Come on, everybody, let your hair down and rock it like you mean it!
If you ever needed an excuse to rock out, you have one today – we celebrate the birthday of Leo Fender (10 Aug 1909 – 21 Mar 1991), the man who gave rock ‘n’ roll a huge adrenalin injection with the invention of the Fender Telecaster, the first (and many would argue still the greatest) solid-body electric guitar.
Through his company, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, he also made numerous other contributions to the music world, including the legendary Fender Stratocaster guitar and the Fender Precision Bass.
With the changing trends in music towards the end of the 1940s, Leo Fender realised there was potential in the market for a louder, cheaper and more durable guitar than the pickup-equipped archtop guitars used by the earlier dance bands. He prototyped his first thin, solid-body electric guitar in 1949. First released in 1950 as a single pickup design called the Fender Esquire, it was quickly renamed the Broadcaster. After the addition of a second pickup, it became the Fender Telecaster (or ‘Tele’) – one of the most iconic electric guitars, still virtually unchanged, and as popular as ever, today, more than 60 years later.
Based on feedback received from players who wanted something different to what the Telecaster offered, Fender first considered changing and updating the design of the guitar. With so many players committed to the Telecaster, however, he decided to rather introduce a separate new design. The new guitar, called the Stratocaster (or ‘Strat’) – basically a Telecaster on steroids – had a more ergonomic, smooth double-cutaway body, a rounder neck, three pickups and a revolutionary tremolo (string-bending) unit. Another true rock icon, the Fender Stratocaster became the weapon of choice for countless rock guitarists over the past 50 years.
The list of guitarists who play Fender Strats and Teles reads like a who’s who of guitar gods over the ages – Jimi Hendrix, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to list a few of the better known names. You just can’t argue with that!
In addition to their legendary electric guitars, the Fender company also produces acoustic guitars, electric basses, mandolins, banjos, and electric violins, as well as a range of amplifiers and PA systems.
In one of those crazy cosmic coincidences, today also happens to be the day (back in 1897) that aspirin was first created. So it turns out that the same day that gave us the man who helped put the volume into rock n roll, also gave us the substance that could help relieve the headaches suffered by those who couldn’t handle the volume!