Custom Shop Founders Design 30th Anniversary Documentary | Fender

This way,
this way. Whoa, what’s going on? God, it’s late. The Fender Custom Shop is a sort of
nirvana for guitar geeks. Anything from just the really
well-made team-built Fender, to your ultimate fantasy. There’s a family tie that, it didn’t get much closer to art
than a Fender Custom Shop guitar. We were all in on it. The Custom Shop
was a ball of creative energy that I have yet
to experience again in my life. I saw myself as the savior
of the Fender history. It was Bill Schultz’s idea
to start a custom shop, and what he wanted to do
was to get back to the old Fender. Bill wanted that
and what he said to me is, “I don’t care if we just breakeven. I want the coolest custom shop
and the best product available.” And I said, “I’ll do that.” Fender Custom Shop started in 1987. I was officially hired in ’86,
while I was still in Texas. In this big old tweed case
is the very first order ever taken for
the Fender Custom Shop. And I came with that order
in my pocket from Texas. I’ve got a few firsts’ with it. The one thing is the first double neck
ever to come out of Fender. When I got to Fender, they said,
“We want you to get an assistant.” And when I looked at the credentials, I hired Page because he had been
there working at R&D for ten years. I knew I needed his background. I absolutely believe
that the Custom Shop was the beginning of bringing
the soul back to Fender. It was a big component
in healing the scars that were created
from CBS ownership. When Bill Shultz put the investors
together to buy the company back, Bill Shultz said, “Okay, maybe this idea
of these couple guys in the back 40 building these customs guitars
would be cool.” You know, bring it back
to that glory kind of thing when Leo Fender first
started the company. Where artists were like thrilled by it. It was new and it was different. He was brining stuff up to their caliber. We all love guitars,
we love Fenders and next you thing you know,
“we” is Fender. And that was a great
realization at some point, that we were it. The word had been out
that we had opened a custom shop. Well, at the end of three months,
we had 300 or 600 orders. We suddenly realized
that two guys cannot do that. We went in there
and picked guys who had talent. There was a team. It was a rag-tag group
of brilliant builders. J.W. Black. Pinpoint,
accurate. George Blanda. Scientist and great builder. – Mark Kendrick.
– Breathes Fender. Fred Stuart. Eccentric artesian. – Alan Hamel.
– Hillbilly brilliant. Gene Baker. Creator of dreams. – Michael Stevens.
– In constant pursuit of perfection. – John Page.
– Great leader, great visionary. That was the magic of the shop,
that team. Especially the early days,
Custom Shop was like animal house. You really want me to tell you that, huh? Wouldn’t fly in it in those days either. A lot of hilarity,
lots of bathroom humor. We worked all kinds of whacky hours. You worked seven days a week,
sometimes you slept there. The early history of the Custom Shop
was very tumultuous. And when I say tumultuous, not knowing if you’re going
to have a job in a week, right,
is pretty scary. You get pretty crazy when
you’re under that kind of stress. And you need to relieve it
somehow or another. So, yeah,
there were plenty of pranks. If they weren’t picking on you,
they didn’t love you. So, if they were picking on you,
you knew you were doing the right thing. We were brutal to each other but it was like your best friends,
you know? It wasn’t like unbridled buffoonery. It was an unshackled creative period and we all contributed. I can remember,
as things expanded, we were kind of blowing our own minds. We were just trying to make
the best guitars we could, and just rocking along. It was just create,
create, create. Never stop creating. We were about making absolutely
the best guitar we were capable of. And pushing it artistically. And that kind of caught on like wildfire. All of a sudden, we’re at the Custom Shop
and they were like, “Hey, these guys are building this
incredible stuff and you can buy it.” It mushroomed
and the amount of exposure was just huge. Between ’89 and ’93,
everything just started ramping up. All of sudden, there’s an Eric
Clapton guitar on the line. Get to build guitars for Sting,
and Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. Richie Sambora,
the whole Bon Jovi crew, the Stones,
Dylan. – Elliot Easton.
– Dick Dale. – Stu Hamm.
– Jimmy Paige. Jeff Beck.
Clapton. So, artists were always pushing you. They wanted new ideas,
they wanted new things. Getting to work with these
people on a professional level, but supplying them the instrument,
that’s a got cool factor about it that is hard to understand
until you’ve done it. When you build guitar, you never know what
it’s path to life was going to be but it’s a little nibble
at a kind of immortality. To have been invited to partake in the 30th anniversary
of the Custom Shop is, without question,
a really great honor. Even though we’ve moved on,
we have our own companies, and we’re doing these other things,
you know, it says a lot for Fender and I’m very honored to be a part of it. All right.
Here’s the guitar that we’re all here for. This is the one I chose to have. A Fender crew build
and it is a Fender Esquire. It looks like an Esquire,
except there are some nuances. You’ve got the plate engraved
with the founders’ logo, the left hand is where it is
on a right-handed guitar. What I hear is that
it tightens this note up, the bass note,
and it fatten ups the high string. Well, as you can see,
in my design for the 30th anniversary of the Fender Custom Shop is inspired
by the first guitar and that was 001, this double neck from
the Fender Custom Shop in 1987. This is my 30th anniversary Custom Shop
founders’ design guitar. It’s a double F-hole Esquire. I first designed this guitar
back in like 1990, dubbed it the Page-o-caster. I put a koa top
in celebration of my friend and mentor, Freddie Tavares. Also, it includes my JP Woodtone saddles
that I make here in Oregon. I picked the Jazzmaster because I thought
it was kind of a misunderstood guitar and it didn’t quite get its due. One of the key features
is this stabilized and dyed wood here. This is the guitar. It’s a Telecaster with early 20th century
acoustic guitar motif. It’s got a Guatemalan rosewood back. Bear claw spruce,
Tortoiseshell pickguard. I was very honored
that I’ve been involved in this. So, these were the type
of guitars I was building early on in Custom Shop
that weren’t the norm at the time. I wanted to stay with the same
concept that was going on back then. This really is a
celebration of how Fender went from just being
an import company in ’85, to being back as one
of the world leaders in guitar building. I was inspired by some
southern California, orange county, low-rider car culture that was around
my neighborhood at the time. The tealer sunburst
is a tip of the hat to things traditionally Fender. We’ve got a silver sparkle Tele,
with a black burst. The reason that I chose
to do a sparkle was, that’s how I got my start
in the Custom Shop. This, I call the Stelecaster. If you check it out, it’s completely half Strat,
half Tele. The Tele sits better under your lap
because of the sharper radiuses and all, but a Strat has always been more
comfortable with the arm contours. So, I just kind of felt
it was the best of both worlds.

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