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.”
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.