[Book Review] The Golden Age of Fender (1946-1970) – Michael Kelly, Terry Foster & Paul Kelly

Last week I’ve received the French translation of this book revised by my friend Philippe co-blogger on the Grattonaute. And I have to say that I eagerly read the book though I’m not a Fender maniac. I’ve played many times on Fender guitars but I never owned one (I just had a couple of Squier guitars, boo me!). Yet, many Fender models attracted me in the past, and still are the object of some fantasies of mine.  After all Fender is one of the legendary electric guitars brands, one of those that made some of the most famous stories of the modern music history. And this is the topic of this book  Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster & Paul Kelly. The title says it all, right? And though I had the French version of the book, I reckon the content of the original English version remains exactly the same.

The book is more or less organised in a chronological order, and it does give a deep view of Fender history! If you fancy getting into detailed information then you will find many. If you like reading some anecdotes about Fender little story then you will find many. If you dig nice pictures of beautiful guitars… That it’s you got me… You will find many.

The book starts with a complete portrait of Leo Fender, and how his interest in electronics lead him to create his repair shop that became the home of musicians looking to repair their gear. Hanging around with musicians lead Leo Fender to have a deeper interest in amplification and lap steels. Back in the 1930s the lap steel was quite popular in the US. From that point the whole history of Fender started, and everything else was a matter of encounters, visionary talent,  disruption with the traditional lutherie methods, legendary instruments, and a super efficient team that gave rise to the legend we know nowadays.

The book is easy to read as you don’t have to read it like you would do with a novel. As the chronological order pretty much covers the order of appearance of the models in the Fender catalog then you can chose to enter the book in any chapter you like. That’s how I read the book as I started by reading the first chapter, and then moved right to the Jazzmaster chapter to satisfy this fantasy of mine before reading anything else.

The illustrations enclosed are excellent. There are many detailed pictures of guitars, and good quality zoomed guitar parts pics.  You will also find a lot of musicians pictures , and album covers related to Fender. One feature that I liked the most is the vintage Fender ads reproductions that are sometimes quite hilarious. You can find many vintage Fender ads on the web but there are a lot featured in the book that I’ve never seen before.

It also features some “rare” items, or at least I should say some models that are not the most famous from Fender as electric mandolins or some guitars with an experimental design. For example, the Swinger, and Custom models are described as creative recycling (some will say ugly but nevermind) of unused pieces, and parts from Fender factory. Only a few hundreds of these were produced in 1969, and sold without any advertisement. The fun part is that it took 10 years or so to Fender insiders to hear about these guitars because of external information requests that lead them to search information about them.

I would still repeat that I read the French version of the book, so I won’t be able to judge how the original version is written. Yet, the content remains the same how coudl it be else? I know for sure from the book revisor that they didn’t change a bit of the content?

The Fender experts won’t probably learn a lot of things through this book but I am sure that they will learn something. Those who are not experts but still want to know more about the 25 years of Fender history that imprinted the history of modern guitar… This book is definitely a must have.

Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster & Paul Kelly ($19,79 on Amazon) is a perfect gift for that guitarist you know who is always searching for more information about his favorite brand or about guitars in general or the object of his dreams or… You get the message! And after all, Christmas is coming soon, right? I know I’m a bit early on that but it’s always good to start having ideas!

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