This blog will document the latest project undertaken by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster and Paul Kelly - a new book celebrating the genius of Don Randall and Leo Fender. "Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970".
This is not an attempt to re-interpret the history of Fender. The book is a celebration of these truly innovative and iconic pop culture designs. Each page encapsulates the universal appeal of the Fender aesthetic (not just instruments as that is only half the story) and will interest both the average enthusiast and the serious collector. The accompanying text will inform even the most knowledgeable vintage guitar aficionado and yet not alienate the reader purely interested in design.
I am going to show some of the behind the scenes pics from the various photo shoots for the book.
The book is finally done, printed and being shipped right now. The release date in North America is late May and early June in Europe and elsewhere. I have uploaded some sample pages to give you a flavor of what we've been working on for the last 9 years or so...
Don Randall passed away on December 23, 2008 at the age of 91. He will be missed by his family and friends, but his achievements will live on. Up until a few months ago he was still going to his office every day and over the last 2 years or so we spoke on a regular basis. The last time I called him he gave us permission to use the Robert Perine painting for the cover of the book.
Randall was a sales and marketing genius. He changed the way in which consumers perceived the guitar forever in the 1950s and 1960s. His ingenious business plans coupled with Leo Fender's designs made Fender the most innovative and one of the most successful musical instrument companies during his tenure.
One of the most common misconceptions that people have is that Don worked for Leo Fender. They were in fact business partners. Leo owned 100% of the manufacturing operation (Fender Electric Instrument Company) and they each owned 50% of Fender Sales Inc (they even invested in property together). Don told me that Leo never made anything he didn't ask him to. Randall was closest to the market he knew what would sell and was seldom wrong. He also chose the names for all the instruments as well as the colors they would be manufactured in (it is worth noting here that George Fullerton is a bit of a historical revisionist, taking much undo credit such as conceiving custom colors). Randall also orchestrated the $13M deal with CBS which netted the most ever paid for an instrument company at the time and was more than CBS paid for the New York Yankees a few months earlier.
To quote Tom Wheeler, "It's highly unlikely that Fender could have achieved anywhere near as
worldwide success without Don Randall, despite those wonderful products
and despite the genius of Leo Fender."
Don Randall was personal hero of mine and I will miss him.
There are still great vintage Fenders to be discovered. My latest acquisition, which will of course be featured in the book, is an all original early 1964 Musicmaster in gold and red sparkle.
Fender sparkle guitars are exceptionally rare (see photos of a 1965 Blue Sparkle Jazzmaster in an earlier blog post) and each one is slightly different than the others as many were made as one offs for trade shows and artists.
The application of sparkle finishes deviates from the application of other factory finishes (i.e. sunbursts and custom colors). Many stories abound about why they are different, such as sparkle finishes were shot down the street at a car repair shop because the paint gun nozzles at the Fender factory were too small to apply the small aluminum metal flecks that give these finishes their sparkle. Regardless of the production techniques used to apply these finishes they are counted as the only true Fender "custom" colors.