Fender Honors its Own With Premier Hall of Fame Induction

Fender Honors its Own With Premier Hall of Fame Induction
Leo Fender, William Schultz and Don Randall among inductees …

Phyllis Fender and Richard Smith
Photo by Clay Lyons

Fender paid respect to its own famous past and illustrious founding fathers on Friday, Aug. 10, with the first annual Fender Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Scottsdale Center for the performing Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz., home of Fender’s corporate headquarters.

Hundreds of Fender employees from Scottsdale, nationwide and around the world looked on that day—what would’ve been company founder Clarence “Leo” Fender’s 98th birthday—as he and five other men were honored as the inaugural class of Fender Hall of Fame inductees.

In addition to Leo Fender, the inductees were Don Randall, William Schultz, Freddie Tavares, Forrest White and Charlie Hayes, all of whom played pivotal roles in Fender history.

“The Fender Hall of Fame is dedicated to those upon whose shoulders successive generations of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation stand,” said Fender CEO Bill Mendello. “(It) was created to honor and keep the memories of our innovators and former leaders fresh in our minds, to inspire those of us who follow in their footsteps, and differentiate us from all others.”

Phyllis Fender took the podium to thunderous applause and spoke of her late husband, saying that even in his twilight years he was always working and thinking about new projects.

“He never stopped having his dreams,” she said. “And for all the accomplishments we’re speaking about today, and all of the accomplishments that the world honors him with, he was still just a farm boy tinkering with batteries in his barn.”

“He loved musicians—he loved them with a deep, deep passion, and truly believed that was why he was here on Earth. Two weeks before he died, he said to me, one night when it was time to go to bed, he said ‘You know what Phyllis? I finished what I was supposed to do.’ And he had real peace about that, because he knew that this world needed music, and he knew that he had provided a way for the world to have wonderful music. Whether you like rock ‘n’ roll or you like country & western or anything in between, his dream; his heartfelt wishes that you have good music came to happen. And can any person be happier than that—to see your dreams, your heartfelt dreams, come true?

Don Randall at the ceremony.
Photo by Clay Lyons

“And every day in this world, completely around this world, when a musician picks up one of Leo’s dreams and holds that guitar in his arms and strums it and plays a few chords; maybe hums along—Leo is alive, and Leo’s dream goes on and on. Thank you for this great honor for Leo, and for remembering where your roots were. It’s pretty wonderful.”

Randall, 89, the only surviving inductee, attended the event with his son, Tim. As Leo’s partner and Fender’s original sales genius from the late 1940s to the mid-’60s, Randall was a pioneering figure in the musical instrument marketing industry; it was he who named the Telecaster® and Stratocaster® guitars, and Mendello hailed him during his introduction as “a company legend and an industry legend.”

Terry Tavares delighted everyone as he recounted stories of his father, Freddie, an accomplished guitarist and entertainer who started at Fender in 1953 and made invaluable design contributions to products including the Stratocaster and Bassman amp.

“He was a very passionate perfectionist,” Tavares said of his Hawaiian-bred father, who passed away in 1990. “Seventeen years later, he still basks in the glowing love of his Fender family. I thank you for this honor you have bestowed on my dad—aloha, and God bless you.”

Andy Rossi, Fender senior vice president of global sales, marketing and R&D, inducted Charlie Hayes, one of Fender’s original salesmen. Hayes, with Leo Fender, Don Randall and F.C. Hall, formed Fender Sales in 1953; he was killed in a 1955 auto accident.

Curtis White, whose father, Forrest, joined Fender in 1954 as its original production manager, said that he “felt my dad’s fondness for Leo and the company growing up.” Forrest White was especially devoted to Fender’s quality reputation, and left the company in 1966 rather than submit to cost-cutting measures imposed by CBS.

Jeffrey and Marianne Thomas, with Fender CEO Bill Mendello, accept the plaque honoring William Schultz.
Photo by Clay Lyons

The induction of William C. “Bill” Schultz was a particularly poignant one, as many in the theater knew him and worked with him on a daily basis during his extraordinary reign as Fender CEO from 1985 to 2005. Schultz, who passed away in September 2006, will forever be remembered as the man who brought Fender back from the brink of disaster in the mid-1980s to regain its status as an industry leader.

“It was Bill’s strength of character that saved Fender,” Mendello told the audience reverently. “I don’t know anyone else who could’ve ever done what he did.”

On Schultz’s induction, his granddaughter, Marianne Thomas, thanked everyone for honoring and remembering “what an incredibly amazing person our grandfather was.”

Guest presenters at the ceremony included Richard Smith, author of seminal company history Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round the World and curator of the Fullerton Museum Center; Dan Smith, recently retired longtime Fender marketing and R&D vice president; and (via video) author and former Guitar Player magazine editor Tom Wheeler.

Visit the Fender Hall of Fame online at www.fender.com/hof.


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