the instrument.

Myth: Les Paul invented the electric guitar.

Fact: Musician George Beauchamp and electrical engineer Adolph Rickenbacker partnered to create the first electric guitar, introduced in 1931.

As early as the 1880s, the need arose for amplification of the sound produced by classical and Hawaiian guitars. The power of the drums and brass sections of 1920s Big Band music drove home the need further. Some musicians had tried attaching carbon button microphones to the guitar’s bridge, but the results weren’t useful in a professional music setting. Beauchamp fashioned a crude version of the electric guitar at his home, using a Hawaiian lap steel guitar. He and Rickenbacker met at Los Angeles guitar manufacturer Dopyera Brothers and decided to work together to create a marketable electric guitar.

The two created an electromagnetic device that clearly picked up the vibrations of the strings, then converted the vibrations to an electrical signal that can be amplified and broadcast through speakers. Today, guitarists know this electromagnetic device as a pickup. Rickenbacker’s company, Ro-Pat-In Corporation, produced the first commercially available electric guitar, the Frying Pan, in 1932. He later renamed the company Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company. Today, you’ll see everyone from Tom Petty to Peter Buck to Mary Chapin Carpenter playing Rickenbacker guitars.

Les Paul created the solid body guitar, called “The Log,” in 1940.Wood hollow body guitars of the time experienced significant feedback and distortion when amplified, but Paul mounted the strings and pickups to a solid guitar body, solving the problem. Today, hundreds of companies continue producing different variations of the “Les Paul” guitar, incrementally improving on Paul’s original genius idea. You can check out www.theboxtigermusic.com if you want to take a look at some modern interpretations of Paul’s 1940 creation.

Six years later, a radio technician, Clarence Leonidas Fender, crafted the first commercially successful single pickup solid-body electric guitar. You probably know of him as Leo Fender. The guitar was the Fender Esquire.

Myth: Rock’n’roll made the electric guitar famous.

Fact: Hawaiian and Western Swing musicians first put the electric guitar to wide use, popularizing its use in live performances and recordings.

Its earliest known use in live performance occured in October 1932 in Wichita, Kansas. Musician Gage Brewer used his new Electric Hawaiian A-25 and standard Electric Spanish, both Beauchamp-Rickenbacker creations, in a series of concerts he played around Halloween. Hawaiian musician Andy Iona played the electric guitar on an album cut in 1933. Western Swing guitarist Bob Dunn, of Milton Brown’s Musical Brownies, used an Hawaiian electric guitar on the band’s 1935 Decca Records release. Guitarist Alvino Rey introduced the electric guitar to orchestras. Rey later developed the pedal steel guitar.

Myth: Guitars are a challenge to tune.

Fact: Digital tuners and robot guitars let you tune a guitar in seconds.

Digital tuners provide visual feedback on a LCD screen that tells the guitarist when the string their strumming reaches tune. In 2007, guitar manufacturer Gibson released the Robot Guitar. No, R2D2 doesn’t shred on it. The guitar pegs have robotic tuning machines attached allowing the guitarist to change to a number of preset tunings in seconds. Gibson continued to develop the model, releasing the Dark Fire next. It provided smaller, quicker tuning machines and featured a piezo bridge that allows acoustic tones, too.