50 guitars that changed the world

Les Paul's 'number one' prototype Les Paul
(Image credit: Justin Borucki)

There’s a good story told about Chet Atkins. One day, someone who had stopped to listen to him play said, “Man, that guitar sure sounds good!” According to the tale, Chet put the guitar down on a chair then said to its admirer: “How good does it sound now?” 

His point, of course, is that guitars are just lumps of metal and wood until a player brings them to life. As enjoyable as it is to pore over the technical evolution of famous guitar models – and we do plenty of that – instruments can’t be truly historic until they are used to make influential music. Pioneering musicians, in their turn, set the agenda for the next generation of instrument design – and so the wheel of history turns. 

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