Fender Musical Instruments Corporation

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Coordinates: 33°38′46″N111°53′57″W / 33.6460322°N 111.899058°W / 33.6460322; -111.899058

Contents

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
FormerlyFender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company
Type Private
Industry Musical instruments
Founded1946;75 years ago (1946) in Fullerton, California, United States
Founder Clarence Leonidas Fender
Headquarters,
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Andy Mooney (CEO) [1]
James S. Broenen (CFO)
Evan Jones (CMO) [2]
Products
Brands
Parent Servco Pacific
Divisions
Website fender.com

The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC, or simply Fender) is an American manufacturer of stringed instruments and amplifiers. Fender produces acoustic guitars, bass amplifiers and public address equipment, but is best known for its solid-body electric guitars and bass guitars, particularly the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Precision Bass, and the Jazz Bass. The company was founded in Fullerton, California by Clarence Leonidas "Leo" Fender in 1946. [6] Its headquarters are in Los Angeles, California.

The FMIC is a privately held corporation, with Andy Mooney serving as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The company filed for an initial public offering in March 2012, [7] but this was withdrawn [8] [9] five months later. In addition to its Los Angeles headquarters, Fender has manufacturing facilities in Corona, California (US) and Ensenada, Baja California (Mexico). [10]

As of July 10, 2012, the majority shareholders of Fender were the private equity firm of Weston Presidio (43%), Japanese music distributors Yamano Music (14%) and Kanda Shokai (13%), and Servco Pacific (5%). [11] [12] In December 2012, TPG Growth (the middle market and growth equity investment platform of TPG Capital) and Servco Pacific took control of the company after acquiring the shares held by Weston Presidio. [13] In January 2020, Servco Pacific became the majority owner after acquiring the shares of TPG Growth. [14]

History

In 1950, Fender introduced the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster ("Tele") (originally named the Broadcaster for two-pickup models and Esquire for single-pickup). [15] Following its success, Fender created the first mass-produced electric bass, the Precision Bass (P-Bass). In August, 1954, Fender unveiled the Stratocaster ("Strat") guitar. With the Telecaster and Precision Bass having been on the market for some time, Leo Fender was able to incorporate input from working musicians into the Stratocaster's design.

Origins

Diagram of Leo Fender's lap steel guitar from 1944 patent application. FenderGuitarPatentDiagram.png
Diagram of Leo Fender's lap steel guitar from 1944 patent application.

The company began as Fender's Radio Service in late 1938 in Fullerton, California. As a qualified electronics technician, Fender had repaired radios, phonographs, home audio amplifiers, public address systems and musical instrument amplifiers, all designs based on research developed and released to the public domain by Western Electric in the 1930s using vacuum tubes for amplification. The business also sidelined in carrying records for sale and the rental of company-designed PA systems. Leo became intrigued by design flaws in contemporary musical instrument amplifiers and began building amplifiers based on his own designs or modifications to designs.

By the early 1940s, Leo Fender had entered into a partnership with Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman, and they formed the K & F Manufacturing Corp to design, manufacture, and market electric instruments and amplifiers. Production began in 1945 with Hawaiian lap steel guitars like the "Champion" (incorporating a patented pickup) and amplifiers, sold as sets. By the end of the year, Fender became convinced that manufacturing was more profitable than repair, and decided to concentrate on that business instead. Kauffman remained unconvinced, and he and Fender amicably parted ways by early 1946. At that point, Fender renamed the company the Fender Electric Instrument Company. The service shop remained open until 1951, although Leo Fender did not personally supervise it after 1947.

Leo Fender's lap steel guitar made in 1946 for Noel Boggs was probably the very first product of the new company, bearing an early presentation of the cursive "big F" Fender logo. [16]

In the late 1940s, Fender began to experiment with more conventional guitar designs. Early Broadcasters were plagued with issues; while Fender boasted the strength of the instrument's one-piece maple neck, early adopters lamented its tendency to bow in humid weather. Fender's reluctant addition of a metal truss rod into the necks of his guitars allowed for the much needed ability to fine-tune the instrument to the musician's specific needs. With the design of the Telecaster finalized, mass production began in 1950. The Telecaster's bolted-on neck allowed for the instrument's body and neck to be milled and finished separately, and for the final assembling to be done quickly and cheaply by unskilled workers.

The Stratocaster was released in 1954. FiestaRedStrat.jpg
The Stratocaster was released in 1954.

In 1959, Fender released the Jazzmaster guitar. Like the Stratocaster before it, the Jazzmaster was a radical departure from previous guitar designs. The offset body, vibrato system and innovative electronics were designed to capture the Jazz guitar market which until then was dominated by acoustic guitars. Fender even promoted the Jazzmaster as a premium successor to the Stratocaster, an accolade it never fully achieved. Despite being shunned by the Jazz community, the guitar found a home in the growing surf rock music scene, one that would go on to influence the Jazzmaster's successor, the Jaguar in 1962.

Sale to CBS

In 1965 Leo Fender sold his companies to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for $13 million. [17] [18] This was almost two million more than they had paid for The New York Yankees a year before. CBS entered the musical instruments field by acquiring the Fender companies (Fender Sales, Inc., Fender Electric Instrument Company, Inc., Fender Acoustic Instrument Company, Inc., Fender-Rhodes, Inc., Terrafen, Inc., Clef-Tronix, Inc., Randall Publishing Co., Inc., and V.C. Squier Company), as well as Electro-Music Inc. (Leslie speakers), Rogers drums, Steinway pianos, Gemeinhardt flutes, Lyon & Healy harps, Rodgers (institutional) organs, and Gulbransen home organs.

The sale was taken as a positive development, considering CBS's ability to bring in money and personnel who acquired a large inventory of Fender parts and unassembled guitars that were assembled and put to market. However, the sale also led to a reduction of the quality of Fender's guitars while under the management of "cost-cutting" CBS. Several cosmetic changes occurred after 1965/1966, such as a larger headstock shape on certain guitars. Bound necks with block shaped position markers were introduced in 1966. A bolder black headstock logo, as well as a brushed aluminum face plate with blue or red labels (depending the model) for the guitar and bass amplifiers became standard features, starting in late 1968. These first "silverface" amps added an aluminium trim detail around the speaker baffle until 1970.

Other cosmetic changes included a new "tailless" Fender amp decal and a sparkling orange grillcloth on certain amplifiers in the mid-1970s. Regarding guitars, in mid-1971 the usual four-bolt neck joint was changed to one using only three bolts, and a second string tree for the two middle (G and D) strings was added in late 1972. These changes were said to have been made to save money: while it suited the new 'improved' micro-tilt adjustment of the neck (previously requiring neck removal and shimming), the "Bullet" truss rod system, and a 5-way pickup selector on most models, it also resulted in a greater propensity toward mechanical failure of the guitars.

During the CBS era, the company did introduce some new instrument and amplifier designs. The Fender Starcaster was particularly unusual because of its shallow, yet semi-hollow body design that still retained the traditional Fender bolt-on neck, albeit with a completely different headstock. The Starcaster also incorporated a new Humbucking pickup designed by Seth Lover, which became known as the Wide Range pickup. This pickup also gave rise to 3 new incarnations of the classic Telecaster: the Telecaster Custom, the Telecaster Deluxe and the Telecaster Thinline. Though more recent use by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead has raised the Starcaster's profile, CBS-era instruments are generally much less coveted or collectable than the "pre-CBS" models created by Leo Fender prior to selling the Fender companies to CBS in 1965.

In 1983 the Fender Stratocaster received a short-lived redesign including a single ("master") tone control, a bare-bones pickguard-mounted output jack, redesigned single-coil pickups, active electronics, and three push buttons for pickup selection (on the Elite Series). Additionally, previous models such as the Swinger (also known as Musiclander) and Custom (also known as Maverick) were perceived by some musicians as little more than attempts to squeeze profits out of factory stock. The so-called "pre-CBS cult" refers to the popularity of Fenders made before the sale.

After selling the Fender company, Leo Fender founded Music Man in 1975, and G&L Musical Instruments in 1979, both of which manufacture electric guitars and basses based on his later designs.

After CBS

Leo Fender and early guitar models at the Fender Guitar Factory Museum. FGF museum 01. Leo and early models.jpg
Leo Fender and early guitar models at the Fender Guitar Factory Museum.

In 1985, in a campaign initiated by then CBS Musical Instruments division president William Schultz (1926–2006), the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company employees purchased the company from CBS and renamed it Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). The sale did not include the old Fullerton factory; FMIC had to build a new facility in nearby Corona.

In 1991, FMIC moved its corporate headquarters from its Corona location to Scottsdale, Arizona, where "administration, marketing, advertising, sales and export operations" take place, not only for the United States operations, but many other countries also. [19] Fender guitars built in Ensenada, Mexico, now fulfill the primary export role formerly held by Japanese-made Fenders. The Japanese Fenders are now manufactured specifically for the Japanese market, with only a small number marked for export.

On February 11, 1994, the Ensenada plant burned down, and main production was temporarily moved to Corona.

Price fixing

In January 2020, the company's UK arm, Fender Europe, was fined £4.5 million after admitting resale price maintenance (a form of price-fixing) between 2013 and 2018, in breach of the United Kingdom's Competition Act 1998. [20] [21]

Logos

Fender Telecaster with a "spaghetti logo" from the pre-CBS era Fender Telecaster American Vintage 52 RI headstock.jpg
Fender Telecaster with a “spaghetti logo” from the pre-CBS era

The Fender “spaghetti logo” was used by Fender from 1954 to the mid 1960s. By 1965 Fender used a transition logo which was a thicker gold-and-black logo (this logo is associated with CBS). [22]

Acquisitions and partnerships

FMIC has purchased a number of instrument brands and firms, including the Guild Guitar Company, the Sunn Amplifier Company, and SWR Sound Corporation. In early 2003, FMIC reached an agreement with the Gretsch family and began manufacturing and distributing new Gretsch guitars. Fender also owns Jackson, Olympia, Orpheum, Tacoma Guitars, Squier, and Brand X amps.

On October 28, 2007, Fender acquired Kaman Music Corporation, which owned the Ovation Guitar Company, Latin Percussion and Toca hand percussion products, Gibraltar Hardware, Genz Benz Amplification, Charvel, Hamer Guitars, and is the exclusive U.S. sales representative for Sabian Cymbals and exclusive worldwide distributor of Takamine Guitars and Gretsch Drums.

In 2011, Volkswagen partnered with Fender to manufacture premium sound systems for its vehicles in North America. [23] Volkswagen vehicles in North America that offer optional Fender Premium Sound are the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Jetta Sedan, Volkswagen Passat, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

In February 2015, KMC was sold to Jam Industries [24] by FMIC. [25] In January, 2019 Fender purchased the Bigsby Electric Guitar Company from its partner Gretsch.The subsidiary operates independently, and produces the popular Bigsby vibrato tailpiece as well as several Paul Bigsby-designed electric guitars. [26]

Publications

Fender Frontline

Fender published the Fender Frontline magazine as a source of product, artist and technical data for the company's customers. [27] The first half featured interviews and articles about the guitars and the stars who played them, and the second half was a catalog section. [28]

Fender published 27 issues of the magazine from 1990 through 2000. [28] Notable interviewees included Kurt Cobain in Fall 1994, in what was his last interview. [29] Fender had designed a hybrid guitar for Cobain, known as a Jag Stang. [30] [29] Other notable interviews featured Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, [31] Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple, [32] and King Crimson's Adrian Belew. [33]

In 2001, Fender eliminated the interviews and features section, and Frontline became an annual illustrated price list until 2006, when it was replaced with a product guide. [28]

Product guide

Since February 2007, Fender produces an annual illustrated product guide in place of its traditional annual Frontline magazine. This change was made in large part due to costs associated with paying royalties for both print and the Internet. With the new illustrated product guide, this removed print issues. The new guide contains the entire range of instruments and amplifiers, with color pictures and basic specifications. These are available through guitar publications and are directly mailed to customers who sign up on the Fender website.As well as these printed formats, Fender Frontline Live launched at the winter NAMM show in January 2007 as a new online reference point, containing information on new products and live footage from the show.

Products

Fender's core product are electric guitars, namely the Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Mustang, Telecaster, and Stratocaster. This is alongside bass guitars in the Mustang, Jaguar, Jazz and Precision models. Fender also manufactures acoustic guitars, lap steel guitars, banjos, electric violins, guitar/bass amplifiers and the Fender Rhodes electric piano.

Fender manufactures and distributes all musical instruments sold under the EVH brand, including Custom Shop models and replicas of the Frankenstrat.

Squier

Squier was a string manufacturer that Fender acquired. Fender has used the Squier brand since 1982 to market inexpensive variants of Fender guitars to compete with Stratocaster copies, as the Stratocaster became more popular. Squier guitars have been manufactured in Japan, Korea, Mexico, India, Indonesia, China and the United States of America.

See also

Related Research Articles

Electric guitar Electrical string instrument

An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes, unlike a standard acoustic guitar. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals, which ultimately are reproduced as sound by loudspeakers. The sound is sometimes shaped or electronically altered to achieve different timbres or tonal qualities from that of an acoustic guitar. Often, this is done through the use of effects such as reverb, distortion and "overdrive"; the latter is considered to be a key element of electric blues guitar music and rock guitar playing.

Leo Fender American inventor and founder of the Fender company

Clarence Leonidas Fender was an American inventor, who founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, or "Fender" for short. In January 1965, he sold the company to CBS and later founded two other musical instrument companies, Music Man and G&L Musical Instruments.

Fender Stratocaster solid body electric guitar

The Fender Stratocaster, colloquially known as the Strat, is a model of electric guitar designed from 1952 into 1954 by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has continuously manufactured the Stratocaster from 1954 to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top "horn" shape for balance. Along with the Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG and Fender Telecaster, it is one of the most-often emulated electric guitar shapes. "Stratocaster" and "Strat" are trademark terms belonging to Fender. Guitars that duplicate the Stratocaster by other manufacturers are sometimes called S-Type or ST-type guitars.

The Fender Jazzmaster is an electric guitar designed as a more expensive sibling of the Fender Stratocaster. First introduced at the 1958 NAMM Show, it was initially marketed to jazz guitarists, but found favor among surf rock guitarists in the early 1960s. Its appearance is similar to the Jaguar, though it is tonally and physically different in many technical ways, including pickup design, scale length and controls.

The Fender Jaguar is an electric guitar by Fender Musical Instruments characterized by an offset-waist body, a relatively unusual switching system with two separate circuits for lead and rhythm, and a short-scale 24" neck. Owing some roots to the Jazzmaster, it was introduced in 1962 as Fender's feature-laden top-of-the-line model, designed to lure players from Gibson. During its initial 13-year production run, the Jaguar did not sell as well as the less expensive Stratocaster and Telecaster, and achieved its most noticeable popularity in the surf music scene. After the Jaguar was taken out of production in 1975, vintage Jaguars became popular first with American punk rock players, and then more so during the alternative rock, shoegazing and indie rock movements of the 1980s and 1990s. Fender began making a version in Japan in the mid-1980s, and then introduced a USA-made reissue in 1999. Since then, Fender has made a variety of Jaguars in America, Mexico, Indonesia and China under both the Fender and Squier labels. Original vintage Jaguars sell for many times their original price.

Fender Precision Bass Electric Bass Guitar

The Fender Precision Bass is a model of electric bass manufactured by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. In its standard, post-1957 configuration, the Precision Bass is a solid body, four-stringed instrument equipped with a single split-coil humbucking pickup and a one-piece, 20-fret maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard.

The Fender Bass VI, originally known as the Fender VI, is a six-string electric bass guitar made by Fender.

Fender Mustang

The Fender Mustang is a solid body electric guitar produced by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It was introduced in 1964 as the basis of a major redesign of Fender's student models, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic. It was produced until 1982 and reissued in 1990.

Headstock Part of the guitar which houses the pegs

A headstock or peghead is part of a guitar or similar stringed instruments such as a lute, mandolin, banjo, ukulele and others of the lute lineage. The main function of a headstock is to house the pegs or mechanism that holds the strings at the "head" of the instrument. At the "tail" of the instrument the strings are usually held by a tailpiece or bridge. Machine heads on the headstock are commonly used to tune the instrument by adjusting the tension of strings and, consequentially, the pitch of sound they produce.

A solid-body musical instrument is a string instrument such as a guitar, bass or violin built without its normal sound box and relying on an electromagnetic pickup system to directly detect the vibrations of the strings; these instruments are usually plugged into an instrument amplifier and loudspeaker to be heard. Solid-body instruments are preferred in situations where acoustic feedback may otherwise be a problem and are inherently both less expensive to build and more rugged than acoustic electric instruments.

Squier Super-Sonic

The Squier Super-Sonic is an electric guitar manufactured by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, originally marketed under their Squier brand. The design, conceived by former Squier marketing manager Joe Carducci, is said to have been inspired by a photograph in which Jimi Hendrix is pictured playing a Fender Jaguar upside down.

Fender Custom Shop

The Fender Custom Shop is a division of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, housed within their headquarters complex in Corona, Riverside County, California. The Fender Custom Shop produces special-order guitars for customers through a Custom Shop dealer network, creates limited edition high end quality guitars, builds limited edition amplifiers, and does some research & design for the parent company.

The Fender Bullet was an electric guitar originally designed by John Page and manufactured and marketed by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It was first introduced as a line of "student" guitars to replace the outgoing Mustang and Musicmaster models.

The Fender Noiseless series is a line of electric guitar pickups made by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Introduced in 1998, they feature a row of six dual stacked-coil pole pieces, designed to cancel hum noise. This single coil sized stack consists of a row of paired single coils stacked one on top of the other, compacted so as to fit (incognito) into the same size width space as a regular single coil pickup. This is to be contrasted with the original humbucking pickup design, which is a row of paired single coils double wide.

Starcaster by Fender

Starcaster by Fender is a range of instruments and accessories aimed at students and beginners, marketed by the prominent guitar company Fender from the early 2000s until at least 2011. As of April 2018, no products were being marketed under this brand.

Suhr Guitars

Suhr Guitars is an American company that manufactures electric guitars and basses, guitar amplifiers, and effect units. The company is based in Lake Elsinore, California and was founded in 1997 by John Suhr, who "has a reputation for building exquisitely crafted guitars" and Steve Smith.

The Fender Telecaster, colloquially known as the Tele, is the world's first mass-produced, commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. Its simple yet effective design and revolutionary sound broke ground and set trends in electric guitar manufacturing and popular music. Introduced for national distribution as the Broadcaster in the autumn of 1950 as a two-pickup version of its sister model, the single-pickup Esquire, the pair were the first guitars of their kind manufactured on a substantial scale. A trademark conflict with a rival manufacturer's led to the guitar being renamed in 1951. Initially, the Broadcaster name was simply cut off of the labels placed on the guitars and later in 1951, the final name of Telecaster was applied to the guitar to take advantage of the advent of television. The Telecaster quickly became a popular model, and has remained in continuous production since its first incarnation.

Fender Cabronita Telecaster

The Fender Cabronita Telecaster is a class of guitars built by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation based on their Telecaster body shape. The name Cabronita is Spanish slang and roughly translates as little bastard or little devil. While retaining the shape and general feel of a Telecaster, they are a radical departure from the traditional electronics and sounds associated with the instrument. Like virtually all Telecaster submodels, they are labeled simply as a Fender Telecaster on the headstock logo, identifiable only by their features.

Bigsby Electric Guitars

Bigsby is a brand of guitars and guitar accessories that operated as an independent company by Paul Bigsby until 1966 when it was purchased by ex-Gibson executive Ted McCarty. In 1999, the brand was acquired by Gretsch from McCarty, which owned it until 2019, when Bigsby was sold to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

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