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Electric Guitar Heroes

Oklahoma and the enhancement of an instrument



 



Bob Dunn, who toured between the World Wars with the Panhandle Cowboys and Indians, was an early adapter and virtuoso of the electric steel guitar. His Jan. 27, 1935, studio recording of the tune “Taking Off” with Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies is considered the first recording to use an electrically amplified instrument. Vintage Guitar magazine credits him as “the amplified guitar’s first stylist,” noting that, “In a way, Dunn was a sort of Jeff Beck of the steel guitar; his solos were often otherworldly, with cascades of arpeggios, jarring staccato notes and Hawaiian chime effects blasting through the mix of instruments.”
 

THE CLAIM: Robert Lee Dunn, born Feb. 8, 1908, in Braggs, Okla., invented the electric steel guitar.

THE SOURCE: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, published by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

STATUS: False.

THE TRUTH: Dunn did not, however, invent the instrument. Credit goes to Texas-born George Delmetia Beauchamp — a vaudeville performer who experimented with ways to have his guitar heard above an orchestra — for creating the first string-driven, electro- magnetic guitar. Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna, authors of the 2016 Random House book Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound and Revolution of the Electric Guitar, note that the Beauchamp design became the basis of the first commercially produced electric guitar, the RO-PAT-IN A-25 “Frying Pan,” which hit the market in 1932. RO-PAT-IN (inspired by the term ElectRO-PAtent-INstruments) would evolve into Rickenbacker International, which continues manufacturing instruments today.

In an unexpected twist, the first documented public performance of an electric guitar does have an Oklahoma connection. According to Guitar Aficionado magazine, the first-ever concert to feature the instrument occurred in Kansas on Oct. 31, 1932, at Wichita’s Shadowland Pavilion. The performer, guitarist Gage Kelso Brewer, was born in 1904 in Gage, Oklahoma Territory.

Brewer’s pioneering performance featured two RO-PAT-IN prototypes – the electric Spanish prototype and the A-25 Frying Pan – that he had obtained from his friend George Beauchamp. An Oct. 2, 1932, article in the Wichita Beacon marveled at the technological wonder, which was promoted in a series of Halloween-themed concerts as a combination of “natural personal technique and electrical perfection.” Although the A-25 was destroyed in a 1935 fire, Brewer’s electric Spanish model is now at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, the centerpiece of its exhibition titled “The Electric Guitar – Wichita’s Instrument!” Rock on.


Editor’s note: Oklahoma is rich with history, lore and fun facts, but some of them aren’t quite factual. In this series, M.J. Alexander hunts for the accuracy – or lack thereof – behind some of our state’s stories.

 

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September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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