Although the electric guitar has been a mainstay of the music industry since the 1950s, the generally accepted theory is that famed guitarist Les Paul, for whom a Fender model guitar is named, invented the electric guitar. But such is not the case.

According to Google, a crude version of the instrument was invented in 1931.

However, since the early ’50s, the instrument has been redesigned and shaped numerous times through the years to fit that performer’s wants or needs to enhance his or her on-stage performance.

The Museum of Design Atlanta in Midtown is featuring an exhibition entitled “Wire & Wood: Designing Iconic Guitars.” According to a news release, it explores the basics of guitar design and construction while showcasing a lineup of personal guitars which popular performers of their era changed to enhance their music and presence on stage.

The exhibition, which opened June 29 and closes Sept. 29, includes the guitars of Kurt Cobain, Bo Diddley, James Hetfield, Buck Owens, Junior Brown and many more.

“This exhibition examines the design relationship these musicians had with their guitars, and the way these musicians have embellished and redesigned their guitars so that the guitar became an important part of that performer’s visual and musical identity,” said Laura Flusche, the museum’s executive director. “Each guitar, like the story behind it, is different, and all of them, with the exception of Junior Brown’s guitar, are an electrified instrument.”

In addition, Flusche said, the exhibition gives an overall view of how an electric guitar actually works, how they have been refined over the years and how they have enhanced a musician’s popularity.

For example, according to her, Diddley helped design a change in his guitar so he could move more freely and better perform his dance moves on stage.

Ed Alshut, co-owner of Studio A2, a Decatur-based architecture and interior design firm, has viewed the exhibition. He said all good art and design is a means of creating human expression.

“MODA’s wonderful exhibition of electric guitars as soulful objects constructed of wire and wood rocks. The exhibit beautifully documents each instrument’s unique ownership and musical history,” Alshut said. “Musicians electrify their soul, heart, to express themselves through their instruments. To borrow from Carlos Santana, ‘Musicians and their guitars bring light into the darkness.’”

In addition to the change in guitar designs, the exhibition includes info on how such electric guitars are made, what the parts of the guitar are and advances made in the design, weight and shape of electric guitars.

“There is also another interesting element of the exhibition dealing with the future of electric guitars, including the use of materials other than wood to manufacture them, such as possibly some type of acrylic material,” Flusche said. “In addition to the design of the guitar with regard to being made of other materials, what type of sound would that guitar produce?”

Tickets to the exhibition are included with admission to the museum, and can be purchased at a discount if buying them online in advance.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


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