The world occasionally produces one of those rare thinkers whose name becomes iconic.
Thomas Edison lit up the world; Albert Einstein profoundly altered the study of physics; Walt Disney reimagined entertainment; and Leo Fender invented the electric guitar.
Fender grew up in Fullerton, California, where his interest in electronics lead him to open his own radio repair shop in 1938. It wasn’t long before musicians and band leaders turned to him for help in repairing their equipment. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fender’s revolutionary guitar, the Fender Stratocaster, has been the preference of world-renowned musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Beck — to name a few. While his name is synonymous with fist-pumping rock and roll sound, in reality, Fender was a shy, unassuming inventor who was nearly deaf and had one glass eye.
In 1946 he founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company — the launch pad for his most iconic designs — and later on, G&L Musical Instruments.
And now, his wife Phyllis Fender gives readers a memory-filled look into the wonderful world of this quiet genius in the book, Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World. The book was co-written by Randall Bell, Ph.D., who grew up in Fender’s neighborhood and whose father was the head of the R&D department at Fender’s company.
Fender’s game-changing contributions to the music world have been widely recognized. He was presented with the Country Music Association Pioneer Award in 1981; was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock Walk of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His accomplishments were also acknowledged with a Technical Grammy Award in 2009. Fender died in 1991.
Today, Fender is a household name. But the quirky, shy inventor never lived large or flaunted his fame. He lived in a mobile home, even after selling his company for $300 million (in today’s dollars). His daily routines and obsessions made him truly fascinating, and thanks to his enduring instruments, Fender’s legacy forever lives on.
Author Phyllis Fender volunteers at the Fullerton Museum where she shares with visitors stories about her life with Leo. She also serves as the Honorary Chairman of G&L. Twenty-two years ago, two different doctors told Phyllis that she had six months to live. Today, both of those doctors are dead, and she is here to finally tell this remarkable story.
Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones: “When other companies made electric guitars, that is all they did. Leo had the whole concept in mind. He made an amplifier to match. It is, after all electric. This left the other guys with half an egg. So simple, so complete whether you prefer a stratocaster or a telecaster. If you used a Fender amp, you had the whole deal. Sturdy, reliable and beautifully made, they remain the standard that others strived to reach, let alone the BASS!!”
Rob Schilling, Host of WINA’s The Schilling Show: “As a longtime guitar player and the owner of many vintage Fender instruments and amplifiers, I was delighted to learn more about the man behind the legendary company. One of the “friendliest” signatures in the world comes to life in this amazing behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of Leo Fender.”
Eric Dahl, Maverick Magazine: “Few names in the world of guitars are more recognized than Fender. If Leo had stopped after creating the Telecaster he would still hold a secure place in guitar history. Not only is he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Fender also received a Grammy Award, Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and an ACM award … . Phyllis and Randall are both obviously proud of the legacy that Leo left behind. This book reads more like a personal journal with family photos interspersed between touching moments. Leo Fender – The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World isn’t a guitar book but if you’re a fan of the man that invented them it is a must read!”
Matt Gibney, The Stratosphere: “A must read for any person who has ever plugged into an amplifier or dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. We get a unique view under the hood of the selfless utilitarian genius who worked tirelessly around the clock up until his final days to perfect the craft. Phyllis Fender takes us behind the scenes of the man who worked famously behind the scenes for 1 reason alone – to serve the musician. A true underdog story.”
Vaughn Skow, Vintage Guitar Magazine: “This short yet captivating book is required reading for any true Fender affectionado. While much has been written about the work of Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender, precious little has been written about Leo Fender the man. This book is a game changer.”
LEO FENDER: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World
Leadership Institute Press
Released: November 2017
Available at: http://amzn.to/2pyi34i