DDV Music - Music Information and Education


The Fender logo, often called the "spaghetti" logo.
The Fender logo, often called the "spaghetti" logo.
The famous Stratocaster headstock.
The famous Stratocaster headstock.

The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, initially named the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, was started by Leo Fender in 1946, and is one of the most widely recognised manufacturers of electric guitars, electric basses and amplifiers.

Fender is particularly important because of its role in bringing solidbody electric guitars to the masses. Fender offered the first mass-produced solid-body Spanish-style electric guitar, the Telecaster (originally named the 'Broadcaster', 'Esquire' is a single pickup version); the first mass-produced electric bass, the Precision Bass (or P-Bass); and the enormously popular Stratocaster guitar (or 'Strat' for short). While other companies and luthiers had produced electric guitars since the late 1920s, nearly all were either hollow-body guitars with pickups attached, or more specialized instruments such as Rickenbacker's solid-body Hawaiian lap steel guitars.

Other popular and/or notable Fender instruments include the Mustang, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Starcaster, Duosonic, and Bronco guitars; basses such as the Jazz Bass, the 'Telecaster Bass' reissue of the original 1950s Precision Bass; a line of lap steels; three models of electric violin, and the Fender Rhodes electric piano.

Its headquarters are in Scottsdale, Arizona, with manufacturing facilities in Corona, California, and manufacturing facilities in Ensenada (Mexico), Korea and Japan.

Early history

The company began as "Fender's Radio Service" in late 1938 in Fullerton, California, USA. As a qualified electronics technician, Leo was asked to repair not only radios, but phonograph players, home audio amplifiers, public address systems and musical instrument amplifiers. (Technical note: at the time, most of the above were simply variations on a few simple vacuum-tube circuits). The business also sidelined in carrying records for sale and the rental of self-designed-and-built PA systems. He became intrigued by design flaws in current musical instrument amplifiers, and he began custom-building a few amplifiers based on his own designs or modifications to designs. By the early 1940s, he had partnered with another local electronics enthusiast named Clayton Orr (Doc) Kauffman, and they formed a company named "K & F Manufacturing Corp." to design, manufacture, and sell electric instruments and amplifiers. Production began in 1945 with Hawaiian lap steel guitars (incorporating a patented pickup) and amplifiers, which were sold as sets. By the end of the year, Fender had become convinced that manufacturing was more profitable than repair, and he decided to concentrate on that business. Kauffman remained unconvinced, however, and they had amicably parted ways by early 1946. At that point Leo renamed the company the "Fender Electric Instrument Company." The service shop remained open until 1951, although Leo Fender did not personally supervise it after 1947.

Sale to CBS

In early 1965, Leo Fender sold his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System, or CBS.

Fender's sale to CBS had far-reaching implications. At first, the sale was taken as a positive development, considering CBS' ability to bring in money and personnel. However, the sale is often now looked back upon unfavorably, due to the perception that CBS favored numbers and profit over quality. In the late 70's, the usual four bolt neck was modified to only three in an effort to save money, yet sacrifice quality. The culmination of this "cost-cutting" occurred in 1983, when the Stratocaster received a short-lived redesign without a second tone control and a bare-bones output jack. In addition, previous models such as the Swinger (a.k.a. Musiclander) and Custom (a.k.a. Maverick) had been little more than attempts to squeeze profits out of factory stock. The so-called "Pre-CBS cult" refers to the popularity of Fenders made before the sale.

After selling the Fender company, Leo Fender designed products for Music Man and later founded the G&L company which manufactures top quality electric guitars and basses designed by Leo Fender.


In 1985, initiated by a company employee named William Schultz, the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company was bought from CBS by its own employees, and renamed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

Behind the Fender name, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has continued to grow, and to add a wider range of products to its catalogs, while still keeping with traditional designs from the company's early years.

Fender manufactures its highest quality models in the United States and Japan, but also has extensive manufacturing facilities in China and Mexico for downmarket models, such that a new guitar with the name, 'Fender Stratocaster,' can be purchased for roughly the same dollar amount today as in 1954. The older and American-built Strats are by far the most favoured, but Japanese Fenders are now highly regarded as well: Fenders built in Ensenada, Mexico took over for the early Japanese guitars as the downmarket counterparts to the American models, while more recent Japanese Fenders are now mainly for the Japanese market, as counterparts to the American-made Fenders, and with only a small number marked for export.

The brand name, 'Squier', (previously a string manufacturer bought up by Fender) has been used in the early 1980s to produce (in Japan) cheaper, original Fender guitars to combat the frighteningly accurate copies from Japanese manufacturer Tokai and, later, with the production moving to Korea, for student-grade versions of Fender designs, of varying manufacture and often wildly fluctuating quality. The name adorns many inexpensive guitars based on Fender designs but with much cheaper construction (for instance, poplar, basswood and agathis replace ash and alder for the bodies - in those cases where the body is made of solid wood, because quite a good deal of Squiers feature plywood bodies - and the maple necks are of a lower grade). These inexpensive models are now manufactured in China and Indonesia.

Early Japanese Fender and Squier Stratocasters are well-regarded, and are now traded on the used-guitar market as JV, this does not stand for 'Japanese Vintage', but actually equates to the prefix JV on the serial numbers of the earliest Squier Guitars. The earliest Squiers had the Fender logo in big letters above the squier. This was later changed.

The core of its instrument line, the Tele, Strat, P-Bass, and J-Bass, remains largely unchanged from the 1950s and 1960s originals. On nearly every stage in the country, small or large, featuring blues, country and western or rock and roll, it is common to see a Fender guitar or bass in the hands of one or more of the musicians, amplified through a Fender amplifier. Fender guitars have been the instrument of choice for hundreds of noted artists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Edge, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ritchie Blackmore, Hank Marvin and Keith Richards.

In recent years, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has branched out into making and selling acoustic guitars, and has purchased a number of other instrument firms, including the Guild Guitar Company, the Sunn Amplifier Company, and other brands such as SWR bass amplifiers.

In early 2003, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation made a deal with Gretsch, and began manufacturing and distributing new Gretsch guitars.

Fender Guitars

The Fender Stratocaster.
The Fender Stratocaster.

Electric Guitars

  • Broadcaster
  • Bronco
  • Coronado
  • Custom
  • Cyclone
  • Duo-Sonic
  • Electric XII
  • Jag-Stang
  • Jaguar
  • Jazzmaster
  • Katana
  • Fender Lead Series
  • LTD
  • Musicmaster
  • Mustang
  • Showmaster
  • Starcaster
  • Stratocaster
    • David Gilmour: owner of Strat #0001, formerly owned by Homer Haynes (a very early Strat in a custom color, though not the first Stratocaster ever made)
    • Buddy Guy Polka Dot Stratocaster
    • Eric Clapton Stratocaster
    • Eric Johnson Stratocaster
    • Hello Kitty Stratocaster
    • Jeff Beck Stratocaster
    • Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Stratocaster
    • John Mayer Stratocaster
    • Mark Knopfler Stratocaster
    • Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster
    • Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster
    • Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster
  • Fat Strat
  • Super Strat
  • Telecaster
    • Telecaster Custom
    • Telecaster Deluxe
    • J5 Telecaster
  • Toronado
  • Swinger

Electric Basses

  • Badtz-Maru Bronco Bass
  • Jazz
  • Jaguar
  • Mustang
  • Precision
  • Performer
  • Telecaster
  • VI
  • Zone
  • Dimension

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Document License
It uses material from the Wikipedia article - Fender