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#2887764 - 10/30/17 11:11 AM New book offers personal look into the life of Leo Fender
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A new book offers personal look into the life of Leo Fender, creator of Fender guitars
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[Story Nedra Rhone / Atlanta Journal Constitution]

Leo Fender, maker of Fender guitars, famously never learned how to play a guitar. He also couldn’t dance. And after a freak accident with an amplifier, he lost most of his hearing. But the man known as the “quiet giant” was very much a lover of music and believed it was his calling to help musicians, said his wife Phyllis Fender in a new memoir to be released on Nov. 1.

Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World, (Leadership Institute Press, $25) was written by Fender’s second wife and Randall Bell, son of Pete Bell, who led Fender’s research and development department.

Fender died in 1991 at age 81 after having a heart attack at home. He had also suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and was confined to a wheelchair, but he insisted on working right up until the day he died.

Weaving together stories from personal and professional memories, Fender and Bell describe how Leo Fender revolutionized music by ushering the electric guitar into the mainstream. While Fender and his factory were firmly ensconced in Fullerton, Calif., where he was born and raised, his instruments would make history worldwide.

In 2005, it was a Fender Stratocaster that set a new record for music memorabilia when it sold for $2.7 million. More than 300 custom-color Fender guitars are on display at Songbirds Guitar Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“Every guitar player has (a Fender) in the arsenal,” said Atlanta-based Greg Mayo, owner of Gregsguitars.net, an online shop for vintage guitars. “Leo wasn’t the first person to make and design an electric guitar. An electrified guitar of some sort had already been in existence, but not a solid body guitar with a reliable pick up system and a good neck you could actually play in a band,” Mayo said.

But when Fender, a former accountant turned radio shop owner turned guitar designer, introduced his creation to market in 1946, everyone laughed and called them “boat paddles,” said Phyllis Fender. It would take a few more years, but when Fender released the Telecaster, it became an immediate hit. The in 1954, came the iconic Stratocaster. Fender owned his eponymous business for almost 20 years before selling it to CBS in 1965.
Though he never publicly admitted to it, Phyllis Fender notes that her husband regretted selling his company. He had agreed to the sale fearing he was going to die from a staph infection, she said. He lived and would remain at Fender as a consultant for many years, but his wife said he confessed to her many times that he regretted the sale.

Fender was a very private person. He was frugal except for his passion for boats. He shunned the spotlight and rarely met with musicians, though they all clamored to meet him, said his wife. He was a workaholic, who once ended a vacation because he had an idea for a new design. He didn’t have the best skills with people, she said, mostly because he reserved his energy for instruments.

When he was designing guitars, Fender would watch how musicians handled their instruments and scribble notes. He would loan out instruments and ask for feedback. He poured so much of himself into creating his guitars and despite their popularity with rock and roll artists, Fender was partial to country western. His favorite musician was Glenn Campbell, Phyllis Fender said.
For Fender, the guitars were the thing. He would make special ones for musicians, such as a red, white and blue one for Buck Owens or the purple one that Prince asked him to promise not to make for anyone else, but he never kept a single one of his guitars for himself.

“The next one I build is going to be so much better,” Phyllis Fender said he would tell her. “Why would I keep something that was obsolete?”
It was typical of Fender to make such a statement and his wife acknowledged that it made sense, but his instruments can hardly be considered obsolete.

“Wherever you go in the world, if you see the silhouette of a Stratocaster, you know what it is. They got it right. All they have done is refine the product,” Mayo said. “Every guitar that has been made since then is a different take on what Fender did back in the 1950s.”
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#2887982 - 10/31/17 07:53 PM Re: New book offers personal look into the life of Leo Fender [Re: d]
desertbluesman Offline
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Way cool.
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#2888025 - 11/01/17 06:13 AM Re: New book offers personal look into the life of Leo Fender [Re: desertbluesman]
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