Shaping Rock: How Washburn Helped Make Rock What it is

Yet again, we here at started getting into a bit of history. Specifically, we talked about guitar manufacturers that had a monumental impact in music. While many of the heavy hitters like Gibson and Fender inevitably came up, someone blurted out a name that none of us had expected.

“What about Washburn?”

Suddenly, everyone was quiet.

In a conversation about historic guitar builders, Washburn’s name rarely comes up. Which is a shame. They’ve been around longer than both Gibson and Fender and arguably have had just as significant of impact in the world of music. At the, we love our history. And, with over a century behind them, Washburn definitely has history.

Washburn Guitars got its start in 1883 in Chicago a few blocks away from Maxwell Street. When Delta Blues players started coming up from Mississippi in the 1920’s, Maxwell Street became the center of a musical movement that influenced everything from Chicago Blues to Rock.

And Washburn was right in the middle of it all.

As players that got their chops on Maxwell Street branched out and jammed in clubs across the country, they took their Washburn guitars with them. Eventually, Washburn became one of the big names in blues guitars.

To put some perspective on this, when we’re talking about Blues innovators, we’re talking about the same dudes that influenced Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and everybody else in the roots of rock. Washburn didn’t create the Blues movement of the 1920’s, but they sure as hell helped move it along. And that’s freaking big! There are only a handful of names that can lay claim to having such a significant impact, and Washburn was in the streets giving a voice to the players that would forever change the face of music.

While we at TTK usually focus on all things rock, we sometimes forget about our softer side. Sometimes, if you’re looking to get the audience to light their lighters, you’ll need to pull the plug, get out your acoustic, and start playing some of those chords that include more than two strings. Check out Nuno Bettencourt as he pulls out his Washburn EA20SDL before he goes into “More Than Words,” and you’ll see what I mean. And, Washburn is among one of the best acoustic builders out there. They should be after doing it for over a century! With 16 different series of acoustics, they definitely have an axe for every player.

Lately we’ve noticed that Washburn’s Hollowbody electrics seem to be a hot commodity. It’s not surprising that offering an affordable alternative to the Gibson Thinlines would sell guitars, but the Washburn Hollowbodies seem to appeal to even seasoned players. Considering that finding a Heritage or Gibson for less than $1,500.00 is harder than finding a Barry Manilow song worth listening to, a Washburn Hollowbody, at less than $500 bucks, is much easier on the wallet while still giving players a great sounding and playing jazz box to take home.

And for when you’re ready to plug back in?

Well, let’s start with one of the most iconic guitars ever built – The Paul Stanley Signature Model. Nothing says Rock Star like the shattered mirror top of the PS1800. Frequent watchers of will be familiar with our vids showcasing this piece of balls-to-the-wall Rock history.

Personally, I’ll never forget touring the Washburn factory in Chicago and getting one of the first glimpses of the Dimebag Darrell Diamond Plate guitar. My knees started knocking as my fingertips brushed the Diamond Plate top. It was the coolest thing that I ever saw.

Regardless to their contributions to the world of rock, there are a ton of historic names that get overshadowed in the guitar world. In spite of this, Washburn has still managed to preserver and continue to make guitars for players. Maybe it’s because Washburn doesn’t live in the past that they are able to keep looking into the future. Either way, we here at will always remember what companies like Washburn did for Rock, and we’ll always look forward to see what they’ll come out with next.

What are some guitar companies that you know of that have changed the face of music but haven’t gotten a lick of credit for it?

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Filed Under: FeaturedReviewsGuitars

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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