Had Thanksgiving dinner with a '60s Fender employee

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by skeksis, Nov 27, 2008.

  1. skeksis

    skeksis Tele-Afflicted

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    Per the title, an old family friend mentioned at dinner this afternoon that he worked at Fender '64-'69... I had no idea, but he brought it up when I said something about shopping for a guitar. So I pretty much co-opted his conversation for the next hour. He had some pretty funny stories... doubt I'll remember 'em all, but he said he'd check if he had any pictures from that time. Of course, he had no idea that there was a legion of enthusiasts and collectors out there who were into those guitars.

    First, and most relevant to this forum: he described himself as a night-shift assembly manager for thinline and solidbody teles for part of his time there. He also did a fair amount of binding, painting & other finishing at various times. "can't tell you how many sunbursts I painted...." The only guitar he had from that time, a candy-apple red tele custom now belongs to his grandson (who probably sold it for meth, he thinks).

    He's (edited to withhold the name for now) - don't know if there's any documentation out there where his name might show up? He also kept mentioning someone named Art Cadero (spelling?) who did a lot of the inspection of finished instruments. Says he knew Leo, too, but didn't share any specifics.

    Among his stories included:

    One of the amp & guitar case guys borrowed his truck for the night, and when he returned it, the whole interior had been lined with orange/red velvet (the stuff that lines the cases).

    The Cadero guy mentioned above offered to carve him a shifter knob for that same truck from a rosewood billet (from a reject pile). He carved it, borrowed the keys, and that night glued the new knob to the shifter. Robert went out to his car that morning to find a large dark rosewood c0ck shifter knob!

    He also had stories about junkie mex immigrant employees who could only work the middle 3 hours of the shift (too high for the first 3, too shaky for the later 3), but in the middle 3 were the fastest, best binding gluers around. He "hid" them in the back of the shop while they weren't able to work.

    A body sander was an immigrant from Columbia (I think?) who was a high-level government chemist back home (essentially in hiding). He helped come up with better glues for holding the thinlines together.

    Anyway, he said that as part of the CBS reorganization, his night shift crew was eventually shut down - he was offered a job to stay on as a painter, and did that for several months before finally leaving.

    Pretty cool conversation, I'll try to pick his brain some more the next time I see him.

    Any ideas for questions I ought to ask the guy? anyway, thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2008
  2. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great stories, shows again that Leo was a smart guy, knew how to work with the people he had. Thanks!
     
  3. Brutalblues

    Brutalblues Tele-Afflicted

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    If he has no problem with it you should video tape your informal interview with him. Did he know Tadeo Gomez? Was Abigail a hottie "back in the day"? :lol:
    Did he have a QC stamp of his own, or any way he may have marked the guitars that he worked on? Old pictures would be pretty awesome! Does he have any Hendrix stories? Ventures, Dick Dale, anyone?
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2008
  4. IPLAYLOUD

    IPLAYLOUD Friend of Leo's

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    Art Cordero was the guy.

    Ask if he remembers Phil Kubicki and Roger Rossmeisl.
    Ask if he remembers any one-off employee guitars.
    There is a 10 string Mustang Tiple with a 5X5 headstock that I want to know the history of. (Yes, 10 string Mustang in CAR / White Racing Stripe with a 10 string Tremolo)
    Also...the "mythical" Purpleburst Competition Mustangs.
     
  5. Lostheart

    Lostheart Tele-Afflicted

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    Excellent stories! I'd love to hear more...
     
  6. mrplavick

    mrplavick TDPRI Member

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    Neat-O.
     
  7. varakeef

    varakeef Tele-Afflicted

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    And he could also reveal where the red paisley paper came from...
     
  8. B Valley

    B Valley Tele-Afflicted

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    Ask him if he remembers what became of reject bodies and necks. I imagine they were hauled off to the dump at some point, so somewhere in the landfill in Southern California are some deposits of 50's and 60's Fender bodies and necks. What a gold mine.
     
  9. Rasher

    Rasher Tele-Meister

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    Just get him to join this forum. It'll save you a lot of time. :D
     
  10. rocksteady Max

    rocksteady Max Tele-Afflicted

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    This is interesting !! anybody else have this kind of first hand infos on Fender plant , in the golden years or right now ??

    by the way : I hope his grandson is not on the TDPRI forum or nearby ... since you named the gentleman on the internet and a deragotary comment about someone in his family ... just my 2 cents.
     
  11. fws6

    fws6 TDPRI Member

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    "the whole interior had been lined with orange/red velvet (the stuff that lines the cases). "

    I want that truck !
     
  12. skeksis

    skeksis Tele-Afflicted

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    g'morning gents -

    yeah, I'm hoping the grandson's not a TDPRI'er - wouldn't that be awkward.

    About rejects - he had a few details. First, they were expected to do better than a 2% reject rate. His shift was expected to turn in 600 guitars a week, 120 per night. Most of the workers were paid per unit, not hourly - which encouraged all manner of dangerous, speedy behaviors. He described several gruesome accidents.

    Back to rejects, he said if Art (Cordero, thx) wasn't pleased with a guitar, then then all the hardware was pulled off, and Robert walked it over to a bandsaw and cut it in half. That's it. He did say Leo was a hard-ass about quality control. He didn't specifically mention anything about necks, though he said they had all manner of trouble with problem necks (twisting). The halves went into a big, colorful scrap pile. That's where the rosewood shifter knob came from... he also said that Art was always taking different colors and gluing together decorative cutting boards & whatnot.

    A couple other comments: He thought that the 'Wildwood' dyed wood guitars were about the coolest thing he saw while working there.

    Also, he kinda wished he'd picked up a few more guitars while working there (he said employes bought them at about 20% of retail). The only thing he really strongly regretted is that he didn't buy one the 5-string banjos. That's what he really misses? oye!

    The truck was a 1949 Ford, no idea what happened to it :)
     
  13. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Ask him about the D stamp!
     
  14. Scotland

    Scotland Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great idea !!!!!!
     
  15. IPLAYLOUD

    IPLAYLOUD Friend of Leo's

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    We should ask him if that if we put together a list of 30 (40?) questions, would he graciously sit with skeksis and answer them.
    If he saw this site and how excited we were, he may agree to do it.

    He sounds like a nice guy.

    -Yes, the Wallpaper for the Tele!
    -What was the official Neck Plate deal? Sequence was not stressed. Why not?
    -What "one-offs" can he remember?
    -Does he remember the '67 Zebrawood Hollow Strat?
    (there are pics of that online to show him)
    -Wacky models...Bass V, Swinger, Maverick.
    -Was the Purpleburst Competition Mustang purposely sprayed with Purple shading, body and peghead?
    -Did he remember Antonio Esquivel's "Ghost Finishes" the worked under Black Light?
    -Did he ever Sunburst any Necks? A few Coronados and a Jazzmaster have been seen.
    -The one-off 3X3 headstock, deep-body, set-neck Coronado. Is it real?
    -Rossmeisl's "Mod" and "Rocker" prototypes. See-through plexi on one?
    -Gene Fields and the Starcaster protoypes. Were there more than 2 Starcaster Basses?

    Gimme a day...I'll think of 30 more questions.

    This is exciting.
     
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