Happy birthday Leo Fender!

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Leo Fender (August 10, 1909 — March 21, 1991) was an American inventor. He is best known as the founder of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, which produced some of the 20th century's most iconic guitars, basses, and amplifiers.

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Fender was born near Anaheim, California to Clarence Monte Fender and Harriet Elvira Wood. His parents owned an orange grove. He became interested in electronics and building radios at an early age. His uncle sent him a box full of old car radio parts, and not long after tinkering with radios and other electronics was a regular hobby.

After he graduated high school, he enrolled at Fullerton Junior College as an accounting major, all the while continuing to teach himself about electronics, but never taking an electronics course. Later, while working as a bookkeeper, he was asked by a local band to build a public address system for use at dances.

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Fender continued to work in accounting, but lost two jobs during the Great Depression. In 1938, with a $600 loan, Fender started his own radio repair shop. Soon, he had a growing clientele of local musicians coming to him to build PA systems and other amplifiers for their instruments.

As demand grew for the sound of electric guitar, Fender saw the need for a lighter wait electric guitar than those already available on the market (including the Rickenbacker Spanish Electro guitar and Les Paul's one-off home-made "Log"). He finished his first prototype in 1949, and in 1950, the Fender Esquire (below) was released. It had one pickup. In subsequent years, another pickup was added and it was renamed the Fender Telecaster.

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It wasn't long before Fender began tackling the problems associated with the double bass, which couldn't compete with the volume of the newly electrified guitar. Not to mention it was difficult to transport. In 1951, Fender released the Telecaster-based Precision bass. Fender followed with a redesign of the Precision Bass to match the quality of the Stratocaster, but his bass design process truly culminated with the Jazz Bass in 1960.

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In 1965, Fender sold his business to CBS for $13 million. In 1971, he formed the Tri-Sonic Company, later renamed to Music Man. The company invented the StingRay bass, which was similar to the Precision bass but boasted a two-band active equalizer, a high output humbucking pickup, and a satin-finished neck. The company also made amplifiers.

In 1979, he formed one last company with his friends George Fullerton and Dale Hyatt called G&L. They continued to produce guitars and basses as Fender struggled with Parkinsons disease. (Image source)

Fender's creations have changed the face of popular music. His Stratocaster has been the favored model of many great rock musicians including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Sunday, 10 August 2014
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