Book Review: The Fender Archives by Tom Wheeler published by Hal Leonard

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“A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures, and Inside Information”

Tom Wheeler with forward by James Burton (published by Hal Leonard)

Here is a fun collection of facts and tid-bits on Leo Fender’s transformative inventions and works of art, the Fender Electric Guitar and Amplifier line of musical instruments.

Right from the very start as you open the front cover, you are drawn to the pouch on the inside of the cover possessing a full color poster of eight snapshots of the earliest models, Leo Fender’s record keeping log of the Telecaster’s component costs, and the Life Time Achievement Award presented to Eric Clapton illustrating Leo’s patent for the combination bridge/pickup/tailpiece.  The first picture at the top of the poster is the forerunner to the entire Fender line which was built by Leo Fender in 1949 with the help of George Fullerton, and the last picture at the bottom right side of the poster depicts a 1952 Esquire, a 1953 Tele, and a Whiteguard 1956 Tele with serial number listed for each.  After spending some time reading the legend at the bottom for each of the eight pictures in the poster, you are ready to dig in!

The book offers some personal reflections from the man himself, Leo Fender, on his life and career, and early on takes the reader through the (multiple) origins of the Telecaster (originally named Broadcaster but had to be changed due to an apparent trademark infringement with The Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Co.) which was inspired by the steel guitar, wanting to make a standard guitar that could sound similar to the popular steel guitar sound of the time.

This is a great start but then there is a chronological account of the development and evolution of the iconic Stratocaster, the invention of “a new and useful tremolo device for stringed instruments,” and, of course, the Jazz Master with Leo’s patented application of the tremolo.

There is a wealth of documentation in the forms of hand written letters, personal log books, internal memos, and drawing-board sketches, as well as rare photographs, a Western Union Telegraph, and much, much more.  Throughout the adventure, the reader comes upon envelopes full of replica documents which are clearly explained by reference on the back of each envelope…a real treasure chest!

As stated on the back cover of the book, “The Fender Archives is part history, part archive, part scrapbook … a sort of archeological dig through several sites.”

This is another coffee table conversation piece and a fun ride while relaxing on the couch, in your hammock, or you pick your spot, but where ever you land to digest this story, you are sure to enjoy!

The book can be purchased on Amazon or directly from Hal Leonard.

$45.00 (US)
Inventory #HL 00103138
ISBN: 9781476817477
UPC: 884088690595
Width: 12.0″
Length: 9.0″
104 pages


About the author:  Tom Wheeler is a writer, educator, and musician. After freelancing for Rolling Stone, Wheeler held the part of editor in chief of Guitar Player Magazine and became the founding editorial director for Bass Player. He has authored several books, including The Guitar Book, American Guitars, The Stratocaster Chronicles, The Soul of Tone, and The Dream Factory. Wheeler currently serves as a professor at the University of Oregon’s school of journalism. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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