Posts Tagged ‘Bigsby Vibrato’

Celebrating Paul Bigsby’s Birthday

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

December 12, 2016 marked the 117th birthday of Paul Adelbert Bigsby. When it comes to guitar history, names like Leo Fender, Adolph Rickenbacker, and Les Paul may be more widely known. But their work would not have been possible without the man who designed and built the first solidbody electric guitar.

Paul Bigsby

Paul Bigsby

A skilled motorcycle machinist—and also a music fan—Paul Bigsby got into the world of guitars in the mid-1940s when he designed a replacement vibrato mechanism for C&W artist Merle Travis’s Gibson L-10. Paul’s device set a new standard, and it rapidly became the vibrato of choice for most guitar manufacturers the world over—a reputation it still enjoys today.

In late 1946, Travis approached Bigsby with a concept for a new guitar. Travis’s rough sketch depicted a solidbody electric with all six tuning pegs on one side of the headstock. Bigsby, whose personal philosophy was “I can build anything”, immediately went to work to make the concept a reality. When the guitar was completed, Merle Travis played it on recordings, on radio, and on public performances. The revolutionary design caught the eyes and ears of guitar players and builders alike—and it changed the sound and look of guitars forever.

Paul Bigsby continued to hand-craft custom guitars and vibrato units for the next twenty years. But by 1965 health issues prompted him to sell the Bigsby name and inventory to his friend Ted MCarty. That sale that was effective on January 1, 1966. Paul Bigsby died on June 7, 1968, leaving a legacy of innovation and craftsmanship for which every guitarist today should be grateful.

On May 10, 1999, the Gretsch Guitar Company purchased Bigsby Accessories from Ted McCarty.

To learn more about the life and story of Paul Bigsby, check out of The Story of Paul Bigsby: Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar by Andy Babiuk.  A standard edition as well as a special collector’s edition are available at



Paul Bigsby Remembered

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Paul Bigsby

On December 12, 1899, Paul Adelbert Bigsby was born in Elgin, Illinois.  Paul was many things:  a successful motorcycle racer, expert pattern-maker, machinist, inventor, poet, guitar-maker, and musician. Most widely known for inventing the Bigsby True Vibrato tailpiece, Paul also made the first modern solidbody electric guitar for musician Merle Travis in 1948.  Paul Bigsby was the “man who could build anything”.

Following are a couple of excerpts from The Story of Paul Bigsby:  Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar by Andy Babiuk.  This well-researched book tells the fascinating story of Paul’s life and work and is loaded with hundreds of photos and illustrations.

“The musicians who played their custom-made Bigsby guitars helped shape the core of modern electric-guitar playing.  Merle Travis’s inspiration gave rise to the Chet Atkins style, and both men were the fathers of the Scotty Moore and early rockabilly style.  These players in turn heavily influenced the guitarists of the British Invasion and almost every rock player who has ever picked up a guitar since then.”

“P.A. Bigsby achieved nothing less than changing the world of American music. He was a man of vision and extraordinary imagination who possessed the abilities and sense of craft to turn that vision and imagination into a reality.”

To learn more about Paul Bigsby, get a copy of The Story of Paul Bigsby today and visit

You can also check out the article in the December issue of Premier Guitar magazine featuring Paul Bigsby. In a series of articles entitled “Forgotten Heroes”, light is shed on legendary figures who have contributed great things to the world of music though their stories may not be widely known.  This article details contributions made by Paul Bigsby to the world of modern music by focusing in on some of his most enduring designs.  Included are details of how he modified the pedal steel guitar into the configuration we know today, used an aluminum case for the shielding of pickups, placed all 6 tuning machines on a single side to promote tuning stability, and, of course, designed the now-famous Bigsby True Vibrato.  The article also discusses the sometimes-strained relationship with Leo Fender and the similarities of a few design components found of most modern electric guitars.  A nicely crafted article to whet your appetite for more history of Paul Bigsby and how he contributed to the world of electric guitars. Available at your local newsstand and online HERE.