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If the Gibson Les Paul is an icon in the world of modern guitars, so too are Fender’s Stratocaster and Telecaster. The Telecaster was the first mass-produced, solid-body electric guitar and spurred Fender’s initial success. Amongst bass players, Leo Fender’s Precision Bass is equally revered across the musical spectrum from jazz to rock, to country to funk.
Innovation Was Key
Leo Fender, an electronics technician, founded the Fender Musical Instrument Company in Fullerton, California, in 1946. Noting the many flaws in the early amplifiers he repaired, he began designing and building his own amplifiers and to this day, Fender amplifiers are synonymous with quality. Leo passed away in 1991 but the company he built continues to grow, lead and improvise and now encompasses such brands as Squier, Gretsch, Jackson, Charvel, Takamine, Ovation and Guild, among others.
Even though Fender guitars stood out from the beginning for their quality, much of the success of Fender in the early years was attributed to the marketing innovations of Don Randall. A senior partner as well as Fender’s sales chief, Randall produced deluxe catalogs picturing healthy-looking teenagers carrying Fender guitars with them wherever they went, including surfing on the waters of the Pacific ocean.
1965 saw the sale of the Fender group of companies to CBS, whose cost-cutting measures resulted in a much-lamented lowering of quality of Fender products. Twenty years later, employees of the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company bought the company from CBS, renaming it the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender products are now manufactured in Japan and Mexico, though the high-end instruments are produced in Corona, California. For the guitar connoisseur, Fender’s Custom Guitar Shop, established in 1987, builds instruments of uncompromising quality with design input from some of the world’s most famous guitarists.