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Fender Guitar History


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Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is situated in Scottsdale, Arizona and manufactures stringed instruments, like solid-body electric guitars, and amplifiers.  Fender guitars are among the most popular brands among players and its instruments have a strong historical foundation. 

This is because Fender guitar history is closely related to the history of the electric guitar in general.  Here's where it all began:

The founder, Clarence Leonidas Fender (better known as Leo), was a qualified electronics technician and started a business called Fender's Radio Service in 1938.  Leo repaired radio's, PA systems, and musical amplifiers.  He also became intrigued by what he considered to be design flaws in the electronic amplifiers of the time and became building custom models of his own design and tweaking.

Clarence Leonidas Fender
Fender 1961 Amp
By 1946, Fender became convinced that manufacturing new equipment was more profitable than repairing.  He renamed his company Fender Electric Instrument Company.  The company produced it first set of large-scale amplifiers, called 'Tweed Amps' in 1948, but the invention for which Fender is most famous today, was the 'Broadcaster' electric guitar.

The Broadcaster (originally called 'Esquire') was a single pickup, solid body electric guitar and the first of its kind to be produced on a substantial scale.  The dual-pickup version was called the Fender Telecaster.  Its commercial production can be traced as far back as March 1950, making it the oldest solid-body electric guitar in the world.
The Fender company enjoyed immense financial success, which to a large degree can be attributed to its out-of-the-box marketing.  Fender's catalogues of the 50's portrayed people surfing, skiing, skydiving and doing all sorts of adventurous things, all while holding their Fender Electric guitars.  Here's a quote

"In Fender guitar literature of the 1960s, attractive, guitar-toting teenagers were posed with surfboards and Perine's classic Thunderbird convertible at local beachside settings, firmly integrating Fender into the surfinÂ’/hot rod/sports car culture of Southern California celebrated by the Beach Boys, beach movies, and surf music."  (The Stratocaster Chronicles, by Tom Wheeler; Hal Leonard Pub., Milwaukee, WI; 2004, p. 108)
An upgraded model of the Telecaster was released in 1954 as renamed the Stratocaster.  The Stratocaster was seen as a deluxe model and offered various product improvements and innovations over its predecessors.  It included a cutaway body, single-coil pickups and a vibrato mechanism.

The Fender companys successes caused it to diversify into different segments such Fender Electric Instrument Company, Inc., Fender Acoustic Instrument Company, Inc. etc.  Leo Fender sold all of these in 1965 to the Colombia Broadcasting Corporation, or CBS.
The sale was taken as a positive development, but also had far reaching implications and led to an overall reduction in the quality of Fender instruments.  The general perception is that quality control started to go down when CBS took over, but did not immediately go from great to mediocre.

The period more or less from 1973-1984 was considered the low point in Fender guitar history, and guitars from both before that era and mid 1980s to present are considered better than the 1970s guitars.  This is largely due to the fact that CBS was cutting costs and using lower quality materials and design elements than that used by the Fender company prior to the sale.

In 1985, the company was sold to employees and renamed the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, the name by which it still goes today.  Today Fender manufactures guitars from an entry-level to high-level quality.  The 'squire' brand is used by Fender as entry-level counterparts to the more expensive Stratocaster guitars.

And that's a brief outline of Fender guitar history.

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Clarence Leonidas Fender
A Fender 1961 Twin Amp
For a further look at Fender guitar history visit the about the history of the electric guitar.
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