Fender Musical Instruments Company History Timeline


With an illustrious history dating back to 1946, Fender has touched and transformed music worldwide and in nearly every genre: rock ‘n’ roll, country and western, jazz, rhythm and blues, and many others.

A custom lap steel guitar made in 1946 for his friend Noel Boggs was thought to be the very first product sporting the now familiar Big “F” logo.

During 1946, Fender designed and began manufacturing the Deluxe, the Professional, and the Dual Professional, along with the Princeston, a 4-watt practice amp.

When the two parted ways a few years later, Fender continued working under his own name, developing the original Princeton, Deluxe and Professional amps in 1946.

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.


In 1948, engineer George Fullerton was hired by Leo, beginning a partnership and friendship that would last for over 40+ years.

Don Randall assembled what Fender’s original partner Doc Kauffman called “a sales distributorship like nobody had ever seen in the world.” It was Don Randall that suggested that Leo, design a Spanish style guitar to complement the Hawaiian style lap steels Fender was selling around 1948.

Fender Champion Lap Steels that Leo was making as early as 1948, shared a lot of design cues for the Fender Broadcaster.

In 1948, Fender began the “Champion” series of practice amp, which eventually was called “The Champ” and became one of the most popular amplifiers ever built.


By 1949 Fenderguitars and amps were firmly established in the music industry.


1950 Fender Announces Esquire (in black with white pickguard)

The first guitar was the 1950 Fender Esquire, so named as it sounded regal.

The early one shown in the 1950 Fender catalog was actually painted black with a white pickguard.

Leo did make a deal with V.C. Squier Company to supply strings for his new electric guitars around 1950.

1950 - During the spring of this year, the Fender Electric Instruments Company introduced a single and dual pickup solid body electric guitar.


Further, he realized that he could streamline the process of building them.In 1951 he introduced a prototype solid-body instrument that would eventually be called the Telecaster® guitar.

In 1951, Fender offered the first mass-produced solid-body Spanish-style electric guitar, which had two pickups and a truss rod.

The Broadcaster was introduced to the public by Fender in 1951, with a price tag of $169.95 plus $39.95 for the case.

In 1951, Leo invented the first mass-produced solid body electric bass, the Precision Bass (P-Bass) with a 34-inch scale.

1951 - Leo closed his repair shop to focus entirely on building solid body instruments, which by late 1951 included the first electric bass.

In 1951, he introduced the guitar he named the Telecaster (originally named the Broadcaster). The first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster would change the way music was made forever.

In 1951, he introduced the Broadcaster, the prototype solid-body guitar that would eventually become the legendary Telecaster®. The Tele®, as it became affectionately known, was the first solid-body electric Spanish-style guitar ever to go into commercial production.


1952 Fender Precision Bass with a 1952 TV front Fender Bassman 1×15 combo amp

Gibson introduced the 1952 Les Paul Gold Top fully solid body guitar in 1952.

The 1952 Fender Bassman was intended as bass amplifier to accompany the new Fender Precision Bass.

Founded in a loft in New York City in 1952, Guild Guitar Company continues to be known for its quality instruments and exceptional value.


Late in 1954 the Fender Telecaster goes Whiteguard.

In 1954, Fender responded with a completely new design that Leo felt would replace the Telecaster.

Late 1954, brought a updated Telecaster.

Gene Parsons a drummer and mechanist worked with Clarence White to transform his 1954 Fender Telecaster.

From it’s release in 1954, the strat had many changes made from year to year, including varying amounts of contouring on the body, materials used for the control knobs, pickguard, headstock shape, serial number placement, etc.

In 1954, following the success of the Telecaster, Fender unveiled a guitar that would set the standard for generations to come: the Stratocaster.


1955 Fender Telecaster – Whiteguard

Boutique amps are high quality hand built copies of classic amps, and the most popular are the 5F6-A Bassman, the 5F1 Champ (designed by Fender in 1955), the 5E3 Deluxe (also 1955), and the 5E8-A Twin (also 1955). Not to mention the Blackface amps that Leo was involved with.


Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic guitars were introduced in 1956 as student models.


In 1958, Fender introduced the Jazzmaster a high end solid body that was originally targeted to Jazz players.


In 1959, Harold Rhodes and Leo Fender had agreed to manufacture the instruments together.

In 1959, Fender released the Jazzmaster guitar.


It is not uncommon to find many of the vintage Champions Lap Steel missing their original pickups, knobs or pots as players where able to buy these in pawn shops for low prices in after the late 1960’s.

In 1960, Fender introduced a new Bass, a “Deluxe Model” of the Precision Bass.

1960 - The Fender Jazz Bass was introduced.


1961 Fender Pro Brownface Amp with Vibrato


The Fender Jaguar was introduced in 1962.

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.


Brian Setzer’s 1963 6G6-B Fender Bassman Amps

By late 1963, some Fender amplifiers moved to the start of blackface panels.

Other 1963 model amps—particularly the Vibroverb, which was the first Fender amp featuring built-in reverb stayed brown.


In 1964, following the release of the new Fender Mustang, both the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic were redesigned using Mustang neck and body blanks.

After 1964 the amps had skirted black knobs.

By 1964, Fender changed the tremolo from the complex “harmonic vibrato” to a simpler and less expensive circuit based on an optical coupler, which required only half of one 12AX7 twin triode tube.

1964 - Fender begin production of their acoustic guitars.


1965 - On January 5th 1965, Fender was sold to a subsidiary of CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Systems) called Columbia Records Distribution Corp. for $13 million.

Because of poor health, Leo Fender sold the company to CBS in 1965.

In 1965, George Harrison and John Lennon acquired Stratocasters and used them for Help!, Rubber Soul and later recording sessions; the double unison guitar solo on “Nowhere Man” is played by Harrison and Lennon on their Sonic Blue Stratocasters.

In early 1965, Don Randall helped Leo Fender sell his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for $13 million.

Fender guitars and basses from before 1965 are considered far more desirable than anything Fender has built since.

For most vintage guitar collectors, 1965 stands as the single most important year in the history of Fender.

Leo Fender remained a creative force over the next decade, introducing many classic instrument and amplifier designs, including the Jazz Bass®, the Jaguar® and Jazzmaster® guitars and the Twin Reverb® amplifier before selling the company to CBS in 1965.

By 1965, Leo was in poor health poor health and so sold his company to corporate giant CBS. Over the next two decades, Fender Musical Instruments experienced some tremendous growth.

In 1965 Leo Fender sold his companies to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for $13 million.

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.


Some amplifier repair technicians have often commented on what they feel was a general slip in production quality of amps produced in the 1966-68 era—particularly in chassis lead dress and other subtle electronic details.

Fender’s first transistor amplifiers were introduced in 1966.

Bound necks with block shaped position markers were introduced in 1966.


The most enduring visual image of Jimi Hendrix is his stunt at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival when he lit his Fender Stratocaster on fire and knelt behind it, coaxing the flames to grow higher.

Fender discontinued the blackface cosmetics in late 1967.

During Rossmeisl’s time designing for Fender he also designed the lesser known Fender Montego, a jazz box style guitar which shares the Coronado’s fixed F tailpiece; and the 1967 Fender Wildwood which shares the Stratocaster headstock.


They made few substantial changes to the amps until the Silverface amps of 1968, where certain circuit changes made them less desirable to some players than the blackface amps.

The semi-hollowbody Thinline Telecaster, for example, launched in 1968.

1968 Fender Thinline Telecaster

The Fender Telecaster Thinline was designed by German luthier Roger Rossmeisl formally of Rickenbacker in 1968.

Elvis Presley used a Fender Coronado in the 1968 film Speedway, performing the song ‘There Ain’t Nothing Like a Song’ with Nancy Sinatra.

1968 Fender Coronado Wildwood guitar

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.


The Esquire’s sales eventually declined and the model was discontinued in 1969.

In 1969 more transistor amplifiers were introduced, including the ‘Zodiac’ series and the Super Showman System.

In 1969 the Thinline was updated with a pair of Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups that were designed by Seth Lover, formally of Gibson were he created the first Humbucker pickups.


These first "silverface" amps added an aluminium trim detail around the speaker baffle until 1970.


Due to the very poor reputation for the transistor amps had the entire solid-state line discontinued in 1971.

In 1971, Forrest White and Tom Walker formed the Tri-Sonix company based in Santa Ana, California.


The Bullet truss-rod and 3-bolt neck came to the Thinline in 1972.

Using 250kΩ pots with very hot humbuckers results in a dark and muddy sound; a common remedy is to replace the controls with 500kΩ pots, which is generally agreed to improve the sound of the reissues. (These same reissue pickups are used for the current 1972 Custom and Thinline Telecaster Reissues.)


The Squier name was retired in 1975 and the strings were sold under the Fender name.

By the start of 1975, the Stratocaster was at its most popular—more and more artists were playing them and more people than ever were buying them, yet the new ones weren’t nearly as good as the older ones.


In June 1976, production started on guitars and in August basses followed.

By 1976, Leo, along with George Fullerton, built a manufacturing facility for musical instruments and was contracted to make Music Man products.


1977 Music Man Stingray Bass

1977 - “It’s a business machine”: Fender ad showing a natural-finish, black-pickguard Stratocaster typical of that era.


George Fullerton and Leo Fender founded G&L in 1979 as they had a factory and had a falling out with the partners at Music Man.


G&L was incorporated May 1980. “G” for George and “L” for Leo.

1980 - The larger headstock design introduced by CBS is abandoned,and the original smaller shape returns.


Fender Musical Instruments experienced tremendous growth over the next 20 years, but a lack of commitment and real understanding of music and musicians by CBS gradually became apparent.To “re-invent” Fender, CBS recruited new management in 1981.

They brought them back for a brief period in 1981, and discontinued them again the following year.


The Fender Mustang guitar was discontinued in 1982.

In 1982, the Squier brand was reactivated to use for the lower priced versions of Fender guitars that were imported.

1982 - William Schultz practically shut down U.S production of Fender guitars.


1985 - On the 5th of March, CBS sells up to the management group run by William Schultz for $12.5 million.

In 1985 saw Fender open its flagship United States factory in Corona, Calif.

He and a small group of investors bought Fender from CBS in 1985, whereupon he engineered the creation of the modern Fender corporation.


1986 G&L ASAT/Broadcaster from the first weeks production


A second modern manufacturing facility opened in 1987 in Ensenada, Mexico.Also in 1987, the renowned Fender Custom Shop opened at the Corona facility, creating dream instruments for professional guitarists and guitar enthusiasts.

The G&L Comanche which has a body shape similar to a Stratocaster was introduced in 1987 with Magnetic Field Design Z-Coil pickups designed to improve tone with less hum by Leo Fender.

A second modern manufacturing facility opened in 1987 in Ensenada, Mexico.

Fender Custom Shop opened in 1987.

The Fender Custom Shop was started in 1987 by John Page and Michael Stevens housed within the Fender headquarters in Corona, California.

1987 - Two years after U.S production was shut down, Fender open their custom shop in Corona California.

In 1987, Fender acquired Sunn, a line of amplifiers whose past endorsees have included iconic acts such asThe Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones.

These relationships led to the formalizing of Fender's custom operation in 1987.


In 1988, the Custom Shop introduced the 40th Anniversary Fender Custom Shop Telecaster first limited production run of 300 guitars.

1988 - Eric Clapton and Yngwie Malmsteen artist series strats are released.

1988 Eric Clapton Strat advert showing the first generation of his signature guitar.

1988 ad for the Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster


Faced with internal financial troubles in the early 1990's, Guild management had decided to sell the company.

As Fender Musical Instruments Corporation forges through the 1990's and into the 21st century, its management team will maintain Fender's number-one status through a winning combination of business acumen and a love of music.


Leo Fender passed away on a rainy day in March 1991.

The Fender Custom Shop has since become known worldwide and industry-wide as the pinnacle of craftsmanship and sheer instrumental artistry.FMIC moved its corporate headquarters from Corona to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1991.

In 1991, the Fender Custom Amp Shop was created in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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.


In late 1992, the Amp Custom Shop was opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, to offer custom and limited editions of professional amplifiers for working musicians.


1995 - Fender buys the Guild Guitar Company

Fender acquired Guild in 1995, signaling a return to ownership by a group of people dedicated to producing the finest value in American-made acoustic and electric guitars.


1996 - Production of Fender guitars is estimated at 50,000 guitars a year.

First opened in 1996, the new Guild Custom Shop boasts an 8,000 square-foot , climate controlled facility near downtown Nashville that allows a great deal of extra space for production and storage of raw materials.


Fender had purchased the DeArmond brand of musical instrument pickups in 1997 and then combined the company with Guild to produce an alternative line of high quality, affordable guitars and basses that are modeled on Guild designs.


1998 - A new state of the art 177,000 square foot facility is built in Corona, California.

And for Guild, 1998 brought the expansion of its Custom Shop in Nashville, Tennessee.

Guild had also introduced DeArmond guitars in 1998.

But the biggest event for Fender in 1998 was the opening of its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Corona.


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Schultz retired in 2005, and Mendello became CEO. Since its founding, FMIC has grown to be one of the world's leading marketers, manufacturers, and distributors of musical instruments.

2005 - William Schultz retires


William Schultz died on September 21, 2006.


2007 - Leo Fender, Donald Randall, William Schultz and other key staff are en-ducted into the Fender Hall Of Fame.


George Fullerton remained a permanent consultant until his own death on July 4, 2009.


Fender FINALLY in 2010, did use the Broadcaster name for a 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Custom Shop guitar after getting permission for Fred Gretsch.


2014 - Fender sells Guild


Representing the next era in Fender innovation, the company launched Fender Digital in 2015, connecting players with a vast digital ecosystem of products designed to elevate their musical experience.


Fender has been around for over 70 years, initially setting the bar for guitars, basses and amplifiers and repeatedly raising that bar with new innovations, such as Fender Play's debut in 2017.


In 2018, Fender released an advanced line of guitar pedals, offering players a range of dynamic tools designed to expand their sound and capture some of Fender’s most iconic tones.


Fender’s spirit of innovation continued in 2019 with the debut of the groundbreaking Tone Master® Twin Reverb and Deluxe Reverb® amps.


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