THE HISTORY OF FENDER GUITARS
Leo Fender was born on an orange grove owned by his parents in 1909. In 1938 at the age of 29 years old, Leo Fender borrowed $600 to open Fenders Radio Service, a storefront operation where he repaired radios, guitars and amplifiers, sold vinyl record albums, Hawaiian (Lap) guitars and acoustic guitars.
In 1945 he took on a partner, Clayton "Doc" Kauffman who worked at Rickenbacker guitars. Under the company name K & F Manufacturing, using the first letter of each of their surnames, they started producing Hawaiian (lap steel) guitars and small guitar amps. Kauffman left in 1946 and the company name was changed to Fender Electric Instrument Company.
The first solid body, Spanish style electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It was first named the Esquire, which apparently got a bad rap due to neck problems. Then it was changed to the Broadcaster, which Gretsch objected to because they had a drum-set with that same name. So then finally the name was changed to the Telecaster which remains to this day.
In 1951 Fender introduced the Precision Bass and the Bassman Amp. The Stratocaster in 1954, the Jazzmaster in 1958, the Jazz Bass in 1960, the Jaguar guitar in 1962 and the Mustang guitar in 1964. In 1964 they also introduced to market their first line of acoustic guitars.
The Fender Stratocaster became their most famous guitar. It is commonly referred to as the Strat although in the 1980's there was a Fender model called "The Strat" which had that name on the headstock. It came with a Floyd Rose floating bridge which was very popular at that time for whammy dive bombs.
The Stratocaster, like the Volkswagen Beatle, really hasn't changed that much over the years. It is probably the most stereo typical image of what an electric guitar is. It is definitely the most copied guitar. Almost every guitar company has a Strat copy.
was first made famous in the 1950's by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and
Carl Perkins. Then later on by Dick Dale, Pete Townshend,
Leo Fender sold the Fender company to CBS, Columbia Broadcasting System in January 1965 for 13 million dollars.
In 1985 Fender was sold to an investor group led by William Schultz who was the President of Fender at that time. The group consisted of Fender managers and employees and Servco Pacific Capital, an investment company.
For most of 1985 the guitars were all made in Japan. They later on moved most of Japan's production to Mexico. In 1987 they opened a plant in the U.S. again and introduced the American Standard Stratocaster to market.
In December 2001, Weston Presidio, a private equity firm, bought controlling interest for just under 58 million dollars.
In 2012 Servco Pacific bought Weston Presidio's shares and TPG Growth, a hedge fund bought the balance of the company.
In February 2020 Servco purchased TPG's shares and are now the owner of Fender.
Leo Fender died in 1991 at the age of 81.
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