The Basses of Leo Fender

For all the ground-breaking innovations Leo Fender brought to the electric guitar, his contribution to the bass was even more revolutionary. In 1951, Fender launched the Precision Bass: the first successfully manufactured electric bass guitar ever. This was followed by other Fender icons like the Jazz Bass in 1960.

But Leo didn't stop there. After the sale of Fender to CBS in 1965, he continued to design basses for Music Man in the '70s and later with G&L. While his penchant for double cutaways and sculpted contours carried throughout, he never stopped tweaking and enhancing his designs with a constant attention to playability and tone. Take a look at these iconic bass designs from Leo Fender, and witness the very evolution of the bass guitar itself.

1953 Fender Precision Bass

1958 Precision Bass

It's difficult to overstate the significance of the Precision Bass which premiered in 1951. According to many, the Fender Precision Bass can be considered the first true electric bass guitar, and its popularity was absolutely instrumental in the development of Rock 'n Roll and Country. The first Precision had a un-contoured slab body with a single-coil pickup and a maple neck. Starting in 1954, Fender updated the design with Stratocaster-like body curves, which was followed by the addition of a split-coil pickup in 1957 to generate a bit wider of a tone. Learn more about the Fender Precision Bass.

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1963 Jazz Bass

1963 Jazz Bass

Throughout his career, Fender launched new designs as higher-end counterparts to previous models. Introduced in 1960, the Fender Jazz Bass was exactly that for the Fender bass line-up. The J Bass took its visual queues from the ultra-modern Jazzmaster (introduced in 1958), and sought to enhance playability with a narrower neck at the nut and closer string spacing. Also new for the Jazz Bass were a pair of single-coil pickups with two pole-pieces for each string on both, which produced punchier, brighter tones than earlier Fender basses. Learn more about the Fender Jazz Bass.

1977 Music Man Stingray

1976 Stingray

Leo signed a 10 year non-compete clause when he sold Fender in 1965, which left him relatively inactive until the mid-'70s. When he did get back to building instruments, his new firm (dubbed CLF for his initials: Clarence Leonidas Fender) designed and built instruments from Music Man. The Stringray Bass is an absolutely central example of Fender's reemergence and remains Music Man's most iconic model. While the body shape was similar to the basses made for Fender, the Stingray integrated innovative active electronics with a fat humbucking pickup. This configuration offered tones that were embraced by a range of rock and funk players. Disagreements with his business partners prompted Fender to part ways with Music Man by 1979. Learn more about the Music Man Stingray.

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2008 G&L L-2000 Tribute

2008 Lefty L-2000

After the split with Music Man, Leo Fender launched G&L with former Fender colleagues George Fullerton and Dale Hyatt. G&L guitars and basses used similar shapes and concepts to classic Fender designs, but tended to incorporate upgraded hardware and electronics. The L-2000 was one of Fender's original bass models for G&L in 1980, and is a great example of his continued evolution as a designer. The dual humbucker pickup set can been seen as a continuation of his earlier designs, while other improvements like a more stable bridge illustrate Leo's unending drive to perfect the instrument he practically invented. Learn more about G&L.

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