Fender is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and is marking the occasion with special editions of its most popular models – the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass.
Originally working in the world of accounting, Clarence Leonidas Fender’s real passion was electronics. In the late 1930s he borrowed some money and set up a radio repair shop in Fullerton, California, but was soon approached by band leaders and musicians wanting to use PA systems that he built, rented and sold.
Leo Fender then joined forces with Doc Kauffman to design and build amplifiers and amplified Hawaiian guitars, with a combined effort incorporating an electric pickup patented by Fender subsequently sold as a combo set with a vacuum tube amp by their new company – K&F Manufacturing Corporation. Kauffman left the company in 1946, and the firm went solo in name.
Fender started working on a Spanish-style electric guitar in the late 40s, starting with the Esquire before launching the Broadcaster a short while later. This ash-bodied blonde guitar featured a maple neck, a single-ply pickguard and two single-coil pickups that offered the player three different tones. In 1951, the instrument was renamed the Telecaster to resolve a naming issue with Gretsch. Famous Tele players over the years have included Albert Collins, Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard.
Around the same time, bass players were also treated to a more portable instrument than the bulky upright in popular use back then in the form of the Precision Bass. Unlike its six-string stable mate, this thunder thumper rocked a double-cutaway body with a short lower horn allowing access to the higher notes of the bolted-on, 34-inch-scale fretted neck. Noted players include Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Donald “Duck” Dunn from the M.G.’s, and Sting.
The Tele and P-Bass were followed by a double-cut, three-pickup guitar designed by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares called the Stratocaster. The sunburst models that went on sale in 1954 featured a contoured ash body inspired by the Precision Bass to better hug the player, a 21-fret maple neck, and a pitch-shifting vibrato system. The first version with a rosewood neck came in 1959. The list of fine pickers who have chosen this instrument as their weapon of choice is very long indeed, and includes legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Frusciante, Dick Dale, David Gilmour and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Given the 75th anniversary model release lineup focus, we’ll skip the Jazzmaster and move straight on to 1960, when the Deluxe Model bass was introduced and quickly renamed the Jazz Bass. It featured an “offset waist” contoured body, and two single-coil pickups designed to offer brighter mids than the P-Bass. Noted jazzers include Jaco Pastorius, John Paul Jones and Flea.
There have been many designs released in the years since, and Fender has even experimented with mixing and matching some of them in special releases, but it’s these four models that have been chosen to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary year.
The 75th anniversary models come in two flavors – a commemorative Platinum version and a Diamond anniversary edition. The former are all made in the US, get treated to gold hardware, feature an ingot inlaid in the back of the headstock and an engraved neckplate, and sport an ash body with a bourbon burst finish. The latter are made in Ensenada, and dressed in a special metallic finish and matching headstock.
Leading the Platinum charge is the Telecaster featuring a one-piece maple neck with black dots, a “deep C profile” and rolled fingerboard edges. The Fender Custom Shop Twisted Tele pickups are reported to deliver the guitar’s trademark searing twang, while the top-load, string-through bridge features bullet saddles for “superb intonation and versatility.” This electric stinger is priced at US$1,949.99.
Next in line is the Platinum Precision Bass, with a one-piece maple neck rocking a 1963 Precision Bass neck profile with rolled fingerboard edges, and Custom Shop 62 P Bass pickups. This one will set you back $1,999.99.
The $1,949.99 Platinum Stratocaster comes with a one-piece maple neck with a “deep C profile” and rolled edges to the fingerboard, Custom Shop Fat 60s pickups for a “sweet Strat tone with added low-end punch,” and a two-point tremolo with cold-rolled steel block for the promise of extra sparkle, sustain and tuning stability.
Last up is the most expensive Platinum model at $2,049.99, the Jazz Bass. It has a one-piece C-profile maple neck with rolled edges to the fingerboard, and Fender Custom Shop 60s Jazz Bass pickups.
The Diamond edition Tele features a maple neck with modern C profile and medium-jumbo frets, Vintera 50s Telecaster pickups. The Precision Bass also has a maple neck with modern C profile, but comes with vintage-style 50s pickups, while the Strat continues the maple modern C neck feature, comes with Vintera 60s pickups, and a two-point tremolo system. And finally, the funky Diamond Jazz Bass doesn’t break ranks and is home to a maple neck with modern C profile too, along with Vintera 60s Jazz Bass pickups and a four-saddle bridge.
Each Diamond edition guitar is priced at $849.99 and wears an engraved neck plate to mark the special occasion.