A Brief History Of Fender Guitars
In the modern world, many of the items we use on a daily basis have only been in existence for a short time – think your iPhone, Blu-ray player or PlayStation 3. Even televisions are less than 100 years old and telephones not much older than that.
So it may come as a surprise to learn that the humble guitar has a history dating back 4,000 years. The word guitar comes from the Latin word cithara and the oldest known image of the instrument dates back 3,300 years to a stone carving.
In prehistoric times, bowl harps were used as an early guitar using tortoise shells and calabashes, with a stick for a neck and one or more strings made of gut or silk. Acoustic guitars with hollow bodies are thought to have come into existence about 1,000 years ago, while the four string oud was introduced by the Moors in the eighth century - now thought to be an influence on the modern guitar.
Of course, a much more recent invention was the electric guitar, which dates back to the 1930s. And just a few years later, the instrument was transformed by a young man in America named Leo Fender. As is widely known, his guitars had a firm influence on a wide range of genres including jazz, country, rhythm and blue and rock ‘n’ roll.
Leo Fender was set to become an accountant when he turned his attention instead to electronics, and the turning point came when a local band leader asked him to build a public address system. This chance request led to Fender setting up his own company creating what are now the world’s most famous guitars. The irony comes that Fender never played the guitar himself but was instead a saxophonist!
One of Fender’s most famous models is the Telecaster which was made in 1951 and went on to become the first mass produced solid-body Spanish style electric guitar. The Stratocaster appeared on the scene in 1954, its design inspired by feedback from many professional musicians. Both models continue to be among the most popular guitars on the market to this day.
Everyone from beginners to the world’s most acclaimed artists and performers have used Fender guitars and amps. Elvis Presley’s early work owes a huge debt to his guitarist James Burton’s Fender Telecaster, and legendary musicians including Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix have shown the world how powerful Stratocasters and Telecasters can be in the right hands.
Leo Fender died in 1991 at the age of 86, having revolutionised the world of guitar music. His contribution to music was recognised in 2009 with a posthumous Technical Grammy Award – and the legacy of his labours is sure to be felt throughout the world for centuries to come.