Guitars in the 1950s evolved rapidly. Considering acoustic guitars had gone nearly unchanged for almost a century, the aforementioned evolution can then only be attributed to the electric guitar.
At the beginning of the decade the hollowbody ruled the day. Shaped like a small cello, these somewhat unwieldy beasts sound rich and powerful, much more so than most solid bodies. Gretsch hollowbodies from the ’50s are a highly sought-out item today, carrying a high value for this reason.
As the decade progressed, Fender solid bodies like the Stratocaster and Telecaster were gaining steam and eventually became the de facto standard for rock and roll guitarists and jazz guitarists alike.
Country music artists in the 1950s loved Martin acoustic guitars, and for good reason. Martin has made some of the best acoustic guitars in history and continues to do so to this day.
Gibson also made some really great equipment during this time. Their hollow body guitars from this period, like the Super 400 CES, are legendary. Gibson also made great acoustic guitars, like the J-160E or the electric/acoustic CF-100E.
But no one will ever forget the immortal Gibson Les Paul. A favorite among thousands, the Gibson Les Paul could have its own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. First sold in 1952, the Les Paul continued its rise to the top, becoming one of the most iconic musical instruments of all time.
The Fender Stratocaster was equally as iconic and continues to be a premier choice for professional guitarists worldwide.
Engineered to give the player every possible advantage, the “Strat” featured a new neck design, a more contoured body and pickups with grater variation control.
The Stratocaster also came with a new feature: the “whammy bar” which, at the time, was called “built-in tremolo.”
Bass guitars weren’t a whole lot different in the fifties than they are today. In fact, the Fender Precision Electric Bass Guitar, a staple for bass players in the 1950s, is still one of the most popular bass guitars in use today.
Other popular guitar variations from the 1950s include the mandolin, the banjo, the ukulele and the lap steel guitar. Slide guitar playing was very popular as well.
Guitar manufacturers specialized in making high quality, yet durable, tube amplifiers. The incredible warmth and raw power that some of these amps have can not be understated.
Check out the gallery below of some of our top choices for greatest 1950s guitars of all time.