The Fender Jazzmaster
History and Players – Part 1 of 3
Thought i’d kick off the blog page with some ramblings on the Fender Jazzmaster… a personal favourite of mine! It’s a “three-parter” covering a bit of history, specs and buying. We have three superb Jazzmasters in stock at the moment pictured above. Search our catalogue for more info!
From left to right: 1964 Jazzmaster – Sunburst with original case & tags, 1966 Jazzmaster – Blonde with original case, 1960 Jazzmaster – Sunburst with original case.
Fender introduced the Jazzmaster in mid 1958 with the aim of offering a new high-spec model to replace the Stratocaster as Fenders top-of-the-line solidbody. It had some innovative new features which included an offset body, a slab Rosewood fretboard, two flat/wide single coil pickups, two separate tone and volume circuits (enabling the player to preset two different sounds and switch between them) and a floating tremolo. It also had the same scale length as the Strat and Tele/Esquire models (25.5″.) Fender wanted to prove they could not only make guitars for the rock’n'roll musician, but the “serious” jazz musician too – a market on which Fender had made little impact so far. Tapping into this market was something they thought would be a crucial factor in their company’s growth.
The Jazzmaster was comfortable to play, more balanced whilst sitting down (due to the offset body design and length), and with the introduction of the Rosewood slab-board and larger flatter pickups, it was capable of producing a more mellow tone than any of Fender’s current models. It was also more versatile.
Despite Fender’s efforts, Jazz players had little interest in the model mainly because they didn’t think a solid-body guitar could improve on the tones of the existing archtops or semi’s. Instead, the Jazzmaster was picked up largely by younger musicians, some of whom were involved in the garage band/surf-rock scene coming out of California at the time. These were young musicians looking for something new; a modern guitar of quality, originality and versatility. The Jazzmaster had that plunkie/woody/percussive tone which helped define the sound of bands such as The Ventures, Charlie and his Explorers, Eddie and the Showmen, The Tielman Brothers, and the Surfaris (Wipeout!) The model was a success albeit not the way Fender had planned!
As the Surf-Rock movement began to fade out in the mid 60s (largely due to the “British invasion,”) the guitar that was synonymous with the genre slowly followed suit. By the 70s, the popularity of rock meant many guitarists were generally looking for humbucker sustain and output – something the Jazzmaster couldn’t offer. As the Jazzmaster’s mainstream appeal dwindled, it again became increasingly more attractive to younger new-wave/punk players, partly due to their low price but also due to their anti-rock symbolism. Fender discontinued the Jazzmaster in 1980 just as some influential new wave bands were starting to adopt it as their main instrument – Elvis Costello, Robert Smith, Tom Verlaine to name a few.
Having earned it’s place as one of the coolest solid body electrics around, with associations with some of the best alternative bands from various periods, the Jazzmaster was then to become one of the guitars of choice on the late 80s, early 90s grunge scene. Coupled with a fuzz pedal or two these players turned the Jazzmaster into screaming rhythm and lead instrument. Players such a J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr,) Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine,) Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Grant Nicholas (Feeder) all favoured the Jazzmaster.
With its association with alternative bands throughout the decades, it’s original body shape, it’s build quality in the 50s and 60s, it’s versatility, it’s sound and its playability, the Jazzmaster has cemented itself as one of Fender’s finest models. Not only that, but you can purchase original models from the early 60s from our website for under £5,000! When you think of the price of a Strat equivalent, i believe Jazzmasters offer outstanding value and a huge scope for future investment. Not only that but you will own one of (if not the) coolest guitars in rock history. What’s not to like!?
Here are a few videos of the Jazzmaster in action!
Check out Roy Clark and his “Lightning Fingers” playing “Twelfth Street Rag”… A great video, and a very smart looking sunburst Jazzmaster.
Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene
Elvis Costello – (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea