Leo Fender's greatest achievement

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by goonie, Jan 24, 2015.

Leo Fender's greatest achievement

Poll closed Apr 24, 2015.
  1. Telecaster

    70 vote(s)
    39.8%
  2. Precision Bass

    30 vote(s)
    17.0%
  3. Fender valve (tube) amps

    22 vote(s)
    12.5%
  4. Stratocaster

    39 vote(s)
    22.2%
  5. Other (specify in post)

    15 vote(s)
    8.5%
  1. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Leo's greatest asset was his wife.

    In the early days, she would work her
    regular job and bring the payroll check
    to pay off Fender's small crew of employees.

    Hats off to another unsung hero.
     
  2. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Both were breakthroughs: electrifying the instrument let you get rid of the enormous acoutic body. Adding frets made it easy for any guitarist to play.

    And Paul Tutmarc did BOTH of those things. See the attached photo - it's from the link I posted earlier, except I circled his electric bass in red so you can't miss it. Solid body: check. Pickup: check. Frets: check. Modern 34" scale length: check. Four strings: check.

    I don't know exactly what year that photo is from, but the 1937 catalog photo just below it shows the same electric bass guitar. So Tutmarc was certainly selling fretted, 34" scale, four-string electric bass guitars by 1937.

    The photo showing the fretted bass (attached below) may have been taken earlier than 1937; we know Tutmarc's original (fretless, cello shaped) solid electric bass prototype was built in 1933 (featured in the top photo in the article). Clearly he quickly evolved his design, shrinking the scale length to 34" and adding frets.

    Agree about the cool article, I love discovering fascinating true stories like this one! Paul Tutmarc, the inventor of the electric bass guitar: who knew?

    -Gnobuddy
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Sooner. Vivi-Tone sold electric guitars in the late 1920's. More than 20 years before Leonidas. Rickenbacker sold electrics in the early 30's. Bigsby made his one-off Travis solid-body, and maybe others.

    No need to guess, Paul Tutmarc invented the modern solid body electric bass, with all the supposedly revolutionary features of the P-bass - 34" scale, frets, guitar-like playing position, solid body with a (single) cutaway.

    Tutmarc was selling these in Seattle in the mid 1930's - about fifteen years before Leo sold his first Precision bass in 1951. See attached pic.

    Tutmarc also made and sold matching bass amps for his bass guitars. The amp is also shown in the pic below.

    Those things are facts, since there is a great deal of hard-to-forge supporting evidence for them (see the link I posted earlier for more information).

    Also known to be facts: Leonidas was very much in contact with the west coast music scene. His path must have crossed hundreds if not thousands of musicians every year. And Tutmarc had been selling his basses in Seattle for fifteen or sixteen years before Leo sold his first Precision bass.

    What follows is only speculation, not proven fact: given all the facts above, I think it's extremely unlikely that Leo had never heard of the Tutmarc electric basses from any of the musicians he dealt with, before he designed his own version, the Precision bass.

    Working musicians travel a lot. My guess is that most likely some musician saw Tutmarc's basses in Seattle (or in the hands of a Seattle musician) and later told Leo Fender in California about these revolutionary new instruments. Or maybe showed Leo an actual Tutmarc bass and suggested making a competing product at a lower price and in greater quantities.

    And then Leo did what he did best: make it cruder, cheaper and easier to manufacture, while still keeping it playable enough for musicians to want it.

    While Gibson, Martin, and so on sold fine hand-crafted art pieces that also made music, Leo sold cheaper ugly planks with all the craftsmanship taken out of them - but they also made music. And that was all it took, once enough people had tried one.

    Ironically, that early success is now allowing Fender to charge more for its products than many competing companies that make equally good, or better guitars and basses.

    -Gnobuddy
     

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  4. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

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    I agree with you. Even Leo reckoned those string-through pickups were the best sounding ones he ever made (even if he did borrow the idea from Rickenbacher).
     

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  5. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

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    No, this is not true.

    Look at the neck or body from an early Tele or Strat and tell me it wasn't made by a craftsman.
     
  6. knopflerfan

    knopflerfan Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree with Tony Done - his entire line of guitars and amps were (and are) revolutionary and it's hard to pick just one. That being said, I think the Stratocaster is the greatest musical "invention" of the 20th century (and yes, I do love my Tele).
     
  7. tele salivas

    tele salivas Poster Extraordinaire

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    Exactly. That is why the "G" in "G & L" is so important. Lots more folks were able to get their hands on a fine electric instrument because of those guys' combination of design and economy. And damn, the instruments and electronics still sound good.
     
  8. gmann

    gmann Friend of Leo's

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    I'd say the Telecaster. But then you've got to have something to play 'em thru doncha.
     
  9. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    This is probably true. :D

    I do like this story but I suspect it's an urban myth. She worked in admin at the local telephone company so I'm guessing her salary was "admin money". The maths (or math; depends where you come from in the world ;)) just don't work; unless she was the best paid admin person in the world at the time?

    It wasn't. Look at videos of guitar production in the Fender factory - from the 50s up to modern times (videos are available online of the various periods) and the guys and gals are not craftsmen (or crafts women). They were, and are, skilled machinists who knew their trade and could - and still can - bang out a Strat or Tele body in seconds. There's lots of CNC involved nowadays to further dilute the craftsman status.

    I know we've elevated the likes of Tadeo Gomez to some icon of historic guitar making but he was simply a skilled machinist and wood carver. A good one by all accounts BUT he left Fender in the mid-50s and returned as a janitor later that decade. He was not regarded as a craftsman then and his name has only been elevated to legendary status because his name now appears on many original - and now vintage - Broadcasters, Esquires and Teles. Heck, he also seems to sign lots of fakes too!

    I've been challenged before - quite vociferously in the past because of these views - but I stand by these words. Much of this is based on referencable fact - watch the videos, read the books - and like everyone, I have an opinion. :cool:

    The history of Fender is an amazing story, sprinkled with hearsay, myths, folklore but it's the bits I like best (and to challenge) are Mrs. Fender's pay cheque bailing out the factory on a weekly basis and Tadeo personally handcafting all those necks himself. :lol:

    :D Peter
     
  10. Tele Fan

    Tele Fan Friend of Leo's

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    I have to go with bringing instruments to the masses. I know I never would have gotten to play if it wasn't for an affordable used Strat that my folks bought me when I was 15. If not for Leo Fender I don't know if a guitar would have ever become something a parent could afford to get for their kid.
     
  11. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

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    I think we will have to agree to disagree. I have seen videos of the Fender factory like this one - - and I see lots of people (I'd call them craftsmen and craftswomen) shaping and finishing necks and bodies by hand.

    The guys in the Fender Custom shop are doing pretty much what the guys back in the 50's were doing. Are they not craftsmen either?

    What is the fundamental difference between what they were doing and what they were doing at Martin - which was still a production line with one guy doing necks, another guy doing the bracing and so on?
     
  12. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

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    Fair question. I guess it's what was expected of a worker,
    a craftsman back then.

    you could back then find a person working in a bread plant
    and call them a baker. An earned title. But now a days,
    every local supermarket chain has some kid or some
    single parent utilizing their between school down time
    to bake bread under some generic wrapper.

    I think the same goes for today's instrument builders.
    We don't see an overseas factory as a group of artisans,
    rather we ridicule the process of computer guided and
    mass production of things. I like handcrafted, but I also
    respect the beautiful guitars coming out of other countries
    by skilled operators.
     
  13. chezdeluxe

    chezdeluxe Poster Extraordinaire

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    As far as guitars go I think the way Leo engineered the fretting of his guitars (inserted from the side) was pretty damn innovative. Mostly though he was tinkering (very successfully) with designs from the past.
     
  14. koen

    koen Friend of Leo's

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    The combination of the guitar and amp.
     
  15. joeford

    joeford Friend of Leo's

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    that was a bass?! i thought it was a 4-string guitar or something goofy.

    well then... dammit tutmarc... way to steal some thunder from the p-bass! good thing it has plenty to spare ;)
     
  16. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    Interesting article about Paul Tutmarc. I didn't know that.

    Is there any evidence that Fender ever saw the Tutmarc bass? It does seem likely that he at least heard about it and thought "Yeah, I can do that".

    I wonder why the Tutmarc bass never took off. Was it hard to play? Pickup not that good? Kept blowing speakers; limited by the amplifiers of it's time? I do know it's not anywhere near as visually attractive as the Fender. Was marketing the main difference? Is there anyone who can tell us what one of those things sounded like?
     
  17. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I'm guessing here, but I would bet that Fender's edge was the fact that he worked closely with a lot of the well-known players of the day, and they were the ones that gave his products the endorsement and exposure they needed for the company to eventually explode. I recall reading (probably in the Forrest White book) that Bob Wills at one point informed all of his musicians that they were GOING to use Fender gear exclusively, whether they liked it or not.
     
  18. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    That's possible. I just find it odd that any halfway decent alternative to an upright bass would slide under the radar like that. Of course, I'm looking at it over sixty years later, where the electric bass is the standard and the upright is the oddity.
     
  19. bun malaey

    bun malaey Tele-Afflicted

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    Leo Fender's greatest achievement was G&L as a company.
     
  20. cowboytwang

    cowboytwang Poster Extraordinaire

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    There were quite a few great innovations in electric instruments in the '30s, and some amazing progress in amplification. Then all that stopped for WWII and most of the worlds priorities changed in the '40s. People didn't really get back to making progress again till the '50s. It was the same with the auto industry, communications, recording industry, radio, TV, all those things were kind of on hold for about ten years.
    Then on top of all that Paul Tutmarc was a musician at heart and that's what he went back to doing in the '40s & '50s with his wife Bonnie Guitar.
     
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