If the name Leo Fender doesn’t ring a bell for you, here are some others that might: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Guitar-Playing Dude from the Chili Peppers. The one thing these men have in common, besides certain venereal diseases, is that they all favored Leo Fender’s guitars.
Fender’s influence on rock music is second only to that of cocaine: He didn’t invent the electric guitar, but most agree that he perfected it. And since the man lived until 1991, he got to hear all the awesome music his instruments helped create during the golden era of rock.
What He Was Really Like:
Leo Fender not only never learned to play the electric guitar, but wasn’t even a fan of rock ‘n’ roll. When he created his first electric guitars, he made them with country music stars in mind, because that kind of instrument was a staple in country music. The entire reason he went into the business was that he wanted to provide better instruments for the cowboy songs he loved so much.
Despite the fact that his entire business revolved around manufacturing and constantly improving guitars and amps, Fender never actually got around to learning how to play them and didn’t have any interest in doing so. He relied on actual musicians to help him with the design of the guitars, since he probably didn’t even know which way to pick them up. When Fender was testing an amp with a guitar, other people in the shop had to go in and tune the instrument when they couldn’t take the noise anymore. To Fender, it didn’t make much of a difference.
All of this makes Fender’s accomplishments even more impressive. His guitars aren’t preferred by so many famous rockers simply because they look cooler, but because they objectively are — his biggest achievement, the Fender Stratocaster, was noted for its clean sound and durability. According to songwriter Jonathan Richman, it was “everything your parents hated about rock ‘n’ roll.”
We should all learn something from Leo Fender. So you can’t drive? Try to invent a new car! You aren’t a licensed doctor? Come up with a new method of open heart surgery! Maybe you’ll get arrested … or maybe your name will become synonymous with the craft. It’s happened before.
Here’s a dude who knows to do with a Strat.
RIP, Stevie Ray.
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