Leo Fender History

The door to Leo Fender’s office, still intact at G&L Guitars in Fullerton, reads: “Laboratory: Mr. Fender Only.” Leo developed the Telecaster and Stratocaster.

Leo, who surprisingly wasn’t a musician, did everything from scratch. He welded the guitar-making benches and made tools. In the photos below of his office you’ll notice a boat design — he was fond of boating — and tins full of nuts and bolts, magnifying headgear, money in an envelope…

Read about G&L and the Fender history at OCBJ.
Take the full tour of the factory at G&L.

The Leo Fender story is one of my favorites. Here’s a little background:
By the late 1940s, Clarence Leonidas Fender, born in a barn on his family’s ranch and orange grove in Fullerton, had established himself as a tinkerer with his own radio repair shop on Spadra Road, now Harbor Boulevard. In 1946 he started The Fender Electric Instrument Co. in Fullerton. His sidekick, George Fullerton – the “G” in G&L — joined him in 1948. Fender developed the famed Stratocaster and the Telecaster in the 1950s. After battling strep throat infections for a number of years, Fender sold his company for $13 million to CBS in 1965, a huge sum of money at the time for a music company.

He had a work contract for another five years — he resigned in 1970 — and had to refrain from competing with Fender for 10 years. During that time, as an investment, he bought a parcel of land near Valencia Ave. and built several industrial buildings that he leased to small businesses. He used some of the buildings for his company, CLF Research. The CLF stood for Clarence Leo Fender. At CLF, Fender made instruments for Music Man Instruments — now Ernie Ball — and finally, in 1979, after his noncompete agreement was over, he founded G&L with Fullerton, his long time friend and associate. Fender died in 1991.

For a complete history, read George Fullerton’s Guitar Legends: The Evolution of the Guitar from Fender to G&L, published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corp.


NAMM 2007

THE musical instrument show of the year is coming to the Anaheim Convention Center in January.

These are some of the shots I took this past January. I’ll be attending again next month. Yamaha, the largest instrument maker, is based here in OC, as are G&L Guitar, founded by legendary Leo Fender, inventor of the Telecaster and Stratocaster, Rickenbacker and several entrepreneurial music companies.

Some of the musicians who attended: Dave Navarro, Mick Fleetwood, Gene Simmons, Micky Dolenz from the Monkeys, American Idol judge Randy Jackson, Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, pop singer Kelly Clarkson.

Pictured is Carol Kaye, one of the few females who played with the jazz greats of the 1950s. Some of what she told me: “I never thought of myself as a woman playing guitar,” she said. “The man doesn’t think of himself as a man playing bass.” It was poverty that brought her to music. “My mother knew I was lonely,” she said. Her mom saved up so she could take lessons. “It was jazz that did it for me,” she said naming Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw as major influences.