No matter if you are just an amateur or professional guitarist, it is significant to understand the history of Fender guitars as it represents the evolution of the electric guitars in general. Indeed, Fender played an important part in the development and design of many popular models as we see today on the market.
With a distinguished history dating back to 1946, Fender has pioneered and transformed the music industry worldwide in almost every genre: blues, rhythm, jazz, western, country, and rock 'n' roll. Everyone from hobbyists and beginners to the world's most praised performers and artists has used Fender amps and instruments. The moments guitar artists standing on the stage with legendary instruments such as the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, along with Bison Boa leather guitar straps, which were originally designed to be a perfect match with Fender guitars, have become iconic symbols in pop and rock culture.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the colorful and legendary history of Fender guitars:
From 1946 to 1965:
The beginning years In the 1930s, Leonidas Fender, an inventor in Southern California, opened his own retail outlet and repair shop in Fullerton. In the beginning, he was interested in small amplifiers which local musicians often bought to his shop for repairs. Once day, Fender realized that he decided to collaborate with a guitar technician named Clayton Kauffman to produce their own guitar pickup in 1943. Two years later, they established the K&F Manufacturing Company, which built amplifier sets and steel guitar.
The business developed quickly and opened a larger factory in Santa Fe Eve when Fender guitars became well-known for their bight, clear tone that was different from the sounds of most amplified products on the market at that time. In 1951, after 5 years of research and development, Fender officially launched Telecaster - the first commercially mass-produced Spanish-style electric guitar in the world. At the same year, the company also introduced an advanced revolution with the Precision Bass, which was the electric bass instrument ever.
Fender powerful amplifiers and instruments began to draw attention and acclaims throughout the 1950s, making it a legendary period in the brand's history. The company prided itself and thrived on the feedback from many professional musicians and performers who used Fender products in the real world of recording studios, bandstands, road tours, and nightclubs.
After the popularity of the Telecaster, it focused more on creating a new version which has an efficient vibrato. The Stratocaster was first introduced in 1954. In addition to a great look, it also came with a smartly functional design which incorporated many advanced improvements based on feedback and advice from professional musicians. Its sleekly ergonomic form did not only look like a model from the future, but the contours made it a comfortable unit to play. More importantly, the addition of the "synchronized tremolo" bridge allowed guitarists to bend strings without causing the instrument to go out of tune, which helped the guitar achieve the steel-like sounds that are so popular amongst country music performers these days.
In fact, nobody would foresee how the Stratocaster was revolutionizing the pop culture. In the next decades, generations of acclaimed and talented artists created incredible sounds from the Stratocaster and transform this version into a musical as well as a cultural icon. Today, it is still one of the most influential and popular electric guitars all over the world as players in every genre and at any level might put their trust on its versatility, playability, and sound quality.
Fender designed and introduced other classic amplifiers and instruments over the next decades, including the Jazzmaster (1958), the Jazz Bass (1960), and the Jaguar (1962). Leo Fender remained his essential role at the company until he sold it to CBS in 1965.
From 1966 to 1985: The CBS era
The CBS-Fender deal signaled a new period in the history of this legendary business. Although CBS was one of the most recognizable entertainment companies in the country, the union turned out to be an unsuccessful cooperation. While quality amplifiers and instruments were still manufactured, the quality control process under CBS management experienced some issues in the next years. Among other problems, CBS failed to invest in modern equipment in the factory, which caused Fender to enter a slow, long decline from the 70s to early 1980s.
The situation got worse when the US economy was in deep recession. Also, Fender guitar sales reduced by 50% in the period from 1972 to 1988 as video games and computers eroded customers’ interests in musical instruments. Unable to revitalize the business, CBS decided to sell off the company in 1984 for William Schultz, a former executive at Yamaha.
From 1985 to 2005: The period of Bill Schultz
Tenacious, charismatic, smart, and tough, William Schultz literally borrowed his family and friends to finance for the Fender deal with CBS. After several years, he restored the Fender business to its previous stand as an industry leader by reestablishing U.S. production, opening the well-known custom shop, and establishing a large manufacturing factory in Mexico. More importantly, Schultz opened up the business to the international market by acquiring many facilities all over the world, as well as purchasing other famous brands such as Jackson, Gretsch, and Guild.
By the time William Schultz retired in 2004, the Jazz Bass, Precision Bass, Telecaster, Stratocaster, and other Fender products gained their widespread popularity once again, while Fender amplifiers ruled over from concert stages, clubs to garages.
In other words, Schultz developed the new Fender image into a digital-aged musical instrument brand with a world-famous reputation and worldwide reach. Fender today Over 70 years of operation, Fender has seen a lot of ups and downs. From the creative exhilaration of the 50s, the uncertain CBS era, to the resurgence in the late 80s. Today, Fender is undoubtedly one of the most trusted guitar brands on over the world with a success story whose high-quality products and pioneering spirit not only encompass an industry, but also a lifestyle.
Stronger and bigger than at any points in its distinguished history, the company is heading to an even more promising future.