Most of if
not all amps produced either in the past or present owe a majority of
their linage to the amps first created by Leo Fender. Many people
already know this but there are always new members joining the ranks of
guitarists and collectors who may not. I will provide a basic time line
for some of the changes that Fender amps underwent through the years.
There has been a large volume of material that covers this subject and
while by no means is this article meant to be all inclusive I hope to
provide the basic information, the meat and potatoes if you will,so that
you may at the very least be familiar with the subject.
In 1946 Leo fender starts the Fender manufacturing company and in 1947
was renamed The Fender Electric Instrument Company.By no means was this
the first attempts by Leo in electronics but this is where we will
begin.Leo's first amps of this era were made of wood without any outer
cabinet covering and earned the name "woodies" in collectors circles.
Made from leftover wood including the handles, most of these amplifiers
have 2 to 3 inputs and 2 volume knobs with 1 tone knob.
The next improvements were made during 1947 when an outer covering of
white material that was used to dress up the cabinets. This progressed
to a yellowish covering that we now refer to as "tweed".Several
variations of "tweed" were utilized at Fender. The earliest was a
lighter color and is seen on the "TV panel" amplifiers and two tone
covered amplifiers built by Fender and continued in production until the
mid 1960's.Most of the control panels were located on the rear of these
amps and subsequently moved up to the top of Fender amps.
During 1953 Fender placed upper and lower front panels on their amps
with a wide tolex covered strip above and below the speaker grill cloth,
these amps are commonly referred to as "wide panel " amplifiers.It was
during this time period that yet another update to the outer covering
of Fender amplifiers were made.Leo was never one to be completely
satisfied with his products and always strived if not to reinvent them ,
at least redress them to keep his products fresh in the consumers
eyes.During the mid 1950's he once again changed the front panels of his
amplifiers . Replacing the wide upper and lower panels with a narrow
panel strip thus enlarging the grill cloth areas to possibly make his
amplifiers appear to be more powerful and larger .It was also during
this time that Leo released a very rare version of his amplifiers
referred to as the "White " amps. A rare steel guitar , amplifier line
that also included the name badge "White" as opposed to the normal
Fender badge.This was a line meant to pay homage to a friend of Leo
During 1959 tweed covering on Fender amplifiers started a transition
into a covering more durable and is commonly referred to as tolex.From
the early days is was a light brown (almost pink) covering and
transitioned into a darker brown color with a darker grill
cloth. These amplifiers are now referred to as "Blonde" and "Brownie"
amps.The amps also started appearing with round control knobs and a
rubber "dogbone" handle. Never satisfied Fender also started producing
separate "piggyback" models where the chassis and controls were placed
in a separate unit to sit on top of stand alone cabinet speaker
enclosures.Controls for most amplifiers began migrating to the front
panels of amplifiers from the top of the amplifiers.
During the early 1960's the plate of the control panels for most amps
begin to be made with black backgrounds,black knobs and white numbers
and lettering as well as changing the outer covering once again to a
black tolex material.A more silver colored grill cloth is used during
this time frame as well as "dogbone" handles being replaced with a flat
rubber handle with silver end caps.These amps are commonly referred to
as the "Blackface " Fender models.
Along this time ( 1964 ) Leo Fender sells his company to "CBS" . It is
argued that the changes that occurred after this time were not as well
received , but that is another story. In approximately 1966 solid state
amplifiers begin to appear in the Fender lineup. Changes made to the
outer cosmetics also being to appear, the most common is the change from
black control faceplates to a silver faceplate control panel with blue
lettering and numbers, hence the term "silverface" comes into being.
Also skirted knobs and a blue and silver grill cloth is utilized to
aging separate the new line of amplifiers from the older lineups.
Fast forward to the 1980's and Fender almost ceases to exist. In
1985 Fender is bought back by a group of investors led by William
Schultz and employees at Fender. The move is made to Corona ,California
,red knobs appear on amp control panels,blackface amps make a comeback,
solid state amplifiers resurface , albeit for the better.During the
1990's push buttons,gain channels,on board effects,push pull knobs and
master volume controls in one configuration or another appear on Fender
amplifiers. In the later part of the 1990's Fender revisits their own
roots ,question themselves and reissues the amplifier models that made
them the leader to begin with. Both as a means to reestablish their
leadership role and regain control of the amplifier market that Leo and
family had built to begin with.Fender comes full circle back to their
roots and the beginning of a new era.
Now I know I did not include schematic changes,tube changes and other
applications in this article,nor did I even begin to scratch the surface
in amplifier models that were produced by Fender, this is just a basic
time frame reference to initiate the beginner or reeducate the seasoned
collector and other articles will follow on specifics in the
future.Fender amps have evolved ,some for better some for worse, but I
am truly amazed at the products that Leo has given us ,their history and
heritage as well as the multitude of spin off products that they have
inspired and will continue to inspire in amp builders both yesterday and
As always this is just my news and views .So until next time, may all
your days be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be
killer, Greg at Greg's guitars.