Another Fender First, but came just about Last!

Leo Fender’s first production model Electric Violin clearly never caught on. This particular “Fender First“ vanished with little trace in 1958 Original Fender Sales Catalogue 1958-1959 (pg.12), shows the production model with ebony fingerboard Bob Wills didn’t take to it, nor did any of the other violinists said to have tried it at the time. [...]

Leo Fender’s first production model Electric Violin clearly never caught on.

This particular “Fender First“ vanished with little trace in 1958

Original Fender Sales Catalogue 1958-1959 (pg.12), shows the production model with ebony fingerboard

Bob Wills didn’t take to it, nor did any of the other violinists said to have tried it at the time. The list of players isn’t very long but covers some of the greatest and most popular fiddler/violinists of the era, including Tommy Jackson, Howdy Forrester, Wade Ray, Roy Acuff, Harold Hensley, George Liberace, Dickie Phillips, Cactus Soldi and Spade Cooley.

From left to right: 1957 maple neck, two-tone; 1958 maple neck, sunburst; 1958? ebony fingerboard, sunburst

 

By 1959 the instrument had been withdrawn and Leo never returned to it. It’s possible that just two production models survive today; the first in two-tone, the other in sunburst. The model advertised in the ‘58 & ‘58/’59 catalogues with ebony fingerboard maybe was never made.

CBS-reissued the violin in 1969, but not to Leo’s original design. Fundamental changes to headstock, tuners, neck, fingerboard, bridge, pickup plate strap-button and body contours significantly altered the appearance and tone.

“CBS” Fender Electric Violin, 1969 advert, with strap-button and single fine tuner

 

“CBS” Fender electric violin, 1970 catalogue (pg.19), with tail-pin and 4 fine tuners

Fender relaunched the electric violin again in 1999, the further change of pickup device made it incomparable to the instrument Leo made.

Fender’s electric violin, 1999 stock promo images, from left to right: FV-1 black; FV-1 white; FV-3 sunburst

It’s now 60 years since Leo Fender applied for the first ever patent simply to be called “Electric Violin”.

In that time this definition of a violin has found a place in just about every genre and style of music.

Although few people know it Leo did successfully produce “Another Fender First”.

Leo Fender’s first production model electric violin, c.1957, with patent drawings (1958)

However, this particular piece of Fender history was not given a proper chance to be heard at the time and has subsequently never been fully explored as Leo envisaged … until now.


If you are curious and open-minded to the extraordinary then you might just enjoy these contemporary recordings made using Leo Fender’s first 1958 production model Electric Violin. No sampling, loops or any other instrument; just basic modern day analogue to digital processing and the belief Leo actually got it right first time:

Available to stream and download now on Spotify, iTunes and other platforms

Single “Fullerton West”, EP “∆V” and Album “Dark Descended” by Benedict Heaney


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