Modern country music, rock & roll and R&B are the progeny of early twentieth century hillbilly music and the blues. The central role of the guitar in those earlier genres helped to drive the instrument to unprecedented heights of popularity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But nearly a century before the first recordings of blues and hillbilly guitarists, the instrument already had seized the imagination of American musicians. Sparked by the popularity of several Spanish and Italian virtuosos, a craze for the six-string “Spanish” guitar swept Europe in the 1810s and reached America around 1830. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the instrument became an integral part of new styles of distinctively American music. By the turn of the twentieth century, almost all the elements were in place for the chain reaction that would propel the guitar to a nearly unassailable position as the dominant instrument of American popular music.