Leo Fender studied accounting in college, but he had been tinkering with electronics and sound as early as age 14, when his uncle wowed him with a radio made from spare parts. When the hard times of the Great Depression cost him his accounting career, Fender jumped into electronics full time, leading to the development of the first mass-produced, solid body electric guitar -- the Telecaster -- in 1948. But Leo Fender was an engineer, not a musician, and he couldn’t play a lick, so he’d bring in musicians to test his cutting-edge axes.
In 1954, the Fender Stratocaster was unveiled. Its clean, sharp sound earned it a loyal following among the world’s best guitarists, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and many others.
Guitar blasts from the past:
- Fender had been building amps and guitars for about a decade before rock artists began to take notice. The first converts were country musicians.
- The company created by Leo Fender was purchased by CBS in 1965 for $13 million USD, which was about $2 million USD more than the media giant paid for the New York Yankees in 1963.
- Fender wasn't the only non-musical inventor of a musical instrument. Laurens Hammond, the engineer who developed the Hammond organ, had to hire people to help refine and test his invention. He didn’t know how to play the organ.