Jazzmaster: What Was Leo Thinking?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Shango66, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. StringTheory

    StringTheory TDPRI Member

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    It would be interesting to compare Jazzmaster vs anything that is not a Les Paul or SG. I bet the stats are on par with the Explorer / Flying V
     
  2. GearGeek01

    GearGeek01 TDPRI Member

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    Here's Joe Pass tearing it up on a Fender Jaguar... its as I've always said... its the musician who makes the guitar (or gear), not the guitar (or gear) that make the musician... music merchandisers for years have claimed "buy this guitar for a lot more money and you'll "sound" a whole better"... when in actuality paying extra for some lessons and wood-shedding in your practice room is really why your guitar sounds so much better... regardless the guitar...

     
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  3. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    I know a guy who used to sell Fenders in Long Beach and got his guitars delivered by Leo personally. This is a summation of a lot of conversations we had about Leo and his guitars.

    My buddy is a died-in-the-wool jazz cat too, and despite selling about a ton or more of Fender guitars, he never liked them personally.
    Leo was well aware of his personal preferences, but despite their musical differences, they became close personal/professional friends, as both were good business men.

    While I have my own take on why Leo chose to call his new guitar the Jazzmaster, I thought I'd pass on the thoughts of a real jazz master.

    He said Leo actually didn't ever listen to much music at all. He was an inventor to the bone, and while Leo couldn't play a lick, he was much more an astute business man than he ever let on or admitted to. Leo also always thought his latest guitar was his best ever, and back then, he couldn't understand why anyone would still want one of his older guitars after his newest one hit the market.

    In his early days, Leo fully expected his factory would only be making one guitar model at a time, along with one bass and one of the other stuff Fender made. The success of the Telecaster, such a radical guitar for its age, was so explosive, Leo wasn't mentally prepared for it at all, and he always had some belief he compromised his vision with the Tele.

    While it was also a learning experience for him, and a good one, and a spectacular success for a business that was going straight downhill, Leo was never real socially comfortable hanging out with the players who adopted the Telecaster.

    Socially, he was a lot more comfortable hanging out with more middle class folks who were engineers who more musically sophisticated than Leo was himself. And back then, especially in L.A., jazz was very hip in the white-collar crowd Leo socialized with.

    It was real odd to me, because Leo's closest friend was Hispanic, but Teddy was a lot like Leo, even if his roots were solidly in the barrio.

    But my buddy insisted that Leo wanted the social cred his radical jazz guitar would bring in all of his Anglo friends, and he really tried hard to make the Jazzmaster something that would attract the hot players of the L.A. jazz scene. Leo figured that all the country and pop/rock players in L.A. would just continue to be his business's base and would take up any new guitar he offered eventually.

    He hadn't been wrong so far in that thinking. In his mind, the Stratocaster was the perfected Telecaster. All his Strat prototypes went to country players, and their input really paid off; a lot of the early Country players did switch over to a Strat, at least for a while.

    My pal said Leo talked to him as much about the music as the guitar, and he thought Leo had an obsession going on over it because he truly couldn't understand the musical differences at all, and so he didn't understand the different musical societies in the players.

    He honestly believed the jazz guitarists would be just as eager to go radical as the country players had been. And in the early 50s, just observation proved Leo to be partially correct; he saw Country players who still stuck with their jazzy Gibsons and Epiphones, so he must have known there was some reluctance to change even in his best market.

    Since the Strat had perfected the Telecaster in Leo's thinking, he figured all he needed to do was perfect the Jazzmaster with another new design, and that caused Leo to create the Jaguar, which was the only new model Leo ever made that was a general failure. The Jag was Leo's final attempt to build the "best guitar ever, better than the one before."

    After the Jag, Leo was content with continuing to make his older designs for the first time. And in his mind, the Jazzmaster really wasn't as big a bust as he first thought; the Jazz bass that was designed as an sister model actually was adopted by jazz players, becsause it got them from being stuck behind the bass viol all night, struggling to meet the noise in the hip jazz clubs. So Leo figured he was on the right track, but just got the wrong guitar.

    So the Jaguar, the guitar Leo intended to be his perfected jazz guitar, was the one that really changed the man. My pal believes that when the Jaguar flopped so hard, it was eventually the real reason why he decided to sell the Fender company.

    Please take all of this for what it's worth. My friend is an astute observer of human nature, but he's just as much a prey to his own musical prejudices as anyone can be.

    Ironically, the only Jag hot-rod player I ever knew was a guy who could slay me playing anything, but loved to play jazz the most of all.
    regards,
    stanger
     
  4. Loco

    Loco Tele-Afflicted

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    I just have to listen to stuff like this, then I offer a silent prayer of thanks for the great Leo Fender and his Jazzmaster:

     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
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  5. Burn Yesterday

    Burn Yesterday Tele-Meister

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    Cheap Strat-type guitars dominate the pawn shops and flea markets. You want a bottom of the barrel guitar, the man hands you a Strat copy.
     
  6. Burn Yesterday

    Burn Yesterday Tele-Meister

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    If you center the strings on the saddles on a more or less original Jazzmaster, the strings will be right on the edges of the neck. Or, if you play the guitar, off the edges. The spacing of the bridge was way too wide and I don't understand why this isn't a prominent issue with people.
     
  7. JIMMY JAZZMAN

    JIMMY JAZZMAN TDPRI Member

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    I had a Jazz Master in the 80's. Put 13's on it and it played, okay,
    but (and I'm no way Grant Green or Malone or any great jazz great)
    but I still couldn't get those nice jazz singing chords or jazzy riffs with it. Leo meant well, but the Gibsons' were the ticket.
     
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  8. Guitarman0824

    Guitarman0824 NEW MEMBER!

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    My experience was playing a buddies metallic blue JazzMastr in the late 60s.

    The tone was very smooth and playability was real good.

    At the time the Ventures were popular and this model was shown on the album covers.

    When I finally convinced my dad to get me a new guitar, I preferred the Tele with a rosewood neck.
    I wish I still had that guitar now. Now mainly still play tele and strats
     
  9. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I recently got a VM Jazzmaster that I've spent the last couple of months modding with new pickups, bridge etc. But honestly, all it needed to be perfectly playable was a couple shims and a basic setup. Everything else was just personal preference, including the Mustang-style bridge.

    I honestly believe the "Jazz" in Jazzmaster came from the intention of having it be a jazz guitar, particularly in the archtop-esque string geography and the capability for very mellow tones. But then why the solid body, "weird" shape, trem, and bright tones? Because it was supposed to be a Fender jazz guitar, and not another, say, Gibson-esque jazz guitar (and to this day, when we think of a typical jazz guitar, we think of a big Gibson hollow-body, or something that's like a Gibson, or something earlier that a Gibson jazz box is like). And Fenders all had solid bodies, weird shapes (even the Tele was relatively radical) and bright tones. Trems were less universal, but not many post-Strat Fenders came standard without one. Agree or disagree, i don't think my point is hard to grasp. Fender wanted a jazz guitar, but a Fender jazz guitar. Whether they succeeded or not is a different question, and much more subjective. And of course no one could predict the JM's success in music that hadn't even been invented yet.

    I do want to make explicit that, while it may not look it, the Jazzmaster is an excellent country guitar. It's comfortable, it's got the (in effect) Bigsby-like trem, and most importantly, the tones. I still have more exploring to do to see what else this guitar is capable of, but if you can't get through a country gig between the bridge pickup and the rhythm circuit, I don't know what's going on.

    To the OP: I'm glad you found and enjoy your JM.
     
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  10. rockinstephen

    rockinstephen Tele-Meister

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    Leo had revolutionized the guitar world with the Telecaster. It quickly became a favorite with country players. Next, he created the Precision Bass. Pretty soon that became the standard for bassists. Next came the Stratocaster which early rockers like Buddy Holley began to play. Why not build something for jazzers? The problem was, these players were quite happy with their fat bodied Gibsons and weren't looking for something else. I have a J Mascis Jazzmaster which has eliminated some of the early problems by using a tunomatic style bridge and moving the trem tailpiece closer to the bridge. I've added a buzzstop and have no problems at all. Basically, Leo's design was a good one but perhaps he should have done a bit more R & D before going into production...
     
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  11. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I challenge the presumption, " ... it was Fenders attempt to compete in the Jazz Guitar market ..." Now, the Les Paul was originally a solid version of a "Jazz" guitar, or at least that seemed to be Les Paul's motive for conceiving that instrument. I believe that Fender intended to make a guitar for the guys who played at the country clubs, society dances, and pit orchestras, but struggled with feedback, or with getting a variety of tones for current Pop music.

    Back in the day, there were a lot of legit guitarists who were well schooled, sight read music, owned Gibson, Epiphone and D'Angelico hollowbodies, but didn't get enough Jazz gigs to pay the bills, so they played with a variety of bands ... Latin orchestras (very big back then), movie and TV studios, Pop bands that did the square stuff (Lawrence Welk, Percy Faith), and groups that backed Pop stars who did standards, but also some dopey Rock n Roll. At these gigs, they'd have to do anything from Misty to Malaguena, to Peter Gunn Theme to an Elvis song. These guys were Jazz players, to one degree or another, and the name Jazzmaster probably appealed to them from the perspective of wanting a guitar that covered all the bases, including standards and Swing.

    I knew a lot of players like that, one in particular in Guy Lombardo's band. He played in studios and with a lot of different groups. He had a Les Paul Recording, because it could get any sound. Burnin Jazz player, great singer. He had other guitars, but he liked that LP Recording.

    IMO, that's what would have been meant by solidbody Jazz guitar. About nine years later, Fender geared up for the Ltd and Montego, true Jazz guitars.
     
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  12. MattyK-USA

    MattyK-USA Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Heck, I figured that Leo went to a fortune teller, and she told him about the future with Michae Lemmo and GOTD - and he just said, "Well heck then, I guess I have to make the d@mned thing" and that was that.

    I'll see myself out.
     
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  13. maggieo

    maggieo Tele-Holic

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    Jessica rocks her Elvis Costello Jazzmaster even harder than I:

     
  14. cyclopean

    cyclopean Friend of Leo's

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    i've been gigging with one for years and it's worked well for me. the switching isn't that hard to figure out and the high pass filter is great - more guitars should have them and i've considered adding one to my tele.
     
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  15. DaphneBlue

    DaphneBlue Tele-Meister

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    Well I'm not a jazz player but I like clean and smooth tones. I'm mainly an acoustic guitar player.

    When I started electric I looked for something that could suit my playing. I bought a gretsch clipper that sounds very natural. Then I thought I needed something with a wider range of tones. I bought a gretsch white falcon.

    One day I went to a second-hand shop and there was an AVRI jazzmaster. The guy couldn't sell it cause nobody liked it. I sold my white falcon the same week and went back to the shop to buy my lifetime companion.

    The jazzmaster has all the good sides of an archtop without the bad sides. It's light, reliable and the tones are to die for. You can obtain woody, natural tones and just by using the volume and tone, you can turn this guitar into a wild surf/space machine.

    I think the name is perfect for what it is. If you don't agree, ask Bill Frisell.


    My bae:
    20170110_150713.jpg

    Bill Frisell:

    [​IMG]
     
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