DJ Hustle interviews Alan a rep of Fender at the Namm Show he gives us the history of Fender. Leo Fender wanted to craft an instrument that was as functional as it was easy to use. It was a primitive-looking object that was tough as nails, its powerful name inspired by another groundbreaking invention: the television. And with its revolutionary electrified tone, it would change the way music was made—forever.
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is the world’s foremost manufacturer of guitars, basses, amplifiers and related equipment. With an illustrious history dating back to 1946, Fender has touched and transformed music worldwide and in nearly every genre: rock ‘n’ roll, country and western, jazz, rhythm and blues, and many others. Everyone from beginners and hobbyists to the world’s most acclaimed artists and performers have used Fender instruments and amps, and legendary Fender instruments such as the Telecaster® and Stratocaster® guitars and Precision® and Jazz® bass guitars are universally acclaimed as design classics. In the 1940s, southern California inventor Leo Fender realized that he could improve on the amplified hollow-body instruments of the day by using an innovative and rather simple solid-body electric guitar design. Further, he realized that he could streamline the process of building them. HustleTV
In 1951 he introduced a prototype solid-body instrument that would eventually be called the Telecaster® guitar. The Tele®, as it was often called then and still is today, was the first solid-body Spanish-style electric guitar to be commercially mass-produced. That same year, Fender introduced a revolutionary new invention—the Precision Bass guitar. It was played like a guitar and had frets so that it could be played with “precision,” and it could be amplified, thus liberating bassists from unwieldy and increasingly difficult-to-hear acoustic basses. These two historic instruments laid the foundation for a new kind of group and a revolution in popular music—what we know today as the modern rock combo. As opposed to the “big bands” of the era, electric Fender instruments made it possible for smaller groups of musicians to get together and be heard.
The Stratocaster first appeared in 1954, incorporating many design innovations based on feedback from professional musicians, Fender staff and Leo Fender himself. Its third single-coil pickup offered more tonal possibilities, its sleekly contoured body made it more comfortable, and its double cutaway design made access to upper registers much easier. Most important, however, was the addition of the new Fender vibrato (or “tremolo”) bridge, an innovation originally intended to let guitarists bend strings, thus achieving the pedal steel-like sound so popular among country music artists of the day. Nobody could have foreseen then how the Stratocaster would go on to revolutionize popular music. Essentially unchanged since its 1954 debut, it is the most popular and influential electric guitar ever, and players at all levels and in all genres continue to rely on its sound, playability and versatility to this day.
Leo Fender himself remained an immensely creative force over the next decade, introducing many classic instrument and amplifier designs, including the Jazz Bass® guitar, the Jaguar® and Jazzmaster® guitars and the Twin Reverb® amplifier. Because of poor health, Leo Fender sold the company to CBS in 1965. Fender Musical Instruments experienced tremendous growth over the next 20 years, but a lack of commitment and real understanding of music and musicians by CBS gradually became apparent.
To “re-invent” Fender, CBS recruited new management in 1981. William Schultz became company president, supported by associate William Mendello. Their 5-year business plan was based on increasing Fender’s marketplace presence with dramatic quality improvement and greater commitment to research and development. When CBS shed its non-broadcast media businesses in the 1980s, a group of employees and investors led by Schultz bought Fender from CBS in 1985. The sale put the Fender name back into the hands of a small group of dedicated people committed to creating the world’s best guitars and amplifiers.
The new Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) had to start from scratch—there were no buildings or machinery included in the sale. Among other things, FMIC purchased the name, intellectual property and some leftover parts. Supported by a core group of loyal employees, dealers and suppliers (some of whom had been with the company since Leo Fender founded it), Schultz and his colleagues set out to rebuild an American icon. DJ Hustle