The Jaguar made its debut in 1962, and with it Fender hoped to attract interest from surf guitarists who were then dominating American popular music.

Dripping with vintage vibe: A 1962 Fender Jaguar in fiesta red, serial number 79584.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fender Jaguar. The Jaguar made its debut in 1962, and with it Fender hoped to attract interest from surf guitarists who were then dominating American popular music. The Jaguar had the same offset body as the Fender Jazzmaster, but offered a 24" scale length, as opposed to the Jazzmaster’s 25 1/2" scale length.

Both guitars shared the dual-circuit scheme designed by Forrest White. On the upper bout, a 2-way switch selects between rhythm and lead circuits. The rhythm circuit has a master volume and master tone control (both are roller knobs mounted into the upper bout’s metal control plate). On the lower bout, another metal control plate boasts three 2-way switches. Two of these are on/off switches wired to the neck and bridge pickups, respectively. A third 2-way switch acts as a high-pass filter, which is often referred to as the “strangle switch.” Volume and tone knobs round out the Jag’s lead circuit.

1. Fender added notched metal side plates around the pickups to reduce single-coil hum. 2. Fully dressed: This Jaguar sports its custom color on the headstock, too. 3. The Jaguar’s floating tremolo also includes a sliding tremlock button. Engaging it locks the tremolo bridge into a fixed position. 4. Located by the bridge, the Jaguar’s string mute caused tuning problems for some players. Many guitarists simply removed the mute mechanism.

In an effort to remedy hum issues associated with the Jazzmaster’s single-coil pickups, Fender made the Jaguar pickups smaller and enclosed them with notched side plates to improve RF rejection.

Though Fender used the same floating tremolo and tremlock system as on the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar was also equipped with a string mute. This soon proved problematic with players, who found it knocked the guitar out of tune. Many Jaguar owners opted to remove the string mute from the guitar altogether.

Unfortunately, the Fender Jaguar never gained as much popularity as the Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster, and was finally discontinued in 1975. But in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Fender Jaguar experienced a resurgence after some popular bands of the time were seen using them. Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, and Sonic Youth were among the groups who found that Jaguars worked well for them sonically, and were also very affordable.

Around this time, Fender offered a less expensive line of Japanese Jaguar reissues. Then in 1999, the company introduced the American Vintage ’62 Jaguar and Jazzmaster reissues. Now in 2012, Fender is offering a 50th-anniversary Jaguar model, as well as the Johnny Marr Signature model. This guitar has made quite a comeback!

To discover more about the history of the Fender Jaguar, check out Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster, and Paul Kelly.

Original price:
$398, plus $52.50 for hardshell case

Current estimated market value:
$6,500 to $8,000

Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text by Braithwaite.

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