Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC), commonly referred to simply as Fender, is an American manufacturer of stringed instruments and amplifiers. It is famous for its solid-body electric guitars and bass guitars, such as the Stratocaster (also known as the “Strat”), Telecaster (also known as the “Tele”), Precision Bass (also known as the “P-Bass”), and the Jazz Bass (also known as the “J-Bass”). Its headquarters are in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company, previously named the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, was founded in Fullerton, California, by Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender in 1946.
The company is a privately held corporation with Andy Mooney serving as the Chief Executive Officer. The company filed for an initial public offering in March 2012, but this was withdrawn five months later. In addition to its Scottsdale headquarters, Fender has manufacturing facilities in Corona, California (US) and Ensenada, Baja California (Mexico).
The company also manufactures acoustic guitars, electric basses, mandolins, banjos, and electric violins, as well as guitar amplifiers, bass amplifiers, and PA (public address) equipment. Other Fender brands include Squier (entry level/budget), Jackson, Charvel, EVH guitars and amplifiers in collaboration with Eddie Van Halen, and the manufacture and distribution of Gretsch guitars under license.
In 1950, Fender introduced the first mass-produced solid-body Spanish-style electric guitar, the Telecaster (originally named the Broadcaster for two-pickup models and Esquire for single-pickup). Following its success, Fender created the first mass-produced electric bass, the Precision Bass (P-Bass). In 1954, Fender unveiled the Stratocaster (“Strat”) guitar. With the Telecaster and Precision Bass on the market for some time, Leo Fender was able to incorporate input from working musicians into the Stratocaster’s design. The Strat’s comfortable contoured edges and in-built vibrato system led to its soaring popularity.
While Fender was not the first to manufacture electric guitars — luthiers and larger musical instrument manufacturers had produced electric guitars since the late 1920s — the popularity of Fender’s instruments superseded what had come before. Furthermore, while nearly all other electric guitars featured hollow bodies — making them most similar to an acoustic guitar — or more specialized designs, such as Rickenbacker’s solid-body Hawaiian guitars, Fender’s instruments possessed an unprecedented level of versatility. The solid wood bodies of Fender’s instruments allowed for minimal feedback with high-gain amplification, an issue that plagued earlier guitars. The Fender guitars were popular with musicians in a variety of genres and are now revered for their build quality and tonal excellence.
The company began as Fender’s Radio Service in late 1938 in Fullerton, California. It got its name from the surname of its founder Leo Fender. As a qualified electronics technician, Leo Fender had been asked to repair not only radios, but also phonograph players, home audio amplifiers, public address systems and musical instrument amplifiers. (At the time, most of these were just variations on a few simple vacuum-tube circuits.) All designs were based on research developed and released to the public domain by Western Electric in the 1930s and used vacuum tubes for amplification. The business also sidelined in carrying records for sale and the in rental of company-designed PA systems. Leo became intrigued by design flaws in contemporary musical instrument amplifiers and began building amplifiers based on his own designs or modifications to designs.
By the early 1940s he had partnered with local electronics enthusiast Clayton Orr “Doc” Kauffman and together they formed the company K & F Manufacturing Corp to design, manufacture, and market electric instruments and amplifiers. Production began in 1945 with Hawaiian lap steel guitars (incorporating a patented pickup) and amplifiers sold as sets. By the end of the year Fender became convinced that manufacturing was more profitable than repair and he decided to concentrate on that business instead. Kauffman remained, however, unconvinced and he and Fender 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.
A custom lap steel guitar made in 1946 for his friend Noel Boggs was probably the very first product of the new company, already sporting the familiar Big “F” logo.
In the late 1940s, Leo Fender began to experiment with more conventional guitar designs. As early as 1949, the familiar shape of the Telecaster can be made out in some of Fender’s prototypes. Early Telecasters were plagued with issues; Leo Fender boasted the strength of the Telecasters one-piece pine neck while early adopters lamented its tendency to bow in humid weather. Fender’s reluctant addition of a metal truss-rod into the necks of his guitars allowed for the much needed ability to fine-tune the instrument to the musician’s specific needs. With the design of the Telecaster finalized, mass-production began in 1950. The key to Fender’s ability to mass-produce an electric guitar was the modular design of the Telecaster. Its bolted-on neck allowed for the instrument’s body and neck to be milled and finished separately and for the final assembling to be done quickly and cheaply by unskilled workers.
Fender owed its early success not only to its founder and talented associates such as musician/product engineer Freddie Tavares but also to the efforts of sales chief, senior partner and marketing genius Don Randall. According to The Stratocaster Chronicles (a book by Tom Wheeler; Hal Leonard Pub., Milwaukee, WI; 2004, p. 108), Randall assembled what Fender’s original partner Doc Kauffman called “a sales distributorship like nobody had ever seen in the world.” Randall worked closely with the immensely talented photographer/designer, Bob Perine. Their catalogs and ads were innovative – such as the “You Won’t Part With Yours Either” campaign, which portrayed people surfing, skiing, skydiving, and climbing into jet planes, all while holding Jazzmasters and Stratocasters.
In Fender guitar literatures of the 1960s, attractive, guitar-toting teenagers were posed with surfboards and Perine’s classic Thunderbird convertible at local beachside settings, firmly integrating Fender into the surfin’/hot rod/sports car culture of Southern California celebrated by the Beach Boys, beach movies, and surf music. (The Stratocaster Chronicles, by Tom Wheeler; Hal Leonard Pub., Milwaukee, WI; 2004, p. 108). This early success is dramatically illustrated by the growth of Fender’s manufacturing capacity through the 1950s and 1960s.
Sale to CBS
In early 1965, Leo Fender sold his companies to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for $13 million. (by wikipedia)
And the rest is history …. as we all know …
And here´s a little catalog (12 pages) with all these fantastic Fender instruments (and amplifiers) from 1965 … two years before Jimi Hendrix set the world in fire … with his Fender Stratocaser !