The advent of rock n’ roll in in the 1960s and 1970s -- and all the cultural, political and social change it came to represent and encourage -- would arguably only have been possible thanks to a huge revolution in music technology. The statement was loud, so the music had to be louder. Rock - and pop with it - needed a catalyst to fuel its growth across the planet, to become a vehicle for a far-reaching new philosophy and to allow its anti-establishment attitude to flourish with fervour, ultimately filling clubs, stadiums and fields with inductees into a sprawling new universe of popular music.
It so happened that this innovation would come to be the electric guitar. And for more than seven decades, Fender would stand unwavering at the helm of its development.
Our new Fender-inspired T-shirt collection is available for adults and kids
Fender’s story begins way back in 1946. Former accountant and amateur electrician Leo Fender opened his eponymous Fender Radio Service in California in the late 1930s, initially servicing local musicians with amplifier and PA repairs and rentals. At the time, electric guitars certainly already existed, but more closely resembled plugged-in versions of Hawaiian lap steel guitars than the six-stringed over-the-shoulder machines we now know so well.
In 1946, after dabbling in instrument and amplifier repairs for a number of years, Fender decided to rename his business the Fender Electric Instruments Company. Change was afoot.
Four years later, in 1950, Fender released its first proprietary instrument; the Esquire. A single pickup, solid body guitar, the Esquire came in semi-transparent butterscotch blonde with a striking black pickguard. After a few notable refinements to the design (including the important addition of another pickup and truss rod through the neck), the instrument was rebranded the ‘Broadcaster’. A naming dispute forced Fender to change the name one final time to the Telecaster and an iconic instrument was born.
Front and back views of our Telecaster printed T-shirt
As Fender grew, so did their catalogue. In 1951, the company introduced the Precision Bass – the world’s first electric bass which, as Fender branded it, could be “played like a guitar”. This novelty allowed musicians to play with improved mobility, rather than having the instrument stood up against the body like a traditional double bass. A fretted fingerboard aligned the instrument's design more with its six-stringed Telecaster counterpart than the double basses typically found in swing bands and jazz troupes; it represented a brand new age for the instrument and for the musician behind it.
The resulting effect on the music industry was enormous, contributing to a tremendous shift in the core sound of popular music, with a drastic move away from crooning jazz standards and big band swing to rock n’ roll, funk and soul. Even 68 years later, the Precision Bass remains one of the best-selling electric bass guitars in the world.
Three years later, in 1954, Fender designed, created and released what went onto famously become the most popular electric guitar of all time. Often imitated, but rarely matched, the Fender Stratocaster changed the face of music for practitioners and listeners the world over, turning Fender into the stalwart titan of industry it remains today. Only a year after the introduction of the Stratocaster (or 'Strat'), rock’n’roll exploded into existence.
Oddly, but interestingly, the two monumental moments were almost entirely unrelated.
The collection features multiple designs featuring the classic Stratocaster
It took a long time for pop and rock to accept the Strat into its wheelhouse of iconic instruments. Fender had already made a good name for itself at the turn of the decade as a reliable manufacturer of quality, characterful instruments thanks to its adoption by a slew of motown and surf musicians. However, it was arguably the work of one singular artist which truly elevated the profile of the instrument to dizzying new levels of recognition and acceptance.
A plucky young upstart from Seattle named Jimi Hendrix exploded onto the UK music scene in 1967, taking the charts by storm; almost every second of his meteoric rise to success with trusty Stratocaster in hand (flipped upside down – there were no left-handed options for southpaw guitarists in the mid 1960s). A historic gig at the London Astoria saw Hendrix conclude an impassioned 45 minute set by lighting his Strat on fire. The stunt set the British press ablaze and the image, later famously recreated at Monterey Pop Festival that same year, became emblematic of a new generation of intensely spirited music.
It would be naive to assume that the influx of artists picking up Strats after Jimi’s success was mere coincidence; Pete Townshend of The Who, Eric Clapton (with his signature ‘Brownie’ Strat) and George Harrison (with ‘Rocky’) all made history with their respective Stratocasters throughout the mid and late sixties. The instrument had become inducted into the pantheon of quintessential rock weapons. The Stratocaster had finally arrived.
By the 1970s, the Stratocaster achieved stratospheric popularity and ever since, the roster of renowned musicians wielding the instrument has continued to grow exponentially; becoming far too long to warrant listing.
Fender has reimagined its flagship guitar model hundreds of times in the decades since its inception, with every imaginable iteration of colour, wood type and technical specification available to suit every possible need. The Stratocaster remains today not only the most recognisable guitar of all time, but one of the most ubiquitous, versatile and quintessential instruments in any player’s arsenal.
Fender has revolutionised genres of music as wide and far-reaching as country, blues, pop, rock, funk and metal not just with the Strat and the Tele, but also with other instruments of legendary and enduring stature. The Jazzmaster, the Jaguar, the Mustang, the Duo-Sonic and the Jazz Bass all have their story to tell in the long and winding history of Fender and its rise to such illustrious prestige.
Celebrate the unique charm of the Fender Mustang with a fetching chest pocket design
Today, Fender continues to manufacture instruments for players of all calibres and creative inclinations.
Pay homage to the brand that changed the face of music forever with our brand new collection of UT Printed T-Shirts, designed for adults and kids. Explore a versatile selection of colours, graphic prints and T-shirt shapes, with eye-catching logo prints, chest pocket detailing and reverse prints for the Fender fan within.
Our Jazz Bass printed T-shirt comes in a versatile light blue colourway
- Shop the entire collection for men, women and kids here -