Nostalgia is everything, whether it’s a gleaming vintage car, classic rock and roll, or a well-worn pair of jeans. Fender — whose American Vintage Series launched in 1982 — capitalized on that sentiment. Now, its modern-meets-retro replacement — the American Original Series — is doing it again.
Featuring six guitar and four bass models, it takes cues from classic instruments’ specs and styles. Though the previous American Vintage Series reissued individual model years, American Originals draw inspiration from overarching specs over the course of decades.
Reflecting on the company’s storied past, it certainly makes sense.
A Little History
Since its founding by radio repairman Leo Fender in 1946, Fender steadily earned a following for its solid-body electric guitars and bass guitars.
In 1951, Fender introduced a prototype solid-body instrument — eventually the Telecaster guitar — the first solid-body electric guitar to be commercially mass-produced. That same year saw the launch of its Precision Bass guitar, which played like a guitar, could be amplified and had frets, therefore allowing it to be played with “precision.” Offering a contrast in an era of “big bands,” this duo laid the groundwork for the modern rock combo as we know it today.
The sleek, contoured Stratocaster first appeared just three years later in 1954, offering a third single-coil pickup for more tonal possibilities, as well as the new Fender vibrato (“tremolo”) bridge. Its pedal steel-like sound — harnessed by country music artists of the era — went on to revolutionize popular music. From there, Fender moved on to launch the Jazzmaster guitar (’58) the Jazz Bass guitar (’60) and the top-of-the-line Jaguar guitar (‘62).
Making of a Cultural Icon
Championing the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll from the get-go, Fender became as much a cultural icon as it did a manufacturer revered by musicians in nearly every musical genre — from country western to jazz, rhythm and blues.
Setting the tone, its early “You Won’t Part With Yours Either” marketing campaign showed people surfing, skydiving, skiing and boarding planes while holding Jazzmasters and Stratocasters. Later, hip, guitar-wielding teens appeared with surfboards and classic Thunderbird convertibles, cementing its connection to Southern California’s surf, sports car and hot rod culture. Style and substance was the name of the game.
Fast-Forward to Today
Fender’s American Original Series collection includes a ’50s-inspired Stratocaster and Telecaster, a ’60s-inspired Jaguar and a ’60s-inspired Jazz Bass. However, these best-of-decades takes have been updated for modern playability.
Finish options — such as Aztec Gold, Surf Green, Ocean Turquoise and Natural — are available for various guitars. And those customer-requested Custom Shop features? They’ve been woven into accessibly priced production models.
Ultimately, the line lets musicians relive a classic experience with period-accurate pickups that exemplify the sound and performance of their model years—era-appropriate necks, vintage-spec hardware and eye-catching lacquer finishes—which nod to the era that influenced them. Naturally, there are plenty of contemporary updates, too, including modern fingerboard profiles and vintage tall frets. Adding to the allure, these beauties are tucked into new, vintage-style cases.
Pair them with the new Fender Hot Rod IV Amplifiers for the ultimate in classic vibes, not to mention a features-packed experience.
Ready to delve deeper into the American Original Series? The full line is available now at Full Compass.