Writing about music since college, when I saw the book, Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around The World written by Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell, I knew that it was a book I wanted to read, as guitarists have long cherished Fender guitars. Written by Leo Fender's widow, Phyllis Fender, and Randall Bell, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Fenders, and whose father worked for the Fender company, the book is filled with fun, personal anecdotes and photos that humanize the creative genius who left his mark on the world and forever changed the sound of music and electric guitars.
Leo Fender - The Quiet Giant Heard Around The World
by Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell
After reading the
book, I wanted to learn more and interviewed Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell. First
and foremost, Phyllis Fender is an absolute delight, and her charm, and her
humor, come across in her personal stories about Leo. Together with Randall
Bell, PhD, they have created an interesting book about Leo Fender, a man who
changed the world for guitarists and the world of music with his inventions.
Described as a "tinkerer" who went to school for accounting
before turning a hobby of fixing things into a lifetime career, Leo was someone
who was interested in how things worked, how he could make them better, and
improve the music for musicians. Interesting to note is that Leo, the man who
created Fender guitars and changed the world of music, was not a musician, he
had sight in only one eye due to an accident on his family's farm as a child,
and was partially deaf due to an accident at work.
Randall Bell and Phyllis Fender
Speaking with Phyllis, she said that the inspiration for the
book came from her desire to show the private Clarence Leo Fender (1909-1991),
the one that she knew, from the public Leo. When Phyllis, a charming fireball
of energy, married widowed Leo in 1980 (his wife Esther had died of cancer in
1979), a shy, quiet man, whose only "children" were his guitars and who was
totally absorbed in his work, he instantly became a stepfather, son-in-law,
uncle, and grandfather, who grew to love her large family.
When Phyllis met Randall Bell, whose father had worked for
the Fender company, he encouraged her to write the book, during which they had
a lot of fun, which comes shiningly across with interesting stories about Leo
at work, his love for musicians and his interaction with them, her travels with
Leo around the world, and the family-man Leo.
Leo Fender founded his company, Fender Electric Instrument
Manufacturing Company in 1946, and sold it in 1965, due to a prognosis that he
was very ill and did not have long to live. Like everything Leo did, he
surprised the doctors, and lived. For guitarists, a Fender guitar, including
the Telecaster® and the Stratocaster® has long been a status
symbol for guitarists Jimi Hendrix, The Jacksons, Buddy Holly, Jimmy Page, Elvis
Presley, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, George Harrison, Jeff
Beck, and the long list goes on. Through his creations, he changed not only the
way rock guitarists played, but also changed the world for country western
musicians as well.
Healthy again and wanting something to do, Leo went on to
create another company, G & L, with George Fullerton, once again adding to
the world of music with his iconic designs and inventions. Leo Fender has
indeed left his mark on the world, he received a Country Music Association
Pioneer Award in 1981, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the
Rock Walk of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received a posthumous
Technical Grammy® in 2009.
Whether you are a guitarist, just love music, are a
"tinkerer," or are looking for an entertaining read, Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard
Around The World by Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell, is sure to delight.
In closing, still writing about music, at every performance I go to now, I
always look for Fender guitars.
If you are going to be in Fullerton, California, be sure to
visit the City of Fullerton Museum to experience their Leo Fender Gallery to learn more about:
Leo Fender: Life and Legacy. As an
added treat, Phyllis Fender is a docent in the Fender Gallery where she tells
stories about Leo and how he loved to laugh, and said that when the gallery is
full of people having fun and laughing, she thinks, Leo, this is for you.
On November 17, 2017, Phyllis, along with Randall Bell will
be at the museum for their launch and book signing of Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard
Around The World written by Phyllis Fender and Randall
For information on visiting the museum, please visit the
301 North Pomona Avenue
Fullerton, California 92832
Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around The World is published
by Leadership Institute Press and is
available in hardcover on November 1, 2017. ISBN-10: 0996793143, ISBN-13:
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
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