Fender guitars: a full guide & history of this iconic brand

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  July 23, 2022

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Fender is one of the most iconic and well-known American guitar brands in the world.

You can’t call yourself a guitar player if you’re not familiar with the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.

Founded in 1946 by Leo Fender, the company has been a major player in the guitar industry for over 70 years, and its instruments have been used by some of the most famous musicians in history.

In his quest to craft the best instruments for guitar players, founder Leo Fender once said all artists were angels, and it was “his job to give them wings to fly”.

Fender guitars- a full guide & history of this iconic brand

Today, Fender offers a wide range of guitars for all levels of players, from beginners to pros.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the brand’s history, what they’re known for and why this brand is still as popular as ever.

Fender: the history

Fender is not a new brand – it was one of the earliest electric guitar makers to come out of the United States.

Let’s take a look at the beginnings of this iconic brand:

The early days

Before guitars, Fender was known as Fender’s Radio Service.

It was started in the late 1930s by Leo Fender, a man with a passion for electronics.

He started repairing radios and amplifiers in his shop in Fullerton, California.

Leo soon began building his own amplifiers, which became popular with local musicians.

In 1945, Leo Fender was approached by two musicians and fellow electronics enthusiasts, Doc Kauffman and George Fullerton, about creating electric instruments.

Thus the Fender brand was born in 1946, when Leo Fender founded the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company in Fullerton, California.

Fender was a relatively new name in the guitar world at the time, but Leo had already made a name for himself as a maker of electric lap steel guitars and amplifiers.

The first Fender logos were actually designed by Leo himself and were called the Fender spaghetti logo.

The spaghetti logo was the first logo used on Fender guitars and basses, appearing on instruments from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

There was also a transition logo designed by Robert Perine in the late 50s for the Fender catalog. This new Fender logo has that large chunky gold bold lettering with a black outline.

But in later decades, the CBS-era Fender logo with the block letters and blue background became one of the most recognizable logos in the music industry.

This new logo was designed by graphic artist Royer Cohen.

It helped Fender instruments stand out visually. You can always tell a Fender strat from the competition by looking at that logo.

Today, the Fender logo has spaghetti-style lettering, but we don’t know who the graphic designer is. But this modern Fender logo is quite basic in black and white.

The Broadcaster

In 1948, Leo introduced the Fender Broadcaster, which was the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar.

The Broadcaster would later be renamed the Telecaster, and it remains one of Fender’s most popular guitars to this day.

What’s special about the Telecaster is that it was the first guitar with a built-in pickup, which allowed amplified sound.

This made it much easier for performers to be heard over a band.

The Precision Bass

In 1951, Fender released the first mass-produced electric bass guitar, the Precision Bass.

Best strings for electric guitar
Best strings for electric guitar

The Precision Bass was a big hit with musicians, as it gave them a way to add low-end power to their music.

What’s special about the precision bass is the difference in string gauges.

The Precision Bass has always had heavier gauge strings than a regular six-string guitar, which gives it a thicker, richer sound.

The Stratocaster

In 1954, Leo Fender introduced the Stratocaster, which quickly became one of the most popular electric guitars in the world.

The Stratocaster would go on to become the signature guitar of some of the world’s most famous guitar players, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Today, the Stratocaster is still one of Fender’s best-selling guitars. In fact, this model is still one of the best-selling Fender products of all time.

The contoured body and unique tone of the Stratocaster make it one of the most versatile electric guitars out there.

It can be used for any style of music, especially rock and blues.

The quality of this guitar made it very desirable, and the fretwork and attention to detail were amazing for the time.

Also, the pickups were very good, and they were placed in a way that made the guitar more versatile.

The Stratocaster was an instant hit with players and became the standard by which all other electric guitars would be judged.

The Jazzmaster and the Jaguar

In 1958, Fender introduced the Jazzmaster, which was designed to be the best guitar for jazz players.

The Jazzmaster had a new offset waist body design that made it more comfortable to play while sitting down.

It also had a new floating tremolo system that allowed players to bend the strings without affecting the tuning.

The Jazzmaster was a bit too radical for its time and wasn’t well received by jazz players.

However, it would later go on to become one of the most popular guitars for surf rock bands like The Beach Boys and Dick Dale.

In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which was designed to be a more upscale version of the Stratocaster.

The Jaguar featured a new body shape, a shorter 24-fret neck profile, and two new pickups.

The Jaguar was also the first Fender guitar with a built-in tremolo system.

The Jaguar was a bit too radical for its time and wasn’t well received by guitar players initially.

CBS buys the Fender brand

In 1965, Leo Fender sold the Fender company to CBS for $13 million.

At the time, this was the largest transaction in the history of musical instruments.

Leo Fender stayed on with CBS for a few years to help with the transition, but he eventually left the company in 1971.

After Leo Fender left, CBS began to make changes to the Fender guitars that made them less desirable to players.

For example, CBS cheapened the construction of the Stratocaster by using less expensive materials and construction methods.

They also began mass-producing guitars, which led to a decline in quality. However, there were still some great Fender guitars made during this time.

FMIC

In 1985, CBS decided to sell the Fender company.

A group of investors led by Bill Schultz and Bill Haley bought the company for $12.5 million.

This group would go on to form the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC).

The American Standard Stratocaster

In 1986, Fender introduced the American Standard Stratocaster, which was designed to be a more updated version of the original Stratocaster.

The American Standard Stratocaster featured a new maple fingerboard, updated pickups, and improved hardware.

The American Standard Stratocaster was a huge hit with guitarists around the world and is still one of the most popular Stratocaster models today.

In 1988, Fender revealed the first ever player series, or player-designed signature model, the Eric Clapton Stratocaster.

This guitar was designed by Eric Clapton and featured his unique specifications, such as an alder body, maple fingerboard, and three Lace Sensor pickups.

Legacy

The build of these legendary Fender instruments, which established the standard for many, can be found in the majority of electric guitars you’ll find today, demonstrating the brand’s legacy and impact.

Things like the Floyd Rose tremolo, Duncan pickups, and certain body shapes have become a staple in the electric guitar world, and it all started with Fender.

Despite its historical significance, Fender has had a massive increase in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to its enormous selection of instruments, which also includes basses, acoustics, pedals, amplifiers, and accessories.

However, with such a wide range of products, the idea of looking through Fender’s gear could seem fairly overwhelming, particularly when it comes to their variety of electric guitars.

Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Kurt Cobain have all helped to solidify Fender’s place in music history.

Fender today

In recent years, Fender has expanded its artist signature model offerings, working with the likes of John 5, Vince Gill, Chris Shiflett, and Danny Gatton.

The company has also released several new models, such as the parallel universe series, which includes alternate versions of classic Fender designs.

Fender has also been working on improving its manufacturing process with a new state-of-the-art facility in Corona, California.

This new facility is designed to help Fender keep up with the increasing demand for their instruments.

With its long history, iconic instruments, and dedication to quality, it’s no wonder that Fender is one of the most popular guitar brands in the world.

The Fender Vintera series

In 2019, Fender released the Vintera series, which is a line of guitars that pays tribute to the early days of the company.

The Vintera series includes models like the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and Mustang. You can find out more information about these models on their website.

Fender has also released a number of affordable instruments, such as the Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster and Telecaster.

The Fender American Standard Series is still the company’s flagship line of guitars, basses, and amplifiers.

In 2015, Fender released the American Elite Series, which featured a number of updated designs and new features, such as the 4th generation Noiseless pickups.

Fender also offers a Custom Shop service, where players can order custom-made instruments.

Fender is still one of the top-selling brands in the country, and the Fender logo is one of the most recognizable in the world.

Fender continues to be a force in the guitar world, and their instruments are played by some of the most popular musicians in the world.

Heavy metal legend Zakk Wylde, country superstar Brad Paisley, and pop sensation Justin Bieber are just a few of the many artists who rely on Fender guitars to get their sound.

Fender products

The Fender brand is about more than just electric guitars. In addition to their classic instruments, they offer acoustics, basses, amps, and a wide range of accessories.

Their acoustic guitars include the classic Fender acoustic, the dreadnought-style T-Bucket, and the parlor-style Malibu.

The electric guitar selection includes everything from the classic Stratocaster and Telecaster to more modern designs like the Jaguar, Mustang, and Duo-Sonic.

Their basses include the Precision Bass, the Jazz Bass, and the short-scale Mustang Bass.

They also offer a wide range of amplifiers with various features and model options.

In recent years, Fender has also been expanding their line of products to include more high-end instruments and gear.

Their American Professional and American Elite series offers some of the best guitars and basses available on the market today.

These instruments are built with the highest quality materials and craftsmanship and are designed for professional musicians.

There are several other Fender instruments and products, such as the Passport travel guitar, the Gretsch Duo-Jet, and the Squier Bullet that are popular among beginner and intermediate guitarists.

Fender also offers a wide range of pedals, including delay, overdrive, and distortion pedals.

They also offer a variety of accessories, such as cases, straps, picks, and more!

Check out my extensive review of the Fender Super Champ X2

Where are Fender guitars manufactured?

Fender guitars are manufactured all over the world.

The majority of their instruments are made in their Corona, California factory, but they also have factories in Mexico, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and China.

The Performer, the Professional, the Original, and the Ultra series guitars are manufactured in the USA.

Their other instruments, like the Vintera series, the Player, and the Artist series, are manufactured in their Mexico factory.

The Fender Custom Shop is also located in Corona, California.

This is where their team of master builders create custom-made instruments for professional musicians.

Why is Fender special?

People always wonder why Fender guitars are so popular.

It has to do with the playability, the tones, and the history of the company.

Fender instruments are known for their great action, which makes them easy to play.

They also have a wide range of tones, from the bright and twangy sounds of the Telecaster to the warm and smooth sounds of the Jazz Bass.

And, of course, the history of the company and the artists who have played their instruments is undeniable.

But features like rolled fingerboard edges, nitrocellulose lacquer finishes, and custom-wound pickups set Fender apart from other guitar brands.

The Pau Ferro fingerboard on the American Player Stratocaster is just one example of the attention to detail that Fender puts into their instruments.

The tapered neck heel and contoured body also make it one of the most comfortable guitars to play.

Fender also uses good quality materials like a maple neck, alder body, and stainless steel frets on their American Professional Series instruments.

These materials allow the guitars to age gracefully and maintain their original tone over time.

Plus, players can recognize the attention to detail that comes with each instrument, and this sets the brand apart from many cheaper manufacturers.

The bottom line is that Fender offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re a beginner just starting out or a professional musician looking for the best quality instruments, Fender has something to offer.

With their Squier and Fender brands, they have a guitar for every budget.

Takeaway

If you’re thinking of playing guitar or already have your own instrument, you should consider one of the Fender models.

Fender has been around for over seventy years, and their experience shows in the quality of their products.

Fender has a style of guitar for everyone, and the models are well made with good tone.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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