The inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Every guitar player will want to read this book twice. And even the casual music fan will find a thrilling narrative that weaves together cultural history, musical history, race, politics, business case studies, advertising, and technological discovery." —Daniel Levitin, Wall Street Journal

For generations the electric guitar has been an international symbol of freedom, danger, rebellion, and hedonism. In Play It Loud, veteran music journalists Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna bring the history of this iconic instrument to roaring life. It's a story of inventors and iconoclasts, of scam artists, prodigies, and mythologizers as varied and original as the instruments they spawned.

Play It Loud uses twelve landmark guitars—each of them artistic milestones in their own right—to illustrate the conflict and passion the instruments have inspired. It introduces Leo Fender, a man who couldn't play a note but whose innovations helped transform the guitar into the explosive sound machine it is today. Some of the most significant social movements of the twentieth century are indebted to the guitar: It was an essential element in the fight for racial equality in the entertainment industry; a mirror to the rise of the teenager as social force; a linchpin of punk's sound and ethos. And today the guitar has come full circle, with contemporary titans such as Jack White of The White Stripes, Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys bringing some of the earliest electric guitar forms back to the limelight.

Featuring interviews with Les Paul, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and dozens more players and creators, Play It Loud is the story of how a band of innovators transformed an idea into a revolution.
“Every guitar player will want to read this book twice. And even the casual music fan will find a thrilling narrative that weaves together cultural history, musical history, race, politics, business case studies, advertising and technological discovery. It could serve just as easily as a text on entrepreneurship and corporate R&D in the 20th century as it could a weekend vacation read.”
—Daniel Levitin, Wall Street Journal

“A lively and fascinating history….You're going to want to keep your tablet or phone nearby as you read it, because you'll be absolutely compelled to find and listen to the signature songs and riffs referenced throughout the volume. The authors do a great job of introducing just enough technical information to make their points, while keeping explanations clear enough so that those of a nontechnical bent—like this reviewer—can follow them. Tolinski and Di Perna have produced a book that lives up to the urgent, innovative, all-encompassing spirit of its subject.”
—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"More than the story of an iconic instrument, Play It Loud is a cultural history, calling up the tastes, styles and fads, the economics and even the geopolitics of 90 years of music-making.”
Dallas Morning News

“A brief tour of rock history, led by the instrument most associated with that screaming, swaggering genre….Getting to know the instruments behind the music you love is a worthwhile endeavor. Better still is getting to know the people behind those instruments, and Play It Louddoes a good job of cracking the legend of Les Paul to reveal the mad scientists, itinerant tinkerers and passionate musicians behind the development and evolution of the electric guitar.”
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“Fast, fun and informative, this book delivers lots of quick bits on your favorite hits—just like a good 45 used to.”
Houston Press

“The electric guitar—from the Resonator of the 1920s and Charlie Christian’s jazz playing in the 1930s, through Les Paul and the heyday of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page—unfolds in the pages of Play It Loud. The book... tells its story through both technical developments and the inventors and musicians who made it all happen.”

“The definitive book about the history and business of the electric guitar.” 

“The authors... bring freshness to chestnuts through technical nuggets aplenty.... The electric guitar changed the world, and Tolinski and di Perna impressively reveal its epic story.” 
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Providing a holistic overview packed with contextual insights, music journalists Tolinksi and di Perna skillfully pinpoint the watershed innovations and key musicians who turned a novelty into a mainstay of popular music…An engaging introduction to a fun topic with broad appeal.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“A comprehensive history of the electric guitar, tracing its roots in George Beauchamp’s experiments in search of a way to amplify a guitar’s vibrations... The authors engagingly explore the importance of amplifiers on artists’ sounds, particularly the Vox amps used by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix’s manipulation of feedback.”
Publisher’s Weekly

Play it Loud is a dynamic history of the electric guitar, but more important, it’s about the artists who painted the universal tones, colors, textures, and movements on the world canvas, through their fingertips, into a consciousness revolution to our hearts and minds. Brad and Alan get inside the note of the political and cultural significance of the guitar.”
—from the foreword by Carlos Santana, Grammy Award–winning artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee

Play It Loud is a fascinating, elegantly written, page-turning account of how a musical  weakness—the guitar’s inherently low volume—led to the development of the instrument that transformed contemporary music and culture: the electric guitar.   It’s all here—the history, the science, the musicians, and of course, the stringed beauties and the sounds they helped create.  An essential addition to any serious guitarist’s library.”
—Jonathan Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughter

“It’s all here: everything knowable now becomes known about the plugged-in ax that changed the world.  A comprehensive history of the electric guitar in cultural context is something long wanted, awaited and needed. At long last, it has arrived.”   
—Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee

“Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna's Play It Loud is a marvelous survey of how the electric guitar has rocked its way into the hearts and minds of millions of music lovers. This is a rich trove of unforgettable anecdotes and vignettes. Highly recommended!”
—Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of Rightful Heritage