At a Glance:
Company Name: Fender (Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC))
Web site: www.fender.com
Headquarters: North Scotsdale, Arizona, USA
Manufacturers Instruments In: USA, Mexico
A Quick History of Fender:
Fender (originally known as the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company) came to life in 1946, when Southern Californian inventor Leo Fender eschewed the amplified hollow-body guitars of the era and created a simple solid-body electric guitar. With the realization that there was the chance to streamline the building of these guitars, Leo Fender started a guitar manufacturing company.
The first major breakthrough for the company came in 1951 when, after small scale production of guitars like the Esquire and the Broadcaster, Fender created the prototype for the Telecaster guitar, commonly known as the Tele. This was the first ever Spanish-styled solid-body guitar to be produced on a mass commercial basis.
Also in 1951, Fender made a significant breakthrough with the Precision Bass guitar. This electrified bass guitar had frets and played like an electric guitar, offering a new opportunity for bassists around the world.
In 1953, based on feedback of many respected guitarists of the era, Fender launched its next big innovation in the industry - the Stratocaster, which introduced a third single-coil pick-up. The addition of the Fender vibrato (a tremolo bridge) added the ability for guitarists to change the pitch of every string at once, creating an almost pedal-steel sound on the guitar.
The company continued to innovate with the guitar and bass guitar, although not at the high level of their work in the early 1950s. Ill health saw Leo Fender sell the company to CBS in 1965. The years under CBS ownership are generally considered to be the "dark days" of the Fender brand - lack of musicianship in the creative process and cost-cutting measures saw the status of CBS manufactured Fender instruments fall dramatically. In 1985, an internal takeover brought the Fender brand back under the control of guitar lovers. Since then, the company has once again regained status in the industry, with the names of the Strat and the Tele being synonymous with many of the world's most popular guitarists.
Most Notable Instruments:
Even though the company has a long and illustrious history and manufactures electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, amps and many accessories, the Stratocaster and the Telecaster remain the two most popular products in the Fender family of products.
The original Telecaster featured (and continues to feature) a single cutaway slab body, two single coil pickups controlled by a three-position toggle switch, three paired adjustable bridge saddles, and tone and volume knobs.
Both the Tele and Strat commonly have alder, ash or poplar bodies, but limited edition guitars of mahogany, basswood or koa can be found. The necks of the guitars are made from maple, with an optional Rosewood fingerboard available.
Guitarists Playing Fender Instruments:
The Telecaster has played a major role in rock n roll history throughout the years. George Harrison used a custom-built rosewood Telecaster during the recording of the 'Let It Be' album in the last ever Beatles concert, the rooftop performance at Apple, while Bruce Springsteen has become synonymous with the instrument. However, the guitar Springsteen holds on the cover of his ‘Born To Run’ album, while commonly recognized as a Telecaster is actually a heavily modified 1950s Fender Esquire.
When it comes to the Stratocaster, many great names have used this famous guitar but the most iconic use of the Strat was probably Jimi Hendrix performing the "Star Spangled Banner" at the Woodstock festival in 1969.
One notable modern-era Fender guitar is the Jag-Stang, designed by Kurt Cobain. This guitar was styled as a hybrid model of the Fender Jaguar and the Fender Mustang which Cobain used on the final Nirvana tour in Europe in 1994. After Cobain’s passing, the Jag-Stang was commercially released in 1995, then re-issued in 2001.