Fender Hall of Fame Inducts Hendrix, Fullerton

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Performs at the Hall of Fame Ceremony

Fender Hall of Fame Inducts Hendrix, Fullerton
Honorees inducted Aug. 13, 2010, at fourth annual Fender Hall of Fame Ceremony

In one of its most eagerly awaited annual induction ceremonies, Fender welcomed a very special pair of honorees into its Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 13; one a legendary artist and the other a key behind-the-scenes figure in the company’s early years.

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) is widely regarded as the greatest electric guitarist of all time, and routinely tops the hierarchy of Fender players throughout the company’s 64-year history. George Fullerton (1923-2009) was a close friend of Leo Fender and an original-era employee who played a role in creating several of the most important musical instruments of the 20th century, including the Telecaster®, Stratocaster®, Precision Bass® and Jazz Bass® guitars.

The ceremony took place on Friday, Aug. 13, at the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts in Tempe, Ariz., near Fender’s corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Fender Hall of Fame was created in 2007 as an annual celebration of Fender founders, artists, leaders, innovators and other historically significant figures, and as an institution in which their contributions to the company’s legacy are permanently commemorated.

Tom Wheeler, Janie Hendrix and Eddie Kramer

Special guests at the 2010 induction ceremony included Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer, Geoff Fullerton, guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and, as guest emcee, noted guitar author and historian Tom Wheeler.

“It’s a great day and I’m thrilled to be here,” Wheeler said in welcoming Fender staff and guests to the ceremony. “I want to thank all of my friends at Fender for allowing me to participate in this commemoration and celebration of the lives of two men who in very different ways, profoundly affected this company, this industry, guitar players all over the world and music fans all over the world.”

Former Fender CEO Bill Mendello, who retired in early August 2010, was on hand to contribute opening and closing remarks.

“Customers hold Fender to an iconic status, a cult status,” Mendello said. “And there are many, many people who have made a major impact on this company. We like to say in the company that we stand on the shoulder of giants and I’ve always wanted to find a way to honor those giants. It wasn’t a matter of people who had worked at Fender for a long time or someone playing a Fender for a long time. It was those people who really made a tremendous contribution to the company.”

So with the fourth annual Fender Hall of Fame, Fender Custom Shop’s Mike Eldred first inducted George Fullerton, presenting the honor to Fullerton’s daughter, Diane, and son, Geoff, himself a longtime Custom Shop builder. Geoff Fullerton, who brought two of his father’s personal and historic Fender guitars models to the ceremony, spoke warmly of his father’s contribution to the Fender family and history.

“I’m incredibly touched that Fender would go to this effort and expense to do this,” Fullerton said. “This is pretty amazing. George and Leo were truly pioneers. Those guys didn’t have anybody to follow; They were heading off into the unknown. They had their ideas and their complementary talents that they meshed together. They were the right men at the right place at the right time. 

“My father was an artist, a musician and at the same time, an old world artisan. He could do anything with nothing, and Leo was pure logic, like a Vulcan engineer minus the pointy ears. Leo, his mind was not wired like anybody else you could ever meet. Together, they were special.”

Fender CEO Larry Thomas and former Fender CEO Bill Mendello with the Fullerton family.

Hendrix was then inducted by world-famous recording producer and engineer Kramer, well known as the man who recorded every seminal Hendrix album from 1967 debut Are You Experienced to 1971′s The Cry of Love. Kramer is also known for his work on famous albums by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Peter Frampton and many other artists.

“Jimi Hendrix has done more for the electric guitar in the form of a Stratocaster in his brief career than anyone else I’m aware of,” Kramer said. “Either way, what an appropriate name, bringing to mind the Stratosphere, which is where Jimi’s mind seems to have been created. I don’t think there is a musician alive today, be they young or old, male or female, who has not been influenced by this man’s innate ability to push the boundaries and leave behind such a rich legacy of songs and sound that will continue to influence countless generations to come.”

Kramer presented the induction honors to Janie Hendrix, stepsister of the late, great guitarist. As CEO of Experience Hendrix LLC and head of the Hendrix estate for nearly a decade, she is the central figure in preserving and protecting the ongoing legacy of her legendary stepbrother. She was clearly delighted to accept the honor on behalf of her family.

“I once heard a rumor that Leo Fender was going to do away with the Fender Stratocaster until Jimi came along,” Hendrix said. “So their partnership made for the music you have today. Jimi was not just the greatest rock guitarist, but I would say, the greatest musician in the world.

“Jimi possessed extraordinary talents. He was a gifted artist with a paintbrush and a palette, with pen and paper, but most of all — with a guitar. He came alive and each note struck a chord in the hearts of countless human beings who understood his message and agree that with the power of soul, anything is possible.”

The audience was treated to a special performance of Jimi Hendrix music by noted blues guitarist/singer/songwriter Shepherd, ably backed by premier electric blues drummer Chris Layton (formerly of Double Trouble), bassist Scott Nelson, keyboardist Riley Osbourn and vocalist Noah Hunt. Shepherd and his band tore through renditions of Hendrix classics “I Don’t Live Today,” “Voodoo Chile” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” as well as “Come On,” an Earl King song that Hendrix covered on landmark 1968 album Electric Ladyland and frequently performed live. 

Hendrix onstage.
Photo by Richard Peters, courtesy Authentic Hendrix LLC

George Fullerton.

“We’re here to pay tribute to the man, Mister Jimi Hendrix,” Shepherd told the audience. “He was truly one of my biggest influences. I think just about everybody who has picked up a guitar, especially the Stratocaster, has been influenced by the man so we are going to try to do him a little bit of justice right now.”

Hendrix and Fullerton were the true men of the hour, however.

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix 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 that 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. With bands the Jami Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies, he recorded groundbreaking hit singles and albums, including Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love (1967), Electric Ladyland (1968) and Band of Gypsies (1970), all of which are as acclaimed and influential today as when they were 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 (in order to play left-handed) 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.

As noted, George William Fullerton played a pivotal role during Fender’s original 1940s-1960s golden age.

In the mid-1940s, as a talented artist and working musician with a keen interest in electronics, Fullerton 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 made valuable contributions to many of Fender’s most famous guitar and amp models.

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.

The inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony in August 2007 honored company founders Clarence “Leo” Fender, Don Randall, Charlie Hayes, Forrest White and Freddie Tavares, in addition to Schultz. The 2008 ceremony honored the Beach Boys and guitarist James Burton, photographer/adman Robert Perrine, and Fender’s Dan Smith, Bill Carson and Don Johnston. The 2009 ceremony honored inductees James Jameson and Masamitsu “Mike” Yamano.



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