Leo Fender’s Storks

August 10, 19o9 – Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender (August 10, 1909 – March 21, 1991), the founder of the famous guitar company – Fender Electric Manufacturing Co., graces the world with his presence.

Leo Fender is famous for sending out the storks to drop guitars and amps safely onto your porches and front lawns. OK. We know Leo didn’t actually do this – but, it all had to begin somewhere. Where was Leo born and how and where did he get his start building his marvelous instruments and amps? Did he invent the first electric guitar? Let’s begin answering these questions.

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Leo Fender – the man who started it all. Leonidas: Greek warrior King of Sparta!

 

He was born in sunny Anaheim, California and became interested in electronics at a young age. He lived on the small family farm where, at the age of 14, he worked on electronics in the small repair shop. Leo did not invent the first electric guitar there, nor anywhere else. He did, however, create the first successful company designing and building guitars, the bass and amplifiers.

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Leo’s shop

In 1938, he opened his own shop – Fender’s Repair Service, offering the obvious – repairs to musical instruments, custom PA systems and electric guitars. Fender decided to ditch accounting and returned to his first true love – electronics. He borrowed $600 to start Fender Radio Service in Fullerton. It wasn’t long before he was flogging and renting out his PA systems, amplification equipment for acoustic guitars and  the “Hawaiian Lap”, which was to become popular in Country music – all which he masterfully created himself.

 

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Fender Hawaiian Lap

 

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Grestsch Broadkaster drum

Leo’s most popular creation was the Fender Precision bass. Second on that list was the Fender Broadcaster – next the Telecaster. The Telecaster is still being happily produced today, while the Broadcaster Why? There had already been a product on the market called the Grestsch Broadkaster drum.

 

If you’re curious as to the similarities between a Broadcaster and the Telecaster, it’s all in the electronics. Note that in Fig 1. (below) that the tone potentiometer (pot) is labeled tone. Then, look at the diagram of Fig 2. (below this image) – that pot is labeled blend, and not tone. This would then blend the two pickups together in the second position of the switch.

(Fig 1.)

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(Fig 2.)

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Now, less techie mumbo-jumbo and more fun stuff.

Some famous musicians who mastered the Fender and its accessories – – Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dick Dale and many more.

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Jimi Hendrix relaxing with a dart while strumming his Strat

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Rick Nelson on a customized acoustic guitar with a  Fender neck with James Burton on a Tele

Buddy Guy kissing his Strat

Fender’s guitars are unique for their clean and bright tone. They were simple, solid and durable – just a carved slab of wood for a body and a bolt-on neck – they were and still are monsters (hope you caught the Frankenstein reference!) made to take abuse from their players.

Fender sold his company to CBS in 1965. Sadly, we lost Leo Fender in 1991, before never having learned to play guitar himself.

This article created by a Grade 8 Graduate, amateur musician and future Luthier.

– altered by Hystoria

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