Fender Stratocaster is, along with the Fender Telecaster and the Gibson Les Paul, one of the most iconic electric guitars ever made and has been the ride of choice of literally generations of guitar players ranging from rank beginner to seasoned pro. It’s seductive contours and curves have come to define what an electric guitar looks like and feels like for untold numbers of our guitar-slinging brothers and sisters out there, and there will be someone playing one somewhere for as long as there is any kind of interest in electric guitar playing. The Strat made its debut in 1954 Read more
Irrespective of time, place or anything, whenever people talk about guitars, be it anywhere in the world, the name Fender Stratocaster inevitably creeps in.
If you’ve never come across a Baritone guitar, you could be forgiven for being confused by them. Just where do these long-necked axes with six fat-ass strings fit in? The actually live somewhere between a bass and a standard six-string, relating to those instruments much like a viola correlates to the cello and violin. The Fender Bass VI, designed by Leo Fender and introduced in 1961, is often considered the first commercial electric baritone. In actuality, the Bass VI is a short-scale six-string bass, tuned an octave lower than a guitar, with closer string spacing than a standard bass. True baritone guitars are tuned somewhat higher than a bass guitar, with actual tuning determined by their scale, and their use of lighter gauge strings make them easier to play than basses. And in fact, the tow guitars reviewed here demonstrate the results of different scale lengths and tuning within the baritone family. Read more
The Fender Telecaster is seen by many as the primordial electric guitar. It is brutally simple and to the point, built for functionality, and tends to appeal to the caveman contingent of the guitar community, of which your humble Gear-Vault scribe proudly considers himself part. What a lot of players forget is that there is a Fender guitar that is even more stripped-down than the Tele, one that makes Teles seem like Cadillacs. That guitar would be the Fender Esquire. Read more
Continued on from “Gibson Firebird Guitar Born 1963”
Of course the electric guitar wouldn’t have developed at all had it not been for amps. And the guitar amplifier would never have come into being had it not been for Mr. Lee De Forest, who invented the vacuum tube Read more
Around the same time that George Beauchamp and the other early electric guitar pioneers were active in southern California, a guitarist and radio personality named Les Paul was in Hollywood working out his own vision of what the electric guitar should be. Born Lester Polfus, he became an established guitarist in the Thirties, performing country music under the names Red Hot Red and, later Rhubarb Red, and jazz as Les Paul. In 1939, Paul began to put together what he called “The Log,” a four-by-four length of solid pine to which he attached a Gibson neck, homemade pickups, a crudely fashioned bridge and vibrato tailpiece. Like many other innovators of the guitar, Paul wanted to eliminate the uneven harmonic response produced by an amplified hollowbody guitar.
Although he sawed an Epiphone hollowbody in half and attached the two sides of his four-by-four block of pine, this was more for aesthetic than acoustic reasons—to make the thing look like a real guitar. This supremely quirky instrument, now enshrined in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, is another sacred relic of the electric guitar’s evolution, the product of an inveterate tinkerer and one of the century’s most original musical inventors. Paul also pioneered multitrack recording and anticipated the home recording boom by a good 30 years. Read more
Contined on from Leo Fenders invention Broadcaster Article.
The third of Fender’s epoch-defining trinity of early guitar designs came in 1954. The impetus for the Stratocaster arose, George Fullerton says, from a demand by Fender’s sales department for an instrument with a vibrato arm. Leo gave them not only that but also a gorgeously contoured refinement of the Telecaster slab body. Like Eames chairs or Gilbert Rohde clocks, the Fender Stratocaster is today recognized as a landmark of mid-century design. The Tele’s sophisticated younger sister helped establish a distinctive Fender tone, which Leo Fender continued to refine right up until the day he sold Fender to CBS in 1965, and continued to pursue in his later guitar and amp designs for Music Man and G&L. Read more
Contined on from Leo Fenders invention Broadcaster Article.
The electric bass guitar was another Leo Fender invention that changed sound of 20th century popular music. It supplanted the upright bass fiddle in rock, country and many other genres. Essentially, Leo reconceptualized the bass fiddle as a low-pitched electric guitar, far more portable and manageable on stage than a bulky upright, and capable of greater volume levels. Fender called his creation the Precision Bass when he introduced it to the world in 1951 because, unlike the upright, it was a fretted instrument, which allowed the player to hit notes with truer intonation, i.e., greater precision.
Read more on Leo Fender’s first Stratocaster produce in 1954.
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The 20th century will be remembered as an age of technology. And the electric guitar has been one of the most benign technologies to emerge from our troubled outgoing century. Like the innovations of Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, the electric guitar is a great populist invention. For the most part, it wasn’t dreamed up by people with college degrees in design engineering but by hard-traveling musicians and practical-minded businessmen clawing their way out of the Great Depression.
One of the greatest of these pragmatic mid-century geniuses was Clarence Leo Fender. Born on a farm near Anaheim, California in 1909, Leo Fender was operating his own radio repair shop in nearby Fullerton by the mid Forties. Thanks to the post-WWII economic boom, this was an era of great prosperity, marked by exciting new inventions like television, a middle-class migration out to the suburbs and the birth of sleek new design aesthetic that was streamlining everything from home furnishings to automobiles to electric shavers and hair dryers. Opportunities were plentiful for entrepreneurs and inventors of every stripe, which suited Leo Fender just fine.
Circa 1943, Fender built a very simple solidbody electric guitar that he’d rent out from his shop. (Fender Radio Repair also rented P.A. systems and even a panel van with speakers mounted on top to advertise local events!) In a garage out back, Leo began making lap steel guitars under K&F brand name in partnership with Doc Kauffman, another bailed out of the business in 1946, Leo continued on his own, starting Fender Electric Instruments in 1948. One of the first people he hired was George Fullerton, who became his assistant and lifelong business associate. Read more
Before Leo Fender came along, the solidbody electric guitar was little more than a gimmick. No other person did as much to develop this “gimmick” into one of the most important musical instrument of the 20th century.
Born in 1909 on a farm in Anaheim, California, Clarence Leo Fender opened a radio repair shop in nearby Fullerton in the years just after Word War II. He gradually segued into building electric guitars and amplifiers, and launched the company that bears his name in 1948.
In the years between 1948 and 1954, Leo Fender designed the Telecaster (the world’s first successful mass-produced solidbody electric guitar), the Precision Bass (the world’s first electric bass guitar) and the Stratocaster (for many, the world’s coolest electric guitar). These instruments embodied a design aesthetic that broke radically with tradition. Products of the post-WWII age of mechanization, they were affordable yet elegant tools for the average-income musician. Read more