For approximately the last forty years, rock music has been the dominant style of popular music in the United States. The most prominent instrument in rock music from 1954 to 1971 was the electric guitar; most bands during this period included two guitars. One was designated a rhythm instrument and worked in conjunction with the bass and the drums. The other guitar was termed a lead instrument and was used to complement the solo vocal line by performing melodic embellishments. The basic structure of the typical rock song between 1954 and 1971, which was based on the twelve-bar blues form, allowed for the inclusion of an improvised solo by the lead guitarist. The development of this improvised solo is the topic of this dissertation.
The first three chapters serve as introductory material to the dissertation. Chapter I addresses the need for scholarly research in modern popular music. Also in this chapter, the author explains the parameters chosen for the work and the methodology used to achieve the final results. Chapter II discusses the essential technology and development of the electric guitar. Chapter III addresses the musical elements of the blues and the history of the blues.
The following three chapters discuss the development of the rock guitar solo from 1954 to 1971. Each chapter includes material pertaining to the development of rock music and the development of specific artists and groups. The development of the personal style of several lead guitarists will be examined through notable examples of transcribed guitar solos. Chapter IV discusses the guitarists of rock and roll (1954-1957), including Danny Cedrone and Frank Beecher, who played with Bill Haley and His Comets, Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry. Chapter V discusses early rock music (1963-1969) and the contributions of George Harrison, lead guitarist for the Beatles, and Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones. Chapter VI discusses the guitar virtuosos of the late 1960s, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix. The final chapter looks toward future developments in rock music in general and electric guitar improvisation in particular.