Leo Fender

Essay by Max_SmoowUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, September 2004

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In the 1930's, jazz musicians experimented with amplifying traditional hollow-body guitars so they could be played with other instruments at the same sound level. One problem was that the speakers and pickups tended to generate feedback when played at a high level. Leo Fender knew he could improve on amplified hollow-body instruments.

Leo Fender was born in California on August 10, 1909. His parents ran a successful orange grove. Leo became interested in electronics around age 13 after he watched his uncle build a radio from parts. Leo began dismantling and repairing radios as a hobby. He repaired radios in his shop at home for fellow students. Leo graduated from Fullerton Union High School in the spring of 1928.

In 1928, Leo enrolled in junior college as an accounting major. In the early 1930's, a bandleader asked him to construct a PA system for use at dances.

After College Fender worked as a delivery man for the Consolidated Ice and Cold Storage Company in Anaheim, and then later as the bookkeeper.

He continued doing radio repair work at home. Leo married in 1934. He got a job with the State of California as an accountant. Six months later he lost his job.

In 1938, with six hundred dollars that he borrowed, he took a chance and opened the Fender Radio Service in downtown Fullerton. Soon, musicians began coming to Leo in search of improved guitars and amplifiers.

Fender began K & F Manufacturing with Doc Kauffman in a shed behind the radio shop. In 1945, he unveiled his first electric guitar. In 1946, Leo opened the Fender Electric Instrument Company in Fullerton.

With his knowledge of existing technologies, Leo knew he could improve amplified hollow-body instruments. In 1951, he introduced the Broadcaster, the prototype solid-body guitar that would eventually become...