In late 1958 the Fender Jazzmaster was unveiled to the public. With a price tag of $329, the Jazzmaster’s early ad copy read like that era’s car commercials: “America’s finest guitar... unequaled in performance and design features.”
The Jazzmaster featured an offset body shape designed for comfort and ease of playing. The electronics’ unique design consisted of a switch on the upper horn which when moved up offered independent volume and tone control, intended to be the “rhythm” position. When pushed down, it would bypass the upper body controls to provide a “lead” sound. The Fender Jazzmaster was also the first Fender model to offer a separate rosewood fingerboard glued to a maple neck. Additionally, the vibrato unit was an all-new design, offering a locking on/off switch. This switch was intended to help the player stay in tune in the event of a string break – a great idea in theory that proved ultimately impractical.
Fender envisioned the Jazzmaster appealing to jazz guitarists, hence the name, but the era’s jazz musicians showed little enthusiasm, and mainstream Fender fans continued relying on their Strats and Teles despite the Jazzmaster’s elaborate design. The Fender Jazzmaster eventually found a niche with instrumental bands like the Ventures and the Fireballs, helping it to become recognized as a legitimate member of Fender’s line-up.
One of the early design changes that took place during the Jazzmaster’s production was the addition of a nitrate celluloid pickguard, replacing the previous gold anodized unit, featuring a crescent shaped notch at the neck pocket area allowing for easier truss rod access. Custom colors were also introduced, such as Fiesta Red, Blond, Metallic Gold, and San Marino Blue. These colors are rare and fetch a premium on today’s vintage market. Fender finally ceased the original production run of the Jazzmaster in 1980.
Since that time there have been several American and Japanese reissues of the Jazzmaster, prompted by the gradual resurgence of the model’s popularity. Musicians who helped put the Jazzmaster back in vogue vary from singer/songwriter Elvis Costello to indie rock darling J Mascis. Adam Franklin of Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields also helped bring acclaim to the Jazzmaster while spearheading the British “shoegazer” movement of the ‘90s.
Dave's Guitar Shop
Daves Roger’s Collection Is tended to by Laun Braithwaite & Tim Mullally
All photos credit Tim Mullally
Dave’s Collection is on dispay at:
Dave's Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601