Fender: A Legacy
Since 1938 a man named Clarence Leonidis “Leo” Fender had been working on repairing all kinds of electronic devices such as radios, home audio amplifiers and even musical instrument amplifiers. As time went on though, Leo became more interested in musical instruments and the flaws in them. He was soon able to not only fix those flaws but improve them or customize them. People started to take notice as he and Clayton Orr “Doc” Kauffman (another electronics enthusiast) started to design and sell these instruments. Although the partnership fell through, Leo decided to continue this passion of his, and in 1946 he created Fender. Little did he know that many years later this company would be one of, if not THE most recognizable musical instrument company in the world.
In 1948 the first of the tweed amps were created and sold. The name tweed came from the material used to make the skin on the amp, the same as luggage at the time. Always toying with his inventions, Leo decided to try Tolex, and in 1960 the Tolex skin amps were on the market, except for the tweeds of course who kept their name.
The telecaster has been in production since 1949, in one way or another. It is the oldest solid body electric guitar. It has had a few names over the years : Broadcaster, Esquire and “Tele” used today.
It became the first mass produced bass in 1951 with the same look and shape as the telecaster. It supported only one single-coil pickup until 1957 when they split them up into a type of pickup simular to humbuckers.
Invented (with help) in 1954, the guitar featured 21 frets, a 2-color sunburst and a 1-piece maple neck. Along with the telecaster and a few Gibson models it stays one on of the most enduring guitar models in the world and has been one of the most popular models to copy.
And so the story goes…
In 1965 Leo sold his company to CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) for 13 million dollars, 2 million more than the yankees baseball team a year before. This meant the guitars and amps were built on a more production based system, not treated and examined as Fender had originally done, cutting costs yet losing some quality in the process. CBS put forth some changes to try and save money on the designs, such as tweaking the headstocks on the guitars, and changing the neck from 4 to 3 bolts and adding the 2 string pin for the D and G strings.
Since then the Fender name has stayed as popular as ever, and Leo, he went on to create another music company called Music Man. Heard of it? How about Marshall, a British company that started off by copying Fender model amps? He just knew how to make musical instruments work, and sell. Sadly Leo passed away in 1991, leaving behind a great legacy. Some could argue that he is the most influential person as far as musical instruments are concerned, along with Les Paul. One things for sure, you cant beat the sound of a 1960’s strat in a Fender tweed.