The Fender Archives, by Tom Wheeler: Books

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“That thing’ll never sell.”Fred Gretsch, on seeing the Fender Broadcaster (Telecaster) for the first time.

Tom Wheeler’s The Fender Archives: A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures and Inside Information presents the personal stories and histories of the people responsible for the invention, marketing and development of Fender guitars and amplifiers, staple equipment of many rock and pop musicians since the 1950s.

There’s a lot to absorb when sorting out the Fender story. Considering the legendary status and ubiquitous use of Fender equipment in modern music, it would be tempting to reduce the vision of Leo Fender and his team to a series of executable moments: When he first got the idea to make truly “electric” guitars, how they were manufactured, and how they were marketed. In reality, history can’t always be reduced to that kind of oversimplification.

Even though sometimes details can be dull, often it’s the details and subtleties that validate the core of the story. To this end, Tom Wheeler does an excellent job in presenting a lot of information and keeping it in perspective to the overall popularity of the products associated with the Fender name and their continuing influence on the music industry.

As well as interviews, reflections and commentary, The Fender Archives: A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures and Inside Information also includes a number of page-pockets containing reproductions of pertinent artifacts, including: various correspondence, in house memos, spec sheets, sketches, a standard price guide (Stratocaster with tremolo: $374.50!), and even Leo Fender’s business card (position: President).

And of course, nearly every page is adorned with carefully selected pictures, from photos of the good ol’ days when the world was still black and white, through classic 1960s California promo ads linking guitars with images of cars, girls and surfboards, and finally right up to full colour shots of modern day over the top Custom Shop guitar creations.

The Fender Archives (Hal Leonard Books) is an insightful look into the creative process of inventors and visionaries in a time where it seemed that anything that was imaginable was also achievable. It’s both a good read and a great visual record of a truly modern American invention.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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