A YouTube clip of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page playing a slow soulful country music version of a classical Chopin prelude with jazz-style backing at London’s Royal Albert Hall accompanied by a giant church organ. He was using a guitar internally modified so that you could bend its B string by pulling down against its shoulder strap peg in 1983.
Commenters are free to try to identify which aspects of the above count as examples of actual innovations or just crazily unlikely combinations. I left out the fact that Page is playing in the exact style of the late great Roy Buchanan (I’ve never heard anybody but Roy do that before) and that he was smoking a cigarette (Mike Oldfield style) while playing. And that it was one of the best things I’ve ever heard.
The guitar device in question (and this isn’t the iij’s first ever guitar innovation story) is called a B-bender, and it was a genuine innovation, invented by Gene Parsons of the Byrds. Here he is telling us how it happened.
Here’s some history of the B-bender from Wikipedia:
The B-Bender was invented in 1967 by musicians Gene Parsons and Clarence White of Nashville West and The Byrds. The device was originally called the Parsons/White Pull-String, later renamed the StringBender, and is now best known as the B-Bender. Early prototypes developed by Parsons (a machinist as well as a drummer) included multiple bending devices for the E, B, G and D strings, but guitarist White decided he preferred a single B string bender in the final design.
The B string is bent up a full tone by pulling the guitar neck down. This puts pressure on the strap, which is attached to a spring-loaded lever at the base of the neck. The lever arm passes through the body of the guitar and is connected to the B string behind the bridge. White’s 1956 Telecaster with the original Pull-String is now owned and regularly played by Marty Stuart.
Warning: these wondrous things are not inexpensive. Well over $1000 fitted.
If you like the idea of making a conventional electric guitar sound like a pedal steel, you may also wish to consider a potentially less drastic (well, at least because I think you can fit it without having to permanently cut a large part out a perfectly good guitar as you need to do with a B-bender) innovation: The Duesenberg Multi-Bender. For the true guitar enthusiasts among you, I recommend one of each!