Chris Scruggs (grandson of Earl Scruggs) playing the JB Tribute Tele (he is a great player and really nice guy), and others in the Fender booth NAMM show July 2003 in Nashville.
Documentary – Jimmy Bryant and the Electric Guitar Revolution
Creator: John C. Bryant
Date created: 11/29/02
This documentary focuses on a guitar player and a guitar maker who together created the literally electrifying early 1950s sound that gave rise to Rock ‘n Roll.
Both the man and the guitar would become legends. The music they helped inspire changed the world.
Jimmy Bryant’s musical journey began as a five-year-old playing a homemade violin on street corners to help raise money for his family in Depression-era Georgia. Two decades later he was a top-notch country guitar player in the emerging post-war Southern California recording scene.
Bryant’s story took a fateful turn the night he met Leo Fender, the owner of a small radio repair shop in Fullerton, at a Hollywood club. Fender had brought along an invention of his called the “electric Spanish guitar.” He urged Jimmy, praised by top country artists of the day as “The Fastest Guitar in the Country,” to try it.
Jimmy Bryant’s hard-driving style proved a perfect fit with Fender’s electric guitar, the first of its kind. What had been a humble acoustical instrument relegated to dance halls and intimate venues was about to be transformed into the high-voltage clarion of a cultural revolution.
Though largely overlooked today, the Southern California music scene was a hotbed of talent in the late 40s and early 50s – and an important bridge between the dulcet Big Band sounds of yesteryear and the raw energy of Rock. The electric guitar was largely responsible for that transition. It quickly flourished in recording studios and influenced young audiences via a new medium called television. When Jimmy Bryant played his new Fender on the Roy Rogers show in 1950, the small guitar maker started getting calls from players who wanted the same sound.
We will revisit this brief but pivotal period in the evolution of popular music and trace the influence of the electric guitar. The documentary will include interviews of people from that period and show actual footage of the musicians and television shows. It will also profile the great Jimmy Bryant, as well as other trailblazers in early amplification.
A half century later, despite their deaths, Jimmy Bryant and Leo Fender remain linked. Jimmy Bryant is still regarded as one of the greatest Country/Jazz guitar players of all time. His name is often mentioned in connection with the guitar he helped define as a world standard – the Fender Telecaster.
The guitars Leo Fender introduced in 1950 are still manufactured and a top choice of players worldwide. In 2003 and 2004, two significant historical events relating to Fender guitar history took place and will be highlighted in this documentary as a way of honoring the past.
In 2003 the master guitar builders at the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, California built a replica of the Fender Telecaster guitar that Jimmy Bryant played during those early years. Fender has agreed to allow filming of the process, to show this historic guitar being designed and built. The Jimmy Bryant Signature Telecaster was released to the public in July 2003.
In 2004 Fender celebrated the 50th anniversary of Leo Fender’s evolutionary guitar design - the Stratocaster. The documentary will show the rarest and earliest existing Stratocaster, hand scribed and dated “PRO 1/54”. Jimmy Bryant actually played that first Stratocaster guitar on many albums. It is owned by Trevor Turner, whose father, Scotty Turner, produced Jimmy Bryant recording sessions. Besides the Jimmy Bryant connection, it is the first Stratocaster Buddy Holly ever saw and played. Scotty purchased the guitar new in 1954 and is showing it on film for the first time.
Previously unreleased and rare recordings of Jimmy Bryant, playing the first Telecaster and the first Stratocaster, will be included in the documentary.