Music News

Leo Fender's 102nd Birthday! Ten Guitarists Who Loved His Axes

Anyone can play guitar, but not just anyone can make a guitar that anyone can play easily. The man who invented almost everyone's first electric guitar, the late Leo Fender, would have turned 102 today. He didn't invent the electric guitar, but he did create the first guitar that was easy to hold and easy to play (and easy to mass-produce). In 1949, he began working on what would be the Telecaster, and less than a decade later, he'd modify and streamline his initial design and drop the Stratocaster on the world.

There's no need to argue or dispute that had it not been for Fender's handiwork, rock 'n' roll and all its illegitimate children would not exist today. He made it possible for a handful of dudes in one garage to sound like a ten-piece big band. If a kid worked all summer or pestered his parents hard enough, he's soon have an affordable, easy-to=play Strat or Tele in his lap.

Today we honor Leo Fender's brilliantly simple design by showing you some pics of famous dudes playing hot licks on sweet axes.

Buddy Holly



Seeing Buddy Holly and his two Cricket friends play live was probably the first time a kid thought, "If this nerdy dude can do it, so can I." Blame Buddy Holly in part for Weezer, Elvis Costello, and Jonathan Richmond.

Jimi Hendrix



Jimi had to flip his Fender upside down to play it, and by doing so he flipped the entire script on rock 'n' roll music.

Bob Dylan



Were people really mad at Zimmerman when he decided to play one louder? If the folk folks couldn't dig it in 1965, they eventually stopped crying and accepted that he can play whatever kind of guitar he wanted.

George Harrison



The Beatles' secret weapon. The quiet one. The underrated one. In their later years, Harrison favored Teles, and he very much needed them for his sweet melodic leads.

Joe Strummer



You can't picture Strummer without his Telecaster. Try. It's impossible.

Dick Dale



This guy has been Fender's test pilot for more than 50 years. In many ways, through Dick Dale and his signature track "Miserlou," Leo Fender is responsible for setting the tone in Pulp Fiction and the Black Eyed Peas' mega-hit "Pump It."

Kurt Cobain



Cobain loved Fenders so much that one day, he drew a sketch for his dream guitar, a Mustang/Jaguar hybrid called the Jagstang. Fender loved him so much they eventually made him a few.

Jonny Greenwood



On Radiohead's debut album, Pablo Honey, Greenwood's Tele provided the kick to the head that propelled them into everyone's homes and cars. Do you think "Creep" would've been such a huge hit without his overblown guitar attack? Think about it.

Stevie Ray Vaughan



Stevie was a human Stratocaster. Octaves of emotion would ooze from his fingers onto the fretboard and into the crowd's soul.

Frank Black



Founder of the Pixies, pioneer of the quiet/loud dynamic that Nirvana perfected and the rest of the '90s would exploit, Blank Francis loves his Telecasters.

BONUS! Jonathan Richmond's Ode to the Stratocaster



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Jose Flores
Contact: Jose Flores