The First-Ever Electric Guitar Performance Was in Wichita; Events to Commemorate
Wichita was home to the first ever electric guitar performance in 1932.
The Electric Guitar and Wichita
Wichita has been rockin’ since 1932, when it was home to the first ever electric guitar performance. The electric guitar was created in Los Angeles by Adolph Rickenbackerin 1931, but the first known performance on the electric Guitar took place in none other than Wichita Kansas, at the then Shadowland Dance Club.
That’s right! A Wichita musician by the name of Gage Brewer is credited with being the first to give a performance on the electric guitar. Playing on a modified Rickenbaker he received from George Beauchmp, a guitar-making friend from Los Angeles, Brewer's performance that marked the start of the electric guitar’s ascent into the limelight. Now, the instrument is easily one of the most iconic in the music industry.
Brewer is pictured in a feature from the Oct. 2 , 1932 issue of the Wichita Beacon newspaper, where he announced his electric guitars. The photo's caption reads "Gage Brewer, well known radio artist, is shown here with the Electro Steel Guitar, at top, as contrasted with the now out-moded steel guitar. Music from the new Electro Guitar is reproduced thru the loud speaker."
Brewer Remembered in Tallgrass Short Film
The electric guitar’s humble beginning in Wichita was recognized in a 2009 short film at Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Festival. Electric Revolution: Gage Brewer documents the October, 1932 performance that put both Gage Brewer and the electric guitar on the map.
However, Brewer was quickly outshined by his instrument. Having never made a record or published a hit song, Brewer’s name was soon forgotten. The award-winning short serves as a tribute to the late Gage Brewer. The 12 minute short features an interview with Loti Brewer, Gage Brewer’s son, as well as some of Brewer’s earliest compositions.
Learn More with Local Events
Now, 84 years after Brewer brought the electric guitar to Wichita, local events are being held to pay tribute to the historical performance. You can actually see Gage Brewer's original guitar, right here in Wichita! If you're interested in learning more about Gage Brewer, the electric guitar, and Wichita's History, check out the events below!
It Might Get Loud presented by Tallgrass Film Association
Tallgrass will once again pay tribute to the importance of the electric guitar with two screenings of It Might Get Loud at Exploration place. The film highlights three of the biggest electric guitarists in history, each from a different generation. U2’s The Edge, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, and The White Stripes’ Jack White each of the artists reveal their personal stories, and how each developed their sound. The film, directed by Davis Guggeheim focuses on the day when the three artists got together to share stories, play and teach.
The event will be held on Thursday, May 5, and will kick off with live music and access to exhibits and events at 5:30 p.m. It Might Get Loud will begin 7 p.m. This event id for ages 21+. Admission is $12 for Exploration Place members and $15 for nonmembers.
GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World at Exploration Place
Also at Exploration Place, guests can view the travelling exhibit GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World. The exhibit comes from the National Guitar Museum, which is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the instrument. The display features over 100 historical artifacts, nearly 60 of which are guitars! Each of the featured guitars help to tell the instrument's story. The exhibit also allows guests to play a Guinness World Record breaking 44-foot long guitar!
In addition to the electric guitar's history, guests can also learn about how guitars are made and discover the science behind pitch and tone. How does the material of the strings affect the guitar's sound? How can an amplifier modify the sound? How have these things revolutionized music? Find out at Exploration Place, now through May 8. The exhibit is included in general museum admission and is free for members.
Electric Guitar: Wichita's Instrument at Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum
The Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum features a special exhibit: The Electric Guitar: Wichita's Instrument. This exhibit highlights 50 rare and historically important guitars that are pulled from a variety of notable private American collections. Here, Wichitans will be able to see Gage Brewer's original 1932 Ro-Pat-In Rickenbaker, as well as several other historical guitars, like the first prototypes of Epiphone and Gibson electrics, and even the guitars of Wichita's famous guitarists, Joe Walsh and Jerry Hahn.
This exhibit will be on display from now until June 5, and admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-12.
Symposium at Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum
In conjunction with it's guitar exhibit, the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical museum will host a symposium on the guitar from May 6 through the 8 at p.m. The symposium will feature the following nationally recognized panelists:
- Walter Carter - Author – Owner of Carter’s Vintage Guitars, Nashville, TN – Expertise: Gibson Guitar
- Deke Dickerson – Author – Collector – Guitarist – Expertise: Mid Century Guitar Culture
- Alan DiPerna – Music Journalist – Author - Phoenix, AZ
- Dr. Wayne Goins - University Distinguished Professor, Director of Jazz Studies, Kansas State University – Guitarist and authority on Charlie Christian
- Mathew Hill –Author – Researcher - Expertise: Rickenbacker & National Guitars
- Emanuele Marconi – Conservator at the National Music Museum – Expertise includes Italian Electric Guitars
- H.P. Newquist, Executive Director, National Guitar Museum - Author
- Arian Sheets – Curator, Stringed Instruments at the National Music Museum
- Richard Smith – Curator, Fullerton Museum - Author – Expertise: Rickenbacker and Fender Guitars
- John Troutman – Researcher specializing in Hawaiian Guitar Music History
- Lynn Wheelwright – Author – Collector – Owner of Pro-musician, Clearfield, UT – Expertise: early electrically amplified stringed instruments