Fender Guitars

It’s impossible to imagine where the musicians of the world would be without the innovations of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. From the first solid-body electric guitars to the first 100 watt amplifier (the latter requested by Dick Dale to satisfy a gymnasium full of ecstatic teenagers), Fender guitars and other instruments are finely woven into the fabric of American culture.

The First Fender Guitar

It all started with an unassuming, guitar-shaped hunk of wood that was being used to test the output of magnetic pickups. Leo Fender and his partner Clayton Orr “Doc” Kaufman ran a humble electronics repair business under the name K&F. Electric amplification had been around for some time, but was regarded as somewhat of a necessary evil as the volume of ensembles increased along with crowd sizes. That said, tastes were gradually shifting as a consequence, and local players began asking to borrow the pickup “test-rig” guitar for gigs. The custom solid-body design cut through beautifully and offered ample sustain.

After Kaufman left, Leo Fender transitioned to building electric-solid-body guitars, and the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation was born. His first model, dubbed the Esquire, was conceived of as sort of an oversized, “Spanish”-styled Hawaiian lap-steel. It featured a single pickup in the bridge position and had no truss-rod. After receiving complaints about it’s stability and versatility, Fender released the double-pickup Broadcaster guitar, and was promptly sued by Gretsch for copyright infringement (they had a drumline named Boradkaster). During the brief period when Fender was trying to think up a new name for his creation, his employees simply abbreviated the headstock decal so that it just read “Fender”. These interim guitars became known as “nocasters” and are highly sought after by collectors. Eventually, Leo settled on the Telecaster name and it stuck.

The Invention of the Fender Electric Bass

The Tele (as it came to be known) proved a huge success, but the most significant early contribution to the world of music made by Fender was the Precision Bass Guitar. Even more so than guitarists, bassists had long been struggling to be heard. The low tones emitted by the acoustic double bass required a massive body and thick strings with a long scale length. Projection was never its strong suit, and it was far from portable. Touring bassists were often forced to have their instruments transported separately by train while they traveled by car. As a consequence, many gigs were compromised due to missed connections. Fender expanded the body of his guitar, added a double-cutaway for upper register access, and fortified it to withstand the tension of four extremely heavy strings. Although some purists resisted this guitaristic makeover, it was embraced by enough significant musicians to quickly make it a staple in live and recorded music. In many ways, the electric bass guitar was an entirely new instrument, but it was still intuitive for bassists, and more approachable for guitarists.
A Fender guitar up close
Fender bass up close

The Birth of the Fender Stratocaster

After weighing the reception of the Tele and the Precision bass, Fender decided to build a new electric guitar that incorporated another pickup and featured the P-bass’ popular double-cutaway design. The new Stratocaster guitar went on to become one of the most recognizable instruments of all time. Like the classic cars that inspired its many finishes, it never seems to go out of style and never ceases to look cool. When rock & roll exploded across the world, it became the model of choice for the new royals on the scene. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck all wielded strats.
Fender guitar sitting on an amp

Fender Amplifiers Complete the Rig

Long attuned to the nuances of what lay on the other end of the quarter-inch cable, Leo Fender had been building amps since his beginnings with K&F. The Fender amps of the late 40s and 50s were “tweed”, borrowing an imitation fabric used by suitcases, perhaps to suggest their portability. Many different models were made, but most were on the smaller size by today's standards, and tended to break-up and distort at higher volumes (a quality that enchanted some players and alienated others). Throughout the 60s and 70s, Fender expanded and updated their catalogue both sonically and aesthetically. Tolex, which started out brown then switched to black, was chosen as a superior covering, and the front plates switched from black to silver. To this day, Fender amps have the rare distinction of being just as popular as their guitars.

The secret behind the success of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is that they understood that the best innovations came from listening carefully to the players when they offered feedback (pun intended). For example, when the young surf guitarist Dick Dale approached Leo Fender with the complaint that his Fender amps kept blowing up, Leo went out to see Dale’s band live in an attempt to solve the mystery. What he observed was a massive throng of teens churning wildly to reverb-laden, oceanic riffs. Clearly, a new amp with unprecedented volume and clean headroom was necessary, so he set about designing the 100 watt Dual Showman.

More Guitars by Fender

It all started with an unassuming, guitar-shaped hunk of wood that was being used to test the output of magnetic pickups. Leo Fender and his partner Clayton Orr “Doc” Kaufman ran a humble electronics repair business under the name K&F. Electric amplification had been around for some time, but was regarded as somewhat of a necessary evil as the volume of ensembles increased along with crowd sizes. That said, tastes were gradually shifting as a consequence, and local players began asking to borrow the pickup “test-rig” guitar for gigs. The custom solid-body design cut through beautifully and offered ample sustain.Far from limited to Strats and Teles, Fender has made some other outstanding models that have played significant roles in the aesthetics of the modern electric guitar. The off-set family, which includes the Jazz Bass, Jazzmaster, and Jaguar are regarded by many to be the sleekest, most ergonomic body shapes available. Student models such as the Mustang, Musicmaster, Duo-Sonic, and Bullet have all respectively won cult followings. They even have an uncharacteristic semi-hollow model called the Coronado, which initially only lasted from ‘66-72’, but was re-issued in 2013 after proving a perennial favorite with massive bands such as Radiohead and The White Stripes. In fact, the trend of resurrecting arcane models has grown so mainstream that Fender recently released a slew of alternate reality/parallel universe guitars that are mainly hybrids of models drawn from their historic catalogue.
Here at Midwood, we not only carry Fender and Fender Custom shop, but numerous other lines that have drawn no small amount of inspiration from the big F. Nash, Suhr, and Anderson all make S, T, and J-style guitars, while the mavericks at Novo focus exclusively on offsets. Although they keep certain rights reserved, Fender are no doubt flattered by the extent of their influence.

We stock Fender Guitars priced low to high, including custom and limited edition instruments. We also know how to trouble-shoot common requests with the line. If you’re an acoustic player looking to transition to electric, take a thin-line tele, flip it to the neck pickup, roll the tone all the way down, then pull it back up slowly until the tone just barely pokes its head above water. Playing in a band with a keyboard? Jazz Bass. No keyboard? P-Bass. Looking to play some funky rhythm guitar? Strat, middle pickup position. No matter what flavor of Fender you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.
Candy red Fender Jaguar
Fender Mustang sitting on a Fender amp