Debut Book by Alumnus Ian Port '16 Coming in January

BY Zoe Contros Kearl, November 15, 2018

Headshot of Ian PortNonfiction writing alumnus Ian Port '16 has his first book, titled The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll, coming out via Scribner this January. Port began writing this book during his time at Columbia and presented an early version as his graduate thesis. 


The Birth of Loud is a saga in the history of rock ‘n’ roll covering the decades-long rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound—Leo Fender and Les Paul—and their intense competition to convince rock stars like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton to play the instruments that they built. In the years after World War II, music was evolving from big-band jazz into the primordial elements of rock ’n’ roll—and these louder styles demanded revolutionary instruments. When Leo Fender’s tiny firm marketed the first solid-body electric guitar, the Esquire, musicians immediately saw its appeal. Not to be out-maneuvered, Gibson, the largest guitar manufacturer, raced to build a competitive product. The company designed an “axe” that would make Fender’s Esquire look cheap and convinced Les Paul—whose endorsement Leo Fender had sought—to put his name on it. Thus was born the guitar world’s most heated rivalry: Gibson versus Fender, Les versus Leo.


Birth Place of Loud book cover"A lively, difficult-to-put-down portrait of an important era of American art that enhances readers’ appreciation for the music it depicts." - Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)


The official release event for The Birth of Loud will be at 7 p.m. on January 15, 2019 at Book Culture on Columbus (450 Columbus Ave., NYC). Additional appearances will be at 7pm on January 23, 2019 at The Booksmith, 1644 Haight St. in San Francisco, and 7 pm on January 24 at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.


Ian S. Port's essays, articles, and criticism have appeared in The Believer, The Oxford American, Popular Mechanics, Rolling Stone, and The Village Voice. He was music editor of San Francisco Weekly. Port holds a BA from the University of California at San Diego and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University.