Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 56

COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
from hot-rodders. When Hollywood came
calling, the fictional Conrad Birdie (of Bye
Bye Birdie fame) appeared with a black-and
gold-pinstriped Jaguar. Both models sold
well in bold custom-color finishes; many
bands bought matching sets including a
Fender bass. The Beach Boys featured
a white Jaguar prominently (played
by Carl Wilson alongside Al Jardine's
Strat) and both it and the Jazzmaster
were common sights with American
bands, pro and amateur, in the pre-Beatles
era. Surf bands in California used a large
percentage of them.
These were not inexpensive guitars, even
compared with Gibson, Gretsch, and the
like. Fender's November '63 price list pegged
the Jag at $379.50 in sunburst, $398.49 in a
custom color, and a whopping $456.68 with
gold-plated hardware. The Jazzmaster ran
about 30 bucks cheaper across the board,
and the "old" Strat could be had starting at
$259.50. Gibson offered the SG Custom at
$425, the Standard at $290 and a sunburst
ES-335 ran $300. Gretsch's Chet Atkins 6120
was $495, the semi-solid Duo-Jet $350, and
the new (but ill-fated) Astro-Jet solidbody
was $295. Guild's popular Starfire III and
IV were both $395, while the new S-200
Thunderbird was $359.50. The most interesting comparison is Gibson's brand new
Firebirds. In late 1963,
the gold-hardwareequipped Firebird VII
listed at $445, the III at
$249.50, and the V was
$325. These guitars
were not only styled to
compete with Fenders,
but priced to as well.
Nonetheless, the Jaguar
and Jazzmaster appear to
have outsold most if not all
of these rivals.
It's easy to forget how
influential these offset guitars were at
the time. Gibson's
Firebird wasn't the
only obvious response; Guild's
T hu nderbi rd
(launched in
'63) copied the
Jag's w iri ng,
including the
rhythm circuit.
Many European
a nd (especia l ly)
Japanese solidbodies

A gleaming custom-color '65 Jaguar
(left), Fender's official Jaguar portrait
(above left), and the Jag's '62 hangtag.

of the time bypassed knocking off the
Strat and went straight to copying the
Jaguar. In the early/mid '60s, Fender's
offset models represented the de facto
image of the electric guitar.
But it was not to last. Neither guitar
caught on in England, and after '64,
the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other
U.K. players were setting the trends. A few
builders tried their
hand, but for most,
the Stratocaster -
as wielded by the
hugely influential
Shadows - was the
Fender of choice. In
'63, Jazzmasters appeared briefly with the
Hollies' Tony Hicks and
Brian Poole's Tremoloes; ex-Shadow Jet
Harris launched his
solo career on a
Jag in '62. Yardbird Chris Dreja
tried both, and
Stev ie Wi nwood used a
Jaguar in the
Spencer Davis

VINTAGE GUITAR

56

January 2018

The clean-cut
Fender method.

Group. Still these were isolated sightings, as
higher-end Fenders were very expensive in the
U.K. and never had the cachet of a Strat or Tele.
There's one photo of John Lennon playing a
Jaguar, when he sat in with an American club
band in Florida. It somehow looks just wrong!
Worse, after '66, the duo experienced a sharp
decline in popularity in the U.S. The CBS Fender
Album of Stars books of artist pictures show not
a single performer with either model, though
they were billed as top of the line. While some
attribute their waning popularity after the mid
'60s to stylistic factors, there were also practical
issues involved as playing styles changed rapidly.
The Jaguar was specifically designed to offer
a clean, distortion-free sound at high volume
- distortion was considered a problem in '62!
After '66, the British blues boom gave rise
to hyper-amplified rock, and by decade's end,


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - IFC
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