- in Gear , Guitars by Bobby Owsinski
The Fender Jazzmaster Turns 60
Another classic instrument has flew past the half-century mark as the iconic Fender Jazzmaster celebrates it’s 60th birthday. Like the Strat and Les Paul, the Jazzmaster was once thought of as almost a product-line miss as interest was lukewarm at best. It’s now enjoying a massive revival though, and if you watch just about any festival these days, the chances are good that 90% of the acts will have at least one guitar player with a Jazzmaster.
The Jazzmaster model was launched in 1958 as the flagship of the line and priced about 15% higher than the Strat. It was meticulously designed by Leo Fender with custom wound soap-bar pickups wound flat and wide with the magnets underneath to have a mellow sound that he thought jazz players would love, as well as an offset body designed for comfort when playing while seated. The problem was that every major jazz star of the day immediately shunned the instrument, and it looked like a failure for a while. It became quite popular with California surf bands of the 60s however, and then later with the punk movement of the late 70s and early 80s.
Still its popularity waned after that, and Jazzmasters could be found inexpensively as used instruments. Because they didn’t cost a lot and didn’t have a “vintage” stigma, players had no particular reverence for it and started digging into the instrument and modifying it. It’s for this reason that Fender itself calls it “the most modified guitar in history.”
Fender started paying more attention to the Jazzmaster with its reintroduction in 1984 (it was officially discontinued in 1980), and that paid off with a new generation of dedicated players. Today’s there’s a wide variety of models available, from dead-on copies of models from the prime years of 1958, 1962 and 1965, as well as new variations aimed at younger players with different needs.
Regardless of the model, for a guitar to last for 60 years in almost continuous production is nearly unheard of with only a few others that share the same mantle, and it’s another tribute to the genius of Leo Fender. Check out the video below about the 1958 Jazzmaster reissue.