- Book author
- Dave Hunter
Ubiquitous in the music world, Fender® guitars and amplifiers are also icons in popular culture, their shapes and sounds instantly recognizable. Authoritatively written and lavishly illustrated, Fender 75 Years is the officially licensed anniversary celebration of the company and its legendary instruments.
Originating in Leo Fender’s modest radio and amplifier repair shop in Fullerton, California, Fender Musical Instrument Corporation went on to become the world’s preeminent name in musical instruments. Today, Fender’s guitars, amplifiers, and script logo are recognizable even to those with only a casual interest in music.
From Fender’s first instrument—a 1946 lap steel guitar—to Leo Fender’s groundbreaking early six-string guitar designs like the Esquire that set the standard for the electric guitar explosion to follow, author Dave Hunter traces Fender’s entire history to the present. All the innovations and landmark models are here, as well as legendary players who became synonymous with Fender instruments across musical genres.
In addition to the instantly recognizable Telecaster® and Stratocaster®, Hunter examines Fender’s legendary offset guitars like the Mustang®, Jazzmaster®, and Jaguar®, and such lesser-known models as the Marauder, Coronado, Bronco™, and more. The Jazz Bass®and Precision Bass® also feature, as do Fender’s acoustic guitars and workhorse amplifiers like the Bassman®, Twin Reverb®, and Princeton®, to name a few.
Along the way, readers get in-depth scoops on the relationships dozens of players have enjoyed with Fender: rock ’n’ roll pioneers like Hank Marvin and James Burton; classic-rock icons like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton; blues legends Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Buddy Guy; alt-rock gods J Mascis and Kurt Cobain; more recent guitar heroes like Courtney Barnett, beabadoobee, and H.E.R. …the list goes on. In addition, Hunter explores the work of the award-winning Fender Custom Shop and the guitars produced there.
Illustrated throughout with rare images from company archives, Fender 75 Years treats readers to rare behind-the-scenes views of the shop floor throughout the years, studio imagery of the guitars, rare period advertising and brochures, and performance images of Fender players.
It’s the definitive look at the Fender’s first three-quarters of a century and a must-have for every guitar enthusiast.
If you uttered the phrase “electric guitar” any time in the past seven decades, chances are that nine out of ten people within earshot would immediately have pictured a Fender.
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Fender instruments, amplifiers, and effects upon the sound of popular music made over the past seventy-five years. Even so, we might begin to comprehend the weight of the company’s influence by considering that, within less than a decade of its founding, Fender had delivered not one, not two, not three, but several instruments and amplifiers that were utterly groundbreaking and that set new standards of manufacture, playability, sound, and performance that remain benchmarks in the industry to this day.
In many ways, much of the popular music made over the past three quarters of a century simply was Fender music: the bright, twangy country guitar of the early 1950s or the gnarly, raw rock ’n’ roll of the late 1950s; the wet-and-wild instrumental surf music of the early 1960s or the heavy, trippy psychedelic rock that took the stage a few years later; the powerful, bombastic arena rock of the 1970s; the lithe, wiry electric blues revival of the early 1980s or the grunge explosion at the end of that decade—all relied so heavily on the sound of Fender guitars, basses, and amplifiers that it’s impossible to imagine these cultural waves having occurred without them.
From Jimmy Bryant and Bill Carson, to Dick Dale and Hank Marvin; from Buddy Holly and James Burton, to Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore; from Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen, to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kurt Cobain, and on and on and on, the sound was Fender, and the impact was nothing short of revolutionary.
Looked at from the other side of the assembly line, Fender’s impact on popular music—and, as a result, its impact on culture and society in the latter half of the twentieth century—was so significant because Leo Fender’s vision was so greatly ahead of its time. The products of that vision defined the sound of rock ’n’ roll before it even existed, then continued to evolve with the styles to provide musicians with exactly what they needed to sound fresh and exciting in genre after genre, from one era to the next.
Fender guitars and amplifiers earned respect so quickly because Leo made them, first and foremost, sound good and function well, able to survive the rigors of the road and to be easily serviceable. They weren’t just supposed to look good in a department store window or catalog, or boast fancy semifunctional features, or appeal to passing trends that would find them gathering dust in attics and under beds once the next big thing hit the airwaves. They were utterly utilitarian and aimed entirely at professionals. Certainly, Leo and his company had to make a profit to stay in business, but they strove to make every new product the best it could be within a manufacturing budget that enabled them to still sell the things. As a result, the company set new standards for quality and professionalism in the electric guitar and amplifier industries.
Because of this focus on quality, Fender creations represent some of the finest examples we have of culture and industry coming together to both define and fulfill a need. Leo Fender’s knack for listening closely to musicians’ expressions of those needs and adapting them to his work (rather than telling them what they should want) established practices that helped produce one guitar, amp, bass, and effects unit after another that quickly became a must-have among top artists of its day and beyond.
In 1946, the year Leo Fender founded his company, World War II was just barely behind us, gas cost fifteen cents per gallon, Perry Como held the highest position on the Billboard Top 100 with “Prisoner of Love,” and as many as six thousand Americans were enjoying a new form of broadcast called television. As primitive as the era appears from the rearview mirror of the twenty-first century, within a few short years the Fender Musical Instrument Company developed electric instruments and amplifiers that are still among the most desired and relevant in the music world today, whether in original or reimagined form, and that remain in use by the most forward-looking artists of 2021. A lot has happened in the past seventy-five years, but not once has a new musical style, trend, or craze ever threatened to make Fender’s groundbreaking creations irrelevant.