History of the Fender Jaguar

Fender Jaguar Vintage Add Vintage Fender ad playing off the '60s surf scene featuring the Jaguar (left) and Jazz Bass (right).

The story of the Jaguar electric begins back in 1962 when it was introduced as Fender’s answer to the growing popularity of Gibson's electric guitars. Although it was intended as a feature-heavy top-of-the-line guitar, it never really caught on beyond that of the surf music scene (mostly due to Fender purposefully featuring plenty of beach-centric Jaguar ads with classic beach babes and the like). And worst yet, it didn’t even compare to the success seen with the Telecaster or Stratocaster. Fender tried desperately to change the tied on the Jaguar’s fate by introducing several upgrades throughout the ‘60s. Custom finishes, a bound neck, pearloid block inlays and even a maple fingerboard with black binding were not enough to keep the Jaguar from being discontinued in December of 1975, after only a thirteen-year production run.

In comes punk rock with their contrarian attitude towards the norms of the rock scene. If it was mainstream, it wasn’t punk -- and if it wasn’t punk, you weren’t punk. The good news for the Jaguar was that by the mid-seventies, it was very niche – making it very punk. But better yet, they were now much cheaper than a Stratocaster or Telecaster (originally, the Jaguar was priced much higher than both).

Fueled by the likes of New Wave guitarist Tom Verlaine of Television (great band by the way that doesn’t get enough credit for punk rock, most likely because they were a part of the original seventies-based wave of the genre and not the more known ‘80s variant) as well as several others, the Jaguar quickly became just as much an anti-style statement as it was a great economic choice over guitars of similar quality – pretty much a win-win for the forgotten guitar.

By the ‘90s – with major help from several well-known guitarists such as Kurt Cobain, Black Francis, and John Frusciante who employed them at the time – the Jaguar exploded in popularity, leading Fender to reintroduce the ‘62 model as part of their Vintage American brand in 1990.  Another reason why the Jaguar became so popular in the independent music scene was all of the sound possibilities offered specifically by its unique bridge construction. The bridge and tremolo of the Jaguar can create sympathetic resonance due to the fact that there is a considerable length of string between the bridge and the tailpiece. Also, when the strings are strummed behind the bridge, a characteristic chiming sound is created which was exploited heavily by artists such as Sonic Youth.

Today, it has retained its spot among Fender's staple of classic guitars with a dozen or so unique models that are sure to offer those searching for that Jaguar sound just what they are looking for!

2 thoughts on “History of the Fender Jaguar”

  • Kenn DeBont

    Good to hear about the Jaguar now please put together some writing on
    the Jazzmaster that came out earlier. I still play mine at a live gig every week and I got mine in 1962. Thanks Leo!

  • Fender Man

    Not exactly the most well written piece typos aside. There is so much content that the post did not cover, e.g., the pickups with their funny metal covers, the shortened scale length, the revolutionary switching system. Also a point that would have been interesting to know is why did Fender create a guitar with similar styling to their marginally successful Jazzmaster? This piece could have been so much better.

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