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Front Row Legend

What’s this? A new custom shop guitar from Fender?

From its humble beginnings as a makeshift stage to its now-legendary status as one of the best concert venues in Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl is part of the rich tapestry of Hollywood history. This natural outdoor amphitheater has hosted performances by some of the most well-known and respected artists of every musical genre; from Frank Sinatra to Jimi Hendrix and everyone in-between, the Hollywood Bowl has been bathed in pure musical magic for decades. Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Yuriy Shishkov captured and distilled that mojo, adding a healthy infusion of Fender’s timeless style and history with the incredible Front Row Legend Esquire. This guitar is crafted from 100-year-old Alaskan yellow cedar reclaimed from the original bench boards that have been resonating with the sounds emanating from “The Bowl” since 1919.

Launched last month, only two have been built so far. Available for a mere $12,000 USD.

#nottoosureaboutthisone

Fender Ensenada Factory

That is basically where Fender started. Circa 1959. Fullerton, California.

My friends at Cosmo Music sent me a video about their recent tour to the Fender Ensenada factory in Mexico. They produce about 500 guitars a day from that plant. Quite a lot has changed in terms of the production of these instruments.

I would hazard a guess that a 1959 Fender Strat holds a bit more value though.

Shoplifting a Fender

Caught this video in my YouTube feed. A person walked into a Guitar Center on January 18th in Fort Worth, Texas and lifted a Fender by sliding the guitar, neck first, down his pants.

I hope they catch this shoplifter.

Fender Guitar Lessons

I caught this little tidbit on Fender’s future plans from a recent Forbes article:

Most ambitious, perhaps, is Fender”™s plan to launch a subscription-based guitar learning system in late spring which will include 500 hours of theory and guitar practice content for any device, priced at $19.99 per month. Says Mooney: “When we looked at the overall market, what”™s interesting is the lessons side of the business is roughly double the size of the sale of new instrument business. You couple that with the fact that 90% of guitarists abandon the instrument in the first few months, if not the first year at the latest. We felt there was a commercial opportunity to develop the brand in the digital learning space because clearly the trends in learning are heading towards digital, as are many other parts of life.”

Mooney? Oh, yes. I remember now. Fender hired Andy Mooney as CEO back in 2015.

He had spent 20 years with Nike where he ultimately rose to the senior ranks as chief marketing officer and head of Nike’s global apparel organization. In 2000, he was made chairman of Disney Consumer Products. He left Disney in 2011 and had a bit of a mixed experience with Quiksilver. Well, to put it in clearer language, he was fired from Quiksilver. Something about the stock falling from $9 to $2 under his leadership.

And now, he is the CEO of Fender. I think the Edge sits on the board of the company as well. Fender is privately owned so it is a bit hard to peer into the corporate side of the business.

I love my Fender guitars. I hope Mooney takes good care of the company. He has about 50 Fender guitars so he must like the brand.

 

What’s The Buzz?

5e3Amp

The 5e3 circuit is my favourite design for a guitar amplifier. A minimalist design that really delivers a lot of tone.

I had a lot of trouble with my last 5e3 circuit, a 1957 Tweed Deluxe Reissue from the Fender Custom Shop.

I spent a lot of time and money trying to service the amp including several sets of tubes and three visits to my amp tech.

That amp still exhibits erratic volume dropouts. And life is too short to be wondering if an amp will make it through a gig.

Last month, I received a new Clark Beaufort. A beautifully built 5e3 amp. And the sound is just heavenly.

I noticed a bit of a telltale worn tube sound last week. The first preamp tube was a NOS 12AY7 and I don’t think it quite made the trip up from the United States. The tube was going microphonic.

No worries. I had lots of extra tubes from my attempts to salvage the Fender Tweed.

I switched out the tubes. And yuck! Buzz. Big time buzz. The video explains it all.

Artisan Series Okoume Stratocaster

ArtisanStrat

Well, let’s see what’s new at the Fender Custom Shop this month shall we?

For the 2015 Artisan series, the Fender Custom Shop pushes the envelope in the name of art and still remains true to its roots. Artisan series instruments are custom-built masterpieces, outfitted with special appointments and features unlike any other Custom Shop instruments. Yet with vintage design touches, the foundation and spirit is authentically Fender. Exotic okoume bodies, lustrous gold hardware, premium “roasted” bird”™s-eye maple necks and much more — every high-end feature is fashioned and finished with painstaking attention to detail. No doubt, every Artisan series instrument is a beauty to behold — a culmination of sonic perfection, passion and purity of design, with classic Fender at the core.

Okoume is an interesting choice of wood for tone. Okoume is a hardwood tree that is native to Africa. It is described as a weak wood and it is often used in marine plywood. The wood sounds similar to maple and it is a fairly light. And, from what I understand, it can be difficult to work.

The neck is a one piece Birdseye maple that has been roasted to a deep brown hue and features a “V” profile with a 9.5”³ fingerboard radius.

This video provides a nice overview of the instrument. Although gold hardware is not my thing, the instrument does look — and sound — stunning.

Fender Custom Shop Pine Cone Stratocaster

PineConeStrat

What is covered with pine-cone scales — gilded with fine silver and 18-karat gold — and holds 550 high-grade diamonds?

Well, a Fender Stratocaster of course!

This guitar was Master Built by Yuriy Shishkov. The attention to detail is astonishing. The fingerboard is hand-inlaid with 10 feet of 18-karat gold wire trellis into the fingerboard.

More details about the guitar can be found at the Fender Custom Shop site here.

YuriyShishkov

The guitar was a highlight from this years NAMM. How much? Well, if you have to ask.

Yuriy provides his story on the guitar in this video:

Just Arrived, 1956 NOS Strat

56NosStrat

Yes. This announcement was waiting in my email. The Fender Custom Shop folks letting me know that a new ’56 NOS Strat Master Built by John Cruz had just arrived in Toronto. Just in time for my birthday.

Let’s look at this guitar.

56NosStratFrnBak

Stunning. Just stunning. Shoreline gold with a Tobacco burst finish. An incredible figured neck. Gold hardware.

Cosmos Music has it for only $12,500.

Ouch.

Oh well. It was the wrong year anyway. I need a 1958, not a 1956.