Inducted in 2013
In the “realm” of the guitar, his name is well-known. But the “why” behind that reality is much less-known.
Born Roland Sherwood Ball, he grew up in Southern California and learned to play Hawaiian-steel guitar when he was just nine years old. As a young adult, he toured with the Tommy Duncan band and in the ’50s enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he played with the USAF Band. Afterward, he returned to SoCal and resumed playing guitar in local clubs and lounges. His profile increased, however, when he scored a gig on “Western Varieties,” a weekly show on Los Angeles’ KTLA-TV, and from there better opportunities arose, including studio work and teaching. CLICK HERE for details on the VG Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2013.
Inducted in 2012
A true child of the ’60s, he jammed with Jimi James and sold $10 fuzz pedals before founding Electro-Harmonix. The iconic guitar-effects company nearly died twice, but thanks to Matthews’ foresight and savvy, it has flourished since being re-launched in the mid ’90s. CLICK HERE for more on Mike Mathews or CLICK HERE for details on the VG Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2012.
Inducted in 2011
The man who has done more than anyone to make the world aware how critical the pickup is to guitar tone, he has an incredibly deep appreciation for music, and started working with pickups simply to keep his own guitar in working order. After a stint playing music in Londonw and working in repair and research at Fender Soundhouse, he moved to California and established contact with music-industry luminaries including Leo Fender and Seth Lover. In 1978, together with his then-wife, Cathy, he started Seymour Duncan Pickups. CLICK HERE for details on the VG Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2011.
Paul Reed Smith
Inducted in 2010
After building guitars one at a time for years, in 1985 he launched a company that today is emblematic of an innovative large-scale American builder. His passion as strong as ever, he remains very much part of the day-to-day process in all of his shops – electric, acoustic, and amps. CLICK HERE for details on the VG Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2010.
Inducted in 2009
Hired by Leo Fender in early 1948, he started in amplifier repair then helped his boss design the guitar that would become the Telecaster. Later, they teamed up on the Precision bass and the Strat. When the time came for both to move on, post-CBS, he put the G in G&L. George Fullerton Feature.
Inducted in 2008
In 1977 he introduced the locking-design vibrato and with the help of Eddie Van Halen, the device played a major role in how the solidbody electric guitar would be built and played for the next 15 years. More recently he introduced the Speedloader bridge design. Floyd Rose Feature.
Inducted in 2007
A trained electronics engineer, in 1955 he built a 15-watt amplifier and tried to sell it to Tom Jennings, who sold organs and Univox accordions with amps. Instead of placing an order to buy more amps, Jennings hired him. They adapted the name to Vox and as Chief Engineer from 1957 to ’67 he was responsible for the legendary AC15, which begat the AC10 and AC30.
Inducted in 2006
His New Yorker and Excel models were at once influenced by the Big Apple’s Art Deco aesthetic and hugely influential to every archtop builder of the 20th century. Instruments of exceedingly high quality, today his designs are considered the pinnacle of the form (especially for playing chord melodies) despite having been developed in the 1930s!
John and Rudy Dopyera
Inducted in 2005
Violin and cabinet makers who, in the early 1920s, started manufacturing banjos, they were one day approached by vaudeville guitarist George Beauchamp, whose acoustic guitar couldn’t be heard over the orchestra. Thus was born the National/Dobro concept of placing aluminum resonators in a guitar body – and the guitar was reinvented.
Inducted in 2004
His innovations proved it was possible to produce good-quality, inexpensive, guitars and amps in the U.S. They made the company bearing his name one of the largest instrument builders in the world.
Inducted in 2003
An acoustic engineer for Gibson from 1919 to 1924, he conducted visionary experiments with electric instruments as soon as amplification was invented. He also developed Gibson’s Style 5 Master Model instruments; the F-5 is considered the ultimate mandolin design, the L-5 led the way for large-bodied archtops. His signature on an instrument’s label puts its value amongst the elite.
Inducted in 2002
Best known for his line of vibrato tailpieces, arguably his most important innovation was a thin-bodied, cutaway, solidbody electric guitar he built for Merle Travis, ca. 1947. It had many of the features that later became standard on more prominent guitars.
Inducted in 1999
In the 1920s he was machining parts for National’s new resonator guitars, which led to being approached by George Beauchamp with the idea to build the first electric. Their company, Ro-Pat-In, began building the Frying Pan lapsteel – the first truly successful electric guitar – in 1932, and received a patent for their “horseshoe” pickup in ’37.
Inducted in 1998
A lack of good public address and bass guitar amplification equipment in Britain prompted him to start building. Upon hearing the equipment, guitarists began approaching him to build an amp that could “dirty up” their tone, and the rest is history. All this from a drummer!
Inducted in 1997
In 1957, he set about to make a pickup that wouldn’t produce the electromagnetic hum so pronounced in single-coils of the day. What he got was a pickup that produced higher volume. Ten years later, distortion was the rage in rock and roll, and humbuckers were the pickup of choice.
C.F. Martin, Sr.
Inducted in 1996
A German emigrant and one of America’s first guitar builders. His company is now more than 160 years old, still family-owned and operated, and produces some of the world’s most renowned instruments.
Inducted in 1995
President of Gibson for 16 years, he had a hand in many of Gibson’s most famous designs, including the ES-335, Flying V, Les Paul, Explorer, and Firebird.
Inducted in 1993
He is credited with many innovations, including tape delay, overdubbing, “sound on sound” and multi-track recording. Plus you probably have a guitar or two that bear his name on the headstock.
Inducted in 1992
He revolutionized mandolin-building in the late 1800s and applied the concepts to guitars, as well. Oh, and some of the greatest guitars ever made bear his name.
Inducted in 1991
He gave us the Tele and the Strat, and the Precision Bass, but many point to his amps as his crowning technological achievement.