Most sources state that the lap steel guitar was invented by Joseph Kekuku in 1885. The story is that, at the age of 7, Kekuku was walking along a railroad track and picked up a metal bolt, slid the metal along the strings of his guitar and was intrigued by the sound. He taught himself to play using this method with the back of a knife blade. The instrument became a major fad in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. The instrument became especially popular in Hawaii, as musicians played in tent-rep shows. It was electrified in the early 1930s, and in 1932 the first production electric guitar was introduced, the aluminum Ro-Pat-In (later Rickenbacker) A22 “Frying Pan” lap steel. This made the so-called “Hawaiian” guitar the first electric stringed instrument (just a few years before Les Paul and Charlie Christian modified their instruments).
The earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by Gage Brewer. The lap steel, dobro and pedal steel guitar are associated most closely with Hawaiian music, country music and bluegrass, though some players have used them in rock music, jazz, blues, and other musical genres. Go check out John Paul Jones HERE, and Davil Gilmoure HERE.
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