Brian Suhr

Fender – The Golden Age.

Fender: The Golden Age

Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 is an elegant history of the first three decades of Fender Guitars.

The instruments built by Fender through the early '60s are icons of midcentury California design. They're innovative, beautiful, and built to last.

The obvious analogy is to other timeless musical masterpieces like Cremonese violins. But while Stradivaris and Amatis and Guarneris were individually handcrafted by Old World artisans aiming to please elite classical musicians, Strats, as well as their slightly older sibs, Telecasters and Fender electric bass guitars (a brand-new instrument invented by the Fender company) are the embodiment of mass-produced, egalitarian, machine-age modernism.

Unfortunately, after CBS purchased Fender in 1965, their instruments quickly became the embodiment of mass-produced corporate greed. The book's final chapters tell a familiar story of a business putting profits ahead of good design.

... Fender's new owners were new to guitar making and quickly started making crucial mistakes. Wood was no longer carefully selected and seasoned, and there was a noticeable drop in the quality of paint finishes, especially on sunburst guitars. Pickups were now made to a cheaper specification and didn't sound as good as earlier units, and corners were being cut elsewhere in production techniques.

Some of my favorite brands like Gibson, Craftsman, Evernote, and Bills Khakis have followed similar paths. It's frustrating to see a company sabotage their once-great products.

Brand name alone is not a reliable indicator of quality. Good design requires a timestamp.