The Fender Jazzmaster

Fender.gif (100899 bytes)1960's Fender Jazzmaster

The Fender Jazzmaster is an unusual guitar, in that it can be regarded as a "failed" experiment by Leo Fender, yet it has undergone several resurgences.  It originally was the quintessential surf guitar in the '60s, favored by New Wave guitarists such as Elvis Costello in the '80s, and is currently popular with grunge bands in the '90s.  An apocryphal story regarding the Jazzmaster is that supposedly Eric Clapton was looking for one during his transition from Gibsons to Fenders in the late '60s, couldn't find one and settled for the mongrel Stratocaster that eventually became known as Blackie.

I am particularly fond of this guitar because it is the first proper electric I ever owned, and my father bought it for me in 1969 during a time when our family was not in the best of financial straits.  We got it from its original owner, who was abandoning music for photography.  To tell the truth, it was never a particularly satisfying guitar as far as sound goes, since its pickups were among the weakest ever installed on a name brand instrument.  That changed when I decided to have it overhauled by Bill of Dave's Sound Repair.  After playing the guitar for over 20 years, it was due for a fret job.  Bill also had the pickups rewired and remagnetized.  He also did a wonderful job on some of the wear problems.   During the course of the overhaul, we found that, like the fabled Blackie, my Jazzmaster is a Frankenstein.  The neck stamp is from 1966 and the original paint was white.  Custom color Fenders should also have the headstock and body paint match.  The most unusual feature is the gold anodized pickguard, which was only found on models manufactured between 1959 and 1960. 

Apart from the fact that I should have had the neck curvature flattened for string bending, the overhaul turned a curiosity into a quirky, but effective blues guitar.   The oversize single coil pickups hum quite a bit, but the instrument plays like a dream.  It has a particular magic for Jimmy Reed and Fabulous Thunderbirds songs.