Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 90

W

hile volumes have been written about its more-famous
sibling, the Stratocaster, surprisingly little attention is paid
to the Jazzmaster - Fender's top-of-the-line guitar when it
was introduced in 1958. Then, again, maybe it's not so surprising...

ReVisitinG the

JazzMasteR
By miCHael WrigHT
THe DiffereNT sTrummer
Vintage guitar

90

July 2016

Out of the gate, the Jazzmaster was illconceived by Leo Fender and his design
crew. As evidenced by its name, in '57,
Fender designed the guitar to appeal to jazz
guitarists - regarded as the elite players at
the time. Since jazz (as well as orchestra and
studio) guitarists played sitting down, its body
carves were offset to accommodate a seated
position. Fender also widened the coil on its
pickups to mellow their frequency response
compared to the brighter, better-defined
sounds of Strat and Tele pickups. While a few
pre-production models had typical Fender
maple fingerboards, production models (like
most jazz guitars) got rosewood.
Fender even coupled a new f loating
vibrato with a separate bridge to be more
like an archtop with a bridge and trapeze
tail that decreased sustain. How many jazz
guitarists used a vibrato? Yes, there was the
"Trem-lock," which allowed the guitar to
function in a vibrato-free mode, but it, too,
was ill-conceived. Designed for use with the
heavy-gauge strings popular in the '50s, it was
best manipulated using a light touch. Also,
lighter strings tended to pop out of their bridge
saddles, which led to some players swapping
the bridge for (of all things) a Gibson TuneO-Matic (even if it didn't match the Fender's
fretboard radius).
When Fender showed the Jazzmaster to
players it hoped would raise its profile, reaction wasn't particularly favorable. Some of
the biggest names in jazz, including
Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, and
Jim Hall, showed little interest
(Joe Pass was the exception).
To be fair, from a
1957/'58 perspective, it
was not at all clear the
path popular music
would take in the
immediate future,
much less the long
term. While it's
true Elvis had
two hits in Billboard's 1957 Top
10 (#1 "All Shook
Up" and #9 "Too
Much"), crooners still ruled the
charts - Pat Boone,
Tab Hunter, Perry
Como, Jimmy
Dorsey. Two Everly


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - Cover1
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - Cover2
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 1
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 2
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 3
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 4
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Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 6
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Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - Contents
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Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - Cover3
Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - Cover4
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