Fender electric guitar: History
For more than four decades, Fender electric guitars and amplifiers have had a tremendous influence on the way the world composes, plays and listens to music. While guitarists in the early part of this century played country, folk or blues on acoustic guitars, in the 1930s, jazz musicians experimented with amplifying traditional hollow-body guitars so they could play with other instruments at the same sound level. One problem was that the speakers and pick-ups tended to generate feedback when played at a high level.
In the 1940s, a California inventor named Leo Fender had made
some custom guitars and amplifiers in his radio shop. Eventually, Leo
would create the world's very first instrument amplifiers with built-in
tone controls. More importantly, though, was Leo's vision of better
guitar. With his knowledge of existing technologies, he knew he could
improve on contemporary amplified hollow-body instruments . . . and
improve upon them, he did. In 1951, he introduced the Broadcaster, the
prototype solid-body guitar that would eventually become the legendary
Telecaster. The Tele, as it became affectionately known, was the first
solid-body electric Spanish-style guitar ever to go into commercial
production. Soon to follow the Tele were the revolutionary Precision
Bass® guitar in 1951, and the Stratocaster in 1954.
In 1965, because of poor health, Leo Fender sold his company
to corporate giant CBS. Over the next two decades, Fender Musical
Instruments experienced some tremendous growth. But as time wore on,
CBS's lack of commitment and real understanding of music and musicians
was becoming apparent.
In 1981, CBS recruited a new management team to "re-invent"
Fender. William Schultz was soon named President, and was supported by
associates William Mendello and Kurt Hemrich. They had developed a
five-year business plan based on the idea of increasing Fender's
presence in the marketplace by dramatically improving quality and
making a significant commitment to research and development. This
association continued until CBS decided to divest itself from the
non-broadcast media business.
So, in 1985, a group of employees and investors led by William
Schultz purchased the company from CBS. This sale put Fender in the
hands of a small group of musically dedicated people who have committed
their lives to creating the world's best guitars and amplifiers.
The team had to start from scratch - there were no buildings
or machines included in the deal. They owned only the name, the
patents, and the parts that were left over in stock. Supported by a
core group of loyal employees, dealers and suppliers - some of whom had
been with the company since Leo Fender began making guitars and
amplifiers - Bill Schultz and his colleagues set out to re-build an
Initially, Fender imported their guitars from offshore
manufacturers who had proven their ability to produce affordable,
viable instruments. But the quest for even more control over quality
soon led to the construction of Fender's flagship domestic factory in
Corona, California. Eventually, Fender would build a second modern
manufacturing facility in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, with the
goal of being able to build quality instruments and offer them at more
In 1987, Fender acquired Sunn, a storied line of amplifiers
whose past endorsees have included The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The
Rolling Stones. This jump-started Fender's re-entry into the amplifier
business by making accessible Sunn's manufacturing facilities in Lake
Oswego, Oregon. But this was still an early stage of the "new" Fender,
so Schultz put the Sunn line of amps on the shelf until the Fender name
had been re-established as the world's leading amplifier.
Fender has always recognized the importance of an open-door
policy for the professional musician. When artists first started
requesting specific features for their guitars, they were accommodated
on an individual basis. These relationships led to the formalizing of
Fender's custom operation in 1987. Today, the world's greatest
guitarists work with the renowned Fender Custom Shop in Corona,
California, to create their dream instruments. Recently, Fender has
added amplifiers to the list of custom-made instruments that can be
produced at the Custom Shop in Corona.
In 1991, Fender moved its corporate headquarters from Corona
to Scottsdale, Arizona. From here, administration, marketing,
advertising, sales and export teams oversee the operations of Fender's
satellite facilities around the world, which now include the locations
in the United States (California, Tennessee, New York and Rhode
Island), as well as international operations in: Ensenada, Baja
California, Mexico; London, England; Dusseldorf, Germany; Suresnes,
France; Brussels; Japan; Korea; and China.
Also brought to Scottsdale at this time was Fender's Amplifier
and Pro Audio Research & Development. With guitar amplifiers,
Fender sets the standard for sound and value. Its R & D staff
has pioneered many technological advancements in developing amplifiers
that meet the needs of the performing musician. In late 1992, the Amp
Custom Shop was opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, to offer custom and
limited editions of professional amplifiers for working musicians.
Recognizing that country music and acoustic guitars were
increasing in popularity, Fender expanded upon its acoustic guitar
line. In addition to working with respected manufacturers in Japan,
Korea and China to produce quality acoustic guitars, the company has
become the exclusive North American distributor of the prestigious
Manuel Rodriguez line of nylon-stringed guitars, which have been
hand-crafted in Spain by the Rodriguez family since 1905. These
additions have put the company in an excellent position for growth
within the acoustic guitar market.
Founded in a loft in New York City in 1952, Guild Guitar
Company continues to be known for its quality instruments and
exceptional value. Faced with internal financial troubles in the early
1990's, Guild management had decided to sell the company. Fender
acquired Guild in 1995, signalling a return to ownership by a group of
people dedicated to producing the finest value in American-made
acoustic and electric guitars. Today, Guilds are still being produced
at its historic, 60,000 square-foot facility in Westerly, Rhode Island.
1998 would prove to be a banner year for Fender and its
subsidiaries. With Fender amplifiers once again enjoying a very strong
presence in the market place, it was now time to dust off the Sunn line
of amps. R&D had spent the previous three years studying the
original Sunn products and developing prototype models that faithfully
replicated the trademark Sunn sound. The timing was right, and Fender
introduced the new Sunn line of amplifiers to an immediate industry
And for Guild, 1998 brought the expansion of its Custom Shop
in Nashville, Tennessee. First opened in 1996, the new Guild Custom
Shop boasts an 8,000 square-foot , climate controlled facility near
downtown Nashville that allows a great deal of extra space for
production and storage of raw materials.
Guild had also introduced DeArmond guitars in 1998. Fender had
purchased the DeArmond brand of musical instrument pick-ups in 1997,
and then combined the company with Guild to produce an alternative line
of high quality, affordable guitars and basses that are modelled after
Guild designs. The guitars themselves are built and assembled in Korea
before being sent back to Corona, where they are fitted with
American-made DeArmond pick-ups. Following their successful test runs
in European and Asian markets, DeArmond guitars were introduced to
American and Canadian consumers and received instant acclaim as an
But the biggest event for Fender in 1998 was the opening of
its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Corona. The 177,000
square-foot facility was built on a nineteen acre site, with over half
of that space set aside for future growth, and is the culmination of a
vision that at times seemed almost impossible. The entire line of
American-made Fender guitars are built at the Corona factory, which is
capable of making over 350 guitars each day. In addition, the Corona
facility utilizes the innovative UVOXÔ system, which combines
ultraviolet light, a special scrubber process, and a carbon bed
absorption system to help ensure that the air emitted from the factory
is 95% clean. The new factory is not only a state-of-the-art
manufacturing facility, but a tribute to how a group of dedicated
individuals, when they set their minds to it, can create the
The Fender Custom Shop also shares space at the new facility.
Over fifty artisans now work at the Custom Shop, offering the world's
finest custom made instruments to professional musicians, as well as a
complete line of hand-crafted replications of classic Fender models.
And to complete the Corona operation, the amplifier Custom Shop was
brought back from Scottsdale and folded into the guitar Custom Shop.
Simultaneously, a new 70,000 square-foot addition was
completed at the Ensenada facility. The extra space was added to bring
amplifier production, aside from those produced at the Custom Shop,
into one main facility.
During the past decade, Fender has grown dramatically in sales
and stature. The company manufactures and distributes virtually
everything that a guitarist needs to perform, from the guitar, strings
and accessories, to the pro audio products including amplifiers and
mixing boards. Today, under Schultz's direction, Fender Musical
Instruments Corporation is a world leader in the manufacturing and
distribution of electric guitars and amplifiers.
Fender became the world leader by defining the sounds we hear,
meeting the needs of musicians, creating quality products and backing
them up with service and stability. As Fender Musical Instruments
Corporation forges through the 1990's and into the 21st century, its
management team will maintain Fender's number-one status through a
winning combination of business acumen and a love of music.