Video: 60 Years of the Fender Jaguar | Short-Scale Stories

All those switches. That sleek offset body. Chrome everywhere. It must be a Fender Jaguar!

Fender’s HQ in California was buzzing with excitement in 1962. The brand new Jaguar was high-end, the most expensive solidbody in the firm’s line. It cost more than a Strat, more than a Tele, more than a Jazzmaster.

Right from the start, the Jag was offered not only in trad sunburst, but also some gorgeous custom colors. Lake Placid Blue, Surf Green, Fiesta Red—they looked great alongside the Jag’s sparkling chrome control plates.

And wow, check those controls. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of them.

Confusing? Here’s the idea. An original Jaguar has two groups of controls, and once set to your liking, they become a pair of presets, which Fender called Lead and Rhythm.

Selecting the Lead option offered both pickups and just the controls on the lower half of the body—for volume, tone, pickups on/off, and a bass cut.

Selecting Rhythm offered only the neck pickup and the controls on the top half of the body—for volume and tone.

Once all set, you could play your Rhythm preset for a bit, flick the switch, and there was your Lead sound. And then maybe back to Rhythm. Instant ’60s!

The pickups were similar to a Strat’s but sat in metal cradles intended to reduce hum.

A separate bridge and trem had a gimmicky string mute added at the bridge.

It had a 24-inch scale that took an inch and a half off Fender’s regular length, making for an easier playing feel, and 22 frets rather than Fender’s standard 21.

The Jag never sold as well as the Fender big two, though it found some favour among surf bands as Carl Wilson played one in The Beach Boys.

Come the late ’60s, fashion had turned against this high-end model. By 1975, Fender stopped production of the Jaguar.

Outside the factory walls, though, players like Tom Verlaine and Elvis Costello were happy to take advantage of the pawn-shop prices of used Jaguars.

The Jaguar reappeared as a Fender Japan model in 1982. In the ’90s, it was Kurt Cobain who spearheaded the revived Jag Appreciation Society, and at the end of that decade, Fender returned the model to US production.

Today, regular and revised Jaguars sit proudly alongside Jazzmasters as the twin peaks of Fender’s offset range. A Jaguar, brand new or classic vintage, has its own sound and feel. And you know what? It’s all the better for it.

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