Commemorating the return of a living legend.
The Fender Custom Shop is honored to say "welcome home" to George Fullerton, who is once again back at work on the electric guitar he helped bring to life more than 50 years ago. The modern Fender family couldn't possibly be more thrilled.
The resulting Limited Edition George Fullerton 50th Anniversary Stratocaster is beautifully master-built with a two-color sunburst lacquer finish on its three-piece blade-cut alder body. The one-piece '57-style soft V-shaped maple neck has a lacquer finish and 7.25"-radius maple fingerboard. Other features include '50s-style pickups hand wound by Abigail Ybarra and a three-position pickup selector switch, mounted on a single-ply white pickguard, plus vintage hardware, a commemorative neck plate and a certificate of authenticity signed by George Fullerton himself.
The Fender guitar's partner is the Relic Tweed Pro Junior amp, which evokes the revered '50s era of small Fender tube amps such as the Champ, Princeton and Harvard. The 15-watt, single-channel Relic Tweed Pro Junior features a single 10" speaker, vintage pointer knobs and period-correct vintage-style tweed covering.
Fullerton's return is a memorable occasion for Fender, and it is a distinct honor and a pleasure to offer a Stratocaster guitar bearing his name.
"George Fullerton's contribution to Fender is immeasurable," said Mike Eldred, Fender Custom Division marketing director. "To have him come home to be part of the Fender family again is an incredible honor for every employee here. For the Fender Custom Shop team to be able to sit down with him and work on these projects together has been like getting an incredible first-hand glimpse into history."
It may be hard to believe that the Stratocaster guitar wasn't widely perceived as a legendary design phenomenon and cultural icon when it debuted in 1954. In fact, it drew as many quizzical looks as it did accolades, and it took a little while to really take off. Refinements and improvements were made for many months afterward by Fender's founding fathers — men such as Leo Fender, George Fullerton, Freddie Tavares and others. As it turned out then, the landmark year for the nascent landmark guitar — the year when the Stratocaster really hit its stride — was 1957.
Now, 50 years later, Fender is honored and delighted to welcome George Fullerton, truly one of the fathers of the Stratocaster, back to the Fender family for the release of the Limited Edition George Fullerton 50th Anniversary Stratocaster guitar and amp set. He and the Fender Custom Shop are introducing 150 limited edition sets consisting of a master-built reproduction of a 1957 Stratocaster and Relic Tweed Pro Junior amplifier in a collaboration that evokes Fender's original spirit of pioneering greatness and devotion to craftsmanship.
As far as young George Fullerton knew back in the late 1940s in Fullerton, Calif., his future and the smart money were in aircraft; specifically, a good job with Lockheed in booming post-war Southern California — home of sun, sand, surf, cars and lucrative aircraft contracts from the just-created U.S. Department of Defense. Smart and hard-working, Fullerton could look forward to a bright future — though still in school, he already worked part-time for Lockheed, and his keen interest in electronics extended to repairing radios on the side.
Fullerton met local businessman and inventor Clarence "Leo" Fender at one of the outdoor events for which Fender supplied the PA system. Fender had a small radio repair shop on Spadra Ave. where Fullerton, who played guitar, bought records and sheet music. Before long, Fullerton was helping Fender with PA systems at various outdoor events: the two became good friends, and Leo was always pressing his young friend to come work for him at his fledgling guitar company, where Fender built lap steel guitars and small amplifiers. Fullerton resisted, as he wasn't interested in lap steel guitars and was busy studying anyway.
"You know, it's a funny thing," Fullerton recalled in 2007, "I never wanted to build guitars. I never intended to. Leo used to beg me to come over there and work for them. And I said, 'Leo, I don't want to build that kind of guitar; I'm studying electronics.'"
At Fender's urging, Fullerton spent a few days at the shop doing some repair work. But when Fullerton once again rebuffed Fender's offer for a job, Fender revealed his idea for a project that piqued Fullerton's interest.
"He said, 'Let's go get a cup of coffee and talk a little bit,'" Fullerton said. "So we walked down the street to a little café, and he told me, 'I've been thinking about trying to design a solid-body electric guitar. Would you be interested in doing some designing on one of those?' And I said, 'Absolutely — when can we start?'"
George Fullerton reported for work at the Fender Electric Instrument Co. on Feb. 2, 1948. Work on a solid-body Spanish-style electric guitar that would eventually be named the Telecaster was already under way, and Fullerton quickly became Leo Fender's right-hand man in designing and building it.
"When he designed a solid-body guitar, it really turned me on to them," Fullerton said. "Many nights, Leo and I would be down there 'til two o'clock in the morning still working on designing. My family never did see me in the daytime — I was gone all day and gone half the night."
"Leo and I used to go out and sit in these nightclubs, beer joints and smoky rooms to talk to musicians, to listen to what they had to say. We were trying to learn what players really needed for their musical instruments. We listened to them rather than tell them what we were doing — we used a lot of what we learned in our designs for the market."
Fullerton was a key collaborator with Leo Fender throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, playing a pivotal role in the design and manufacture of other revolutionary Fender instruments and amplifiers that went on to change the world. These included the follow-up to the Telecaster — a three-pickup, double-cutaway guitar with a vibrato and a comfortably contoured body called the Stratocaster, introduced in 1954 and refined to near perfection by 1957.
The Stratocaster was a radical departure that was destined for greatness not only as a musical icon, but also as a cultural one. Players in subsequent eras — the 1960s, in particular — used the Stratocaster to chart previously unexplored musical territory in ways Leo Fender and George Fullerton never imagined. From Buddy Holly to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan to name only a few, more popular music over the last 50 years was made and played on the Stratocaster than any other electric instrument. Fullerton wasn't thinking about any of this back then, of course: he simply wanted to help Leo Fender build a really good guitar.
"It turned out to be a good thing," Fullerton said modestly in 2007. "I look back over it and I can hardly believe it did happen. The results show up all around the world today."