Though it gained immense popularity during the rock ‘n’ roll days of the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar was invented in 1931. The need for the amplified guitar became apparent during the Big Band Era as orchestras increased in size, particularly when guitars had to compete with large brass sections. The first electric guitars used in jazz were hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies with electromagnetic transducers. By 1932, an electrically amplified guitar was commercially available. Early electric guitar manufacturers include Rickenbacker in 1932, Dobro in 1933, National, Epiphone and Gibson in 1935 and many others by 1936.
Although they just released the Gibson 2015 line, Gibson's first production electric guitar, marketed in 1936, was the ES-150 model (“ES” for “Electric Spanish” and “150” reflecting the $150 price of the instrument). The ES-150 guitar featured a single-coil, hexagonally shaped pickup, which was designed by Walt Fuller. It became known as the “Charlie Christian” pickup, named for the great jazz guitarist who was among the first to perform with the ES-150 guitar. The ES-150 achieved some popularity, but suffered from unequal loudness across the six strings.
The electric guitar has since evolved into a stringed musical instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles, and served as a major component in the development of rock ‘n’ roll and many other genres of music.
One of the first solid-body guitars was invented by Les Paul, though Gibson did not present their Les Paul guitar prototypes to the public as they did not believe it would catch on. The first mass-produced solid-body guitar was Fender's Broadcaster (later renamed the Telecaster) first made in 1948, five years after Les Paul made his prototype. The Gibson Les Paul appeared soon after to compete with the Broadcaster. Another notable solid-body design is the Fender Stratocaster, which was introduced in 1954 and became extremely popular among musicians in the 1960s and 1970s for its wide tonal capabilities and comfortable ergonomics.
Some solid-bodied guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul Supreme, the PRS Singlecut or the Fender Telecaster Thinline, among others, are built with hollows in the body. These hollows are designed specifically not to interfere with the critical bridge and string anchor point on the solid body. The motivation for this can be to reduce weight, to achieve a semi-hollow tone, or both.
These guitars work in a similar way to solid-body electric guitars except that, because the hollow body also vibrates, the pickups convert a combination of string and body vibration into an electrical signal. Semi-hollowbodies are noted for being able to provide a sweet, plaintive or funky tone. They are used in many genres, including blues, funk, ’60s pop and indie rock. They generally have cello-style F-shaped sound holes, though these can be blocked off to prevent feedback, as in B.B. King's famous Lucille.
Full hollow-body guitars have large, deep, fully hollow bodies and are often capable of being played at the same volume as an acoustic guitar, and therefore of being used unplugged at intimate gigs. The instrument originated during the jazz age of the 1920s and 1930s, and is still considered the classic jazz guitar, nicknamed the “jazzbox.” Like semi-hollow guitars, they often have f-shaped sound holes. Having humbucker pickups (sometimes just a neck pickup) and usually strung heavily, jazzboxes are noted for their warm, rich tone. A variation (popular in country and rockabilly) with single-coil pickups and sometimes a Bigsby tremolo has a distinctly more twangy, biting, tone than the classic jazzbox.