When was distortion used on electric guitar for the first time? There are several myths around. The best known says that Ike Turner – who recently passed away – was the first one to include a distorted guitar on Rocket 88. This song was recorded at Sun Studios, Memphis, in 1951. Wrong!
Another widespread myth says that Link Wray was the first one to use a distorted guitar on “Rumble”, an instrumental he recorded in 1958. Wrong!
Don’t expect me to tell you, when the sound of a distorted guitar really was used for the very first time. But let me give you a few examples of distorted guitars that were recorded before 1951. And let me prove, that the existing myths of distorted guitars are nothing but – well myths.
- Rose Room by Mary Osborne, recorded live, New Orleans, in 1945. Swing To Bop Guitar – Guitars In Flight 1939-47, Hep Records.
- It’s A Low Down Dirty Deal by T-Bone Walker, recorded in 1947. T-Bone Walker, The Original Source, Proper Records.
- Hangover Blues by The Johnny Otis Show, recorded in 1949, Pete Lewis on guitar. The Original Johnny Otis Band, Savoy Records.
Looks like jazz guitarist Mary Osborne is the first one who used distortion on her guitar. At least on this rather random list. Do you have any more examples of distorted guitar before 1951? Please let me know.