Experience more than 8,000 square feet of exhibits featuring hundreds of instruments, amps, photos, historical artifacts, interactive displays and more that give guests from all over the world a fascinating, educational and unforgettable firsthand look at the entire Fender story from 1946 to today.
Enjoy browsing and shopping for apparel, accessories, collectibles and other items in the retail shop, purchase an instrument in the Guitar Specialty Store, embark on the Fender Factory and Custom Shop tour, and enter the "Wood Vault," where you can design and purchase your very own Fender American Design instrument.
From the Fender Visitor Center you'll embark on the Fender Factory and Custom Shop tour for a fascinating up-close and start-to-finish look at the remarkable transformation of raw materials into fine Fender guitars, basses, amplifiers and other products.
Watch as Fender staff in the Wood Mill, Metal Shop, Final Assembly and other areas practice their craft, and see actual instruments and amps take shape at each stage in their production. Finally, your guide will escort you into the "Dream Factory" - the world-famous Fender Custom Shop - for an unprecedented firsthand look at the creation of the very best of Fender's best.
STUDENTS/TEENS (13-17)... $6
CHILDREN 9-12... FREE
(Must be accompanied by a parent or guardian)
Take SR-91 to Corona, then exit 47 north to Auto Center Drive. Turn right onto Railroad Street. Turn left onto Cessna Circle. The Fender Visitor Center is at 301 Cessna Circle.
James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (1942-1970) is universally hailed as the greatest electric guitarist in the history of rock and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
In the annals of rock history-and especially in Fender history-he towers above all others as an artist whose life and work were as phenomenal as the era which he helped to define and personify. Innovative, enigmatic and astoundingly talented, Hendrix pioneered an explosive new role for the electric guitar in the latter 1960s over the course of a meteoric career that was as musically adventurous as it was all too brief. Indeed, one can only speculate on the even greater musical heights he would have achieved had he lived beyond the age of 27. With bands the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, he recorded groundbreaking hit singles and albums, including Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love (1967), Electric Ladyland (1968) and Band of Gypsys (1970), all of which are as acclaimed and influential today as when first released.
A mesmerizing performer, Hendrix also turned in unforgettable concert moments, including his literally fiery performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and his immortal appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair. With his Stratocaster guitar slung upside down and his artful and inventive use of distortion, feedback, and other effects, Jimi Hendrix bequeathed to the world an artistic legacy so powerful that he has transcended mere stardom to become a worldwide cultural phenomenon that endures to this day.Photograph: Richard Peters / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC
George William Fullerton (1923-2009) played a pivotal role during Fender's original 1940s-1960s golden age. In the mid-1940s, as a gifted artist and working musician with a keen interest in electronics, George became friends with Leo Fender. The two men eventually became business associates after Leo personally enlisted George to sign on with the fledgling guitar and amplifier company. With his artistic sense and natural ability to translate ideas into practical processes and machinery on the shop floor, Fullerton contributed to the creation of several of the most important musical instruments of the 20th century, including the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass guitars. George Fullerton reported to work at Fender on Feb. 2, 1948, after performing several years of side work for Leo. He ran the small shop and supervised the crew during those first formative years, bringing a congenial, family-like atmosphere to the feisty young company. He became vice president in charge of production in April 1959, and from that early era through the 1960s, he remained both well liked by everyone at Fender and steadfastly loyal to Leo, with whom he remained a lifelong friend and business partner long after both men retired from Fender in 1970.
James Lee Jamerson (1936-1983) transformed the role of electric bass in popular music. He was the top session bassist for Detroit's Motown Records from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and his impeccable and infectious bass guitar work underpinned more hit records than that of perhaps any other bassist in history. Although during his lifetime Jamerson received little public recognition or credit for his towering contribution to music, the countless hits fueled by his propulsive and musically adventurous bass work remain beloved by millions worldwide as each generation discovers and rediscovers the magic of Motown's 1960s golden age. His unerring musical instincts—brought to life on a 1962 Fender Precision Bass guitar—were called upon time and again for what would prove to be timelessly enduring classics by the Miracles, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Supremes and many others. On every record featuring Jamerson, each bass line is a masterpiece of rhythm and melody; each is a joyfully irresistible musical force. Jamerson's inescapable influence on bassists of all eras and styles is incalculable, and he is thus universally regarded as one of the finest artists to ever wield the instrument.
It is no exaggeration to say that there might not be a modern Fender Musical Instruments Corporation as the world knows it were it not for Masamitsu "Mike" Yamano. In 1985, as president of Tokyo-based musical instrument distributor and retailer Yamano Music Co. Ltd., Mike Yamano provided crucial early support to the re-emergence of Fender as a successful company and worldwide market leader. As a major investor, board member and close friend, he extended an invaluable helping hand as Bill Schultz led a small group of investors in acquiring and rebuilding Fender after years of decline under CBS. That year and soon thereafter, Yamano's financial generosity, expert guidance and longstanding friendship literally helped save Fender when the company was struggling for its very existence. He was instrumental in the creation and administration of highly successful joint venture Fender Japan, a key element in the emergence of the modern Fender corporation. The venerable music company bearing the Yamano family name was founded in Japan in 1892, and has represented Fender there since 1963. Masamitsu Yamano, born in Tokyo in 1934, joined in 1960 and later served as its third president, thus working for Yamano Music during Fender's original heyday and presiding over it during Fender's modern-era resurgence.
At a time when Fender was merely one of many musical instrument companies, The Beach Boys were one of the few musical groups who had achieved worldwide popularity. They were it, with a string of evocative hits that played on the radios, TV's, bandstands and concert stages of the world. One cannot overstate the difference in magnitude between the still young Fender and this guitar-driven musical sensation. Surf, sun, striped shirts and white jeans; soaring harmonies that sounded like one multi-throated voice; bikinis, the beach and hot rods: this was the vision The Beach Boys put forth to the world. Along for the ride and immediately recognizable as the tools of the trade for these ambassadors of the Southern California teen dream, a stunning matched set of Fender Olympic White tools of mass hypnosis: Brian Wilson's Precision Bass, Al Jardine's Stratocaster, Carl Wilson's Jaguar. Behind them, the Fender wall of dreams: two blonde Dual Showman amps, a Bassman amp and blonde outboard reverb units; this was the cover of the best-selling live album of the day, The Beach Boys' Concert. Throughout their long and notable career — never seen without their pristine arsenal of Fender gear — The Beach Boys will be forever linked to Fender by great sounds, beautiful music and that So-Cal dream.
James Burton is the guitar hero's guitar hero, an icon among rock and country musicians. He kicked-off his musical career by recording the popular hit "Suzy Q" with Dale Hawkins at age 15. Often accompanying Ricky Nelson on the popular Ozzie & Harriet TV show, he helped introduce America to the sound and look of Fender during rock and roll's first golden age. James performed classic solos on many hits with Ricky Nelson, inspiring generations of players not only with his economy, fire and finesse, but also with his choice of instrument — the Fender Telecaster guitar. He is cited by countless guitarists as a vital influence, and his artistry is a major reason why the Telecaster became an indispensable tool in recording studios and on stages around the globe. James worked with Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris and John Denver, spending years in each of those artists' touring bands. Also one of Hollywood's busiest session musicians, he played on thousands of recordings over the years. The depth of his talent is reflected in the diversity of artists who called upon him, from Johnny Cash to Frank Sinatra, from Merle Haggard to The Beach Boys, from Elvis Costello to Brad Paisley. A member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, James Burton helped the "sideman" evolve into a new figure in popular culture: the lead guitarist. His classic Fender tone, taste and techniques raised the bar for the worldwide guitar community, setting standards that are recalled and admired to this day.
In 1951, topflight Western swing guitarist Bill Carson walked into the then fledgling Fender factory looking for a new instrument; he left with a Pro amp and Telecaster guitar. His life with Fender guitars and amplifiers had begun. When Fender set out to design the Stratocaster guitar, Carson's keen insight and straight-shooting manner bent Leo Fender's ear. Once dubbed the "test-pilot for the Stratocaster," Carson, along with others, helped steer the inventor towards the creation of what would become the world's most popular electric guitar. In 1957 Carson started fulltime at the plant and soon rose to management level. Here he fostered the company's family-like atmosphere in the face of rapid expansion. He introduced improved manufacturing equipment and eventually would hold at least three patents for instrument bridge designs. As Director of Customer Service in the mid-1960s, Bill managed Fender's service centers, and by 1967 became head of Fender's Nashville office. He returned to Fullerton in 1977, but after three years headed back to the Southeast as a District Sales Manager. Throughout the mid-1980s until 2001, Bill was a flesh-and-blood link between Fender's esteemed past and its full-scale resurrection. He personified tireless devotion to the Fender name and relentless pride in the Fender product.
During his tenure at Fender, Don Johnston was many things to many people: mentor, confidant, leader and friend. And while he was all of those, he will mostly be remembered as the one who crafted and carried out a complete reorganization of Fender's sales and dealer network in the early '80s — a crucial first step towards bringing the then ailing company back to health. Don's first step towards Fender occurred while working at a Canadian music company where his reputation as a salesman landed him a job at the V.C. Squier string company of Battle Creek, Michigan, then owned by Fender. Don eventually began working for Fender and in time became a sales representative in the upper Midwest. After Bill Schultz took the reins at Fender, Don was made regional manager for the Eastern half of the country where he and other members of the sales team began the reorganization. In 1985, after the buyout from CBS, Don went back to the Michigan area, this time as one of a select few District Sales Managers. As time passed, he became National Field Sales Manager for the district sales force. Don had many fans while at Fender, but none bigger than longtime President, Chairman and CEO Bill Schultz, who tried to persuade him to accept the top Sales Manager job and relocate to California. Schultz continued to persuade Don to relocate to the corporate headquarters which moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1991. Despite repeated requests, Don elected to stay in Michigan where he acted as a consultant until his retirement.
Bob Perine had the perfect blend of talent, tenacity, education and California background to create what would be known as the quintessential Fender brand — a rich musical So-Cal landscape that musicians would aspire to be a part of to this day. His marketing and advertising work for Fender Sales from 1957 until 1969 is unmatched in the music industry. Bob's education at Los Angeles's legendary Chouinard Art Institute helped him become a true renaissance man — a photographer, graphic designer, painter, musician, architect and draftsman. Above all, Bob Perine had the vision and skill to think conceptually. He was the ideal one-man art department for a company on a meteoric rise. The catalogs, graphics and photos he produced for Fender are as fresh today as they were in the late '50s. His "You Won't Part with Yours Either" ad campaign is pure genius. Casting the photos from personal acquaintances, his daughters' friends, and perfect strangers, Bob created indelible Fender imagery. Fender played a large part in the musical and cultural revolution of the '50s and '60s. The visual Fender world that Bob created during that time burned its way into the minds of a generation of young musicians. Without his designs the Fender company — and its storied history — would not look or be the same.
Dan Smith came to Fender at a time of uncertainty and disarray, and helped resurrect the ailing company to its current status as the most heralded guitar and amplifier builder in the world. By the late 1970s the legendary Fender brand was in decline, losing favor with players and retailers, and in danger of fading into the history books. Dan arrived at Fender in 1981 as the Director of Marketing, Electric Guitars. His task was to re-legitimize the Fender brand through product quality, performance and value. Dan would call on his unique skill set — years as a performing guitarist and teacher, a student of art and design, and guitar builder and repairman — to return Fender to its former glory. In Dan's twenty five years at Fender, he played a pivotal role in almost every department, leaving an imprint on virtually every instrument during his tenure. Additionally, he received numerous patents for his technological advancements, created the foundation of Fender's product offering for years to come, brought the world's greatest guitarists home, and developed and personally trained an international manufacturing base to meet Fender's new demand. Dan Smith is an innovator, guitarist and overall Fender champion. His influence, contributions and vision while at Fender were an integral part of the music industry's greatest comeback.
Leo Fender founded the Fender® company in 1946, building Hawaiian style guitars and small amplifiers. From 1950 to 1954, he spearheaded the most potent creative surge in the history of electrical instrument manufacturing. He designed the first commercially successful solidbody guitar, the Telecaster® invented the modern electric bass, which transformed popular music; and introduced the most influential of all electric guitars, the Stratocaster®. His amplifiers set the gold standard for tone and reliability against which virtually all amps are judged to this day. Leo Fender's instruments have had an incalculable effect on popular music of all styles, and on the broader culture as well. They helped change the way musicians work with their tools, facilitated new sounds and techniques, and helped revolutionize the way the entire industry designs and builds instruments. Most significant of all, they helped ignite whole new styles of music. Fender guitars and amplifiers are outstanding examples of American manufacturing know-how and modern style. More than fine musical instruments, Fender guitars and amps are powerful cultural icons recognized in every corner of the globe.
Charlie Hayes was hired in 1946 as the first full-time salesman for Fender®. An original partner in Fender Sales, he had previously worked as an appliance salesman at Montgomery Ward and believed that if he could sell one product successfully, he could sell another. Starting out, Charlie had little knowledge of steel guitars and amplifiers, but through talent and tenacity he was an instant success as a Fender salesman. In 1946, Charlie was integral to expanding the fledgling Fender Sales operation. He traveled extensively, setting up accounts that would eventually grow into a nationwide network, with dealers such as McCord's Music, in Dallas, who would go on to sell Fender guitars to the likes of Buddy Holly. Although Charlie's career at Fender was cut short by a car accident as he returned home from a sales meeting, his creativity and uncanny ability to sell made him one of the most successful salesmen Fender has ever known. Charlie Hayes was a light that burned brightly for a short period during an exciting time, and he was among those early pioneers whose efforts helped to bring the Fender brand name to the forefront of popular culture.
Don Randall developed a passion for electronics early in life. After serving in World War II, he became the General Manager of the Radio and Television Equipment Company. In 1946, he partnered with Leo Fender, who was just starting out in the business of amplifiers and electric guitars. While Leo focused on instrument designs, Don Randall handled the business with unrivaled acumen. The most important person in the early Fender® story along with Leo himself, Don took the Fender brand beyond Southern California with national and then international distribution, innovative advertising, and trade show presence. Under Randall's direction, Fender's worldwide sales and distribution network became the envy of the industry. As a music industry marketing genius, Don Randall had no equal. He pioneered the concept of a full student to pro product line, named the Telecaster®, Stratocaster®, Twin Reverb®, Bassman® and almost all of the other guitars and amps of the early period, and designed or supervised the creation of Fender's ads and brochures. With their emphasis on youth and excitement, Randall's memorable Fender literature helped change the way the public views the making of music.
A native of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Bill Schultz majored in music, business administration and accounting at Duquesne University. He developed an extensive knowledge of band instruments as the owner and manager of an instrument sales and repair shop. He would later head up divisions for Chicago's Lyon & Healy Co., the Fred Gretsch Co., and Yamaha Musical Products Co. After serving four years as the President of Fender Musical Instruments, then a division of CBS, Inc., Bill led a leveraged buy-out with the intent to restore the iconic company to its past glory. In 1985 he was appointed President, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the new Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Bill's success with FMIC is legendary. From a small office and warehouse, and a single manufacturing facility, FMIC grew under Schultz's leadership to include factories in two countries and offices around the globe. Once again, the Fender® brand stands for cutting-edge innovation, professional quality, and rock-solid reliability. Tough and effective, warm and colorful, Bill Schultz will be remembered by his colleagues for his strength of character and inspirational persona. Musicians all over the world owe an incalculable debt to the man who saved Fender.
Freddie Tavares was perhaps the most admired and revered person in the early days of the factory. Longtime veteran Bill Carson said of him, "He was the greatest man in both musical talent and personal integrity that I worked with at Fender." Affable and modest, the Hawaiian-born Tavares always had a ready smile and a joke to share, and he often composed songs for employees and serenaded them on their birthdays. While Leo Fender did not play guitar, Freddie was an accomplished artist in both the Hawaiian Steel and Spanish styles. With his musical skills, engineering intuition, Hollywood connections, and workbench know-how, he played a pivotal role in helping Mr. Fender translate the evolving needs of musicians into workable designs. Humble by nature, Freddie deflected any credit for his accomplishments, and yet he made invaluable contributions to some of Fender's most historic products, including the Stratocaster® and the four-10 tweed Bassman® amp. Whether recalled for playing ukulele on Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii," rendering the steel guitar glissando on the Looney Tunes cartoon theme song, or helping Mr. Fender to fine-tune classic guitars, basses, and amps, Freddie Tavares will always be remembered as one of the innovators who made Fender® possible.
Forrest White was so taken with the sound of the first Fender® guitar he heard that he traveled from his Midwestern hometown to Fullerton, to meet the man who built it. Drawn to California's vibrant music scene, he eventually moved to the area and was hired at Fender in 1954. At that time, Fender was still run like a large shop and was unprepared for the growth boom it was about to enter. With a background in industrial engineering and business management, Forrest White was soon promoted to Plant Manager. He reorganized the factory and streamlined Fender's manufacturing processes, enabling the much higher production volumes that came with the increasing popularity of Fender instruments. Focusing on individual processes, quantity on demand, consistency, and overall quality, White's production system would revolutionize the industry. Forrest White was devoted to Leo Fender, the Fender company, and Fender's reputation for quality. When pressured by new management to cut corners, he refused. When the new bosses persisted, he walked away from the job he loved. Many of the processes he brought to Fender manufacturing are still in use today.