64 Years of The Fender Jazzmaster: A History Of An Iconic Guitar

1959 fender jazzmaster


The Fender Jazzmaster is one of the most enduring and iconic electric guitars ever made. The Jazzmaster, which debuted in the late 1950's, quickly established itself as the guitar of choice for jazz musicians. But modern music genres have also adopted the instrument over time. The Jazzmaster is still popular today, and there are many different models to choose from that cater to the needs of all styles of musicians. From its inception to present day, we will examine this guitar’s amazing legacy. We will also investigate why this guitar is still considered an icon to so many after over 60 years.

1959 Fender Jazzmaster 1

The Fender Jazzmaster: An iconic guitar

The Fender Jazzmaster was originally released in 1958 as a high end and top of the line instrument in Fender's electric guitar lineup. With its purposeful and unique offset body shape and signature tone, it very rapidly gained its following among jazz guitarists seeking an advanced sound. This was also the first mass-produced guitar to feature independent tone and volume controls for each pickup, offering more fine-grained control over sound sculpting. It was innovatively designed for maximum playability, with its extra-long ‘floating’ tremolo arm and curved edges to make it easier to access the upper frets2. Other notable features of the Jazzmaster guitar were two single-coil pickups, along with a 6-saddle bridge and two switches for controlling pickup selection and phase1.

1959 Fender Jazzmaster 2

The Jazzmaster's place in history

The Jazzmaster’s cutting edge features and distinctive tone catapulted it to fame throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, jazz guitarists including George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery all started using the Jazzmaster as their primary instruments. Aside from jazz players, the Jazzmaster also attracted the attention of surf, punk and indie rock musicians in the 1960s and 1970s. Guitarists like J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and even Radiohead’s Thom Yorke have rocked out on the unmistakable offset profile of the Jazzmaster1.

1959 Fe3nder Jazzmaster 3

The evolution of the Jazzmaster

The original design has undergone many variations and modifications over the years. The Jazzmaster II, featured humbuckers and was released by Fender in 1966, quickly became popular among hard rock and metal guitarists. The Jazzmaster Elite and Yngwie Malmsteen signature models reimagined the classic Fender offset design with humbucking pickups and even a built-in spring reverb tank in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many reissues were made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the Classic Player Jazzmaster, which had upgraded switching and tremolo2. Modern players now have access to even more sonic options thanks to the limited-edition FSR Jazzmaster HH and Ultra from Fender.

1959 Fender Jazzmaster 4

The Jazzmaster today

The Fender Jazzmaster is still a go-to instrument for players that prefer a vintage aesthetic and sound with contemporary and modern updates. Every musician can find something they like among Fender's reissued models, signature instruments, and custom shop creations. In addition, other guitar manufacturers have eagerly fused their own variations into the original Jazzmaster design, while keeping its intentional appearance and sound. With a variety of elements and alternative tones, these personalized designs provide a different twist on the original offset pattern.

1959 Fender Jazzmaster 6

Why the Jazzmaster remains an iconic guitar

At this point, it’s easy to see why the Jazzmaster has become such an iconic guitar. Its combination of vintage style, progressive cutting-edge features and undeniable charm has resonated with players of all genres for decades. Each Jazzmaster is imbued with its own unique character - from its distinctive tone to the rich oceans of sustain provided by its improved tremolo system. The Jazzmaster has become a symbol of classic rock and roll, surf, punk and indie rock4 - a true rockin’ legend of the guitar world!

1959 Fender Jazzmaster 7

Owens, J. (2023, February 6). Jazz Bomb. surf staple. indie icon: A Jazzmaster history. History of the Fender Jazzmaster | Fender Guitars. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.fender.com/articles/behind-the-scenes/jazz-bomb-surf-staple-indie-icon-a-jazzmaster-history 
Hunter, D. (2021, September 17). The origins of the fender jazzmaster, from Surf Supremo to alternative hero. guitarworld. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.guitarworld.com/features/fender-75-years-jazzmaster 
Huey, R. (2022, June 7). The history of the fender jazzmaster. Stringjoy. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://stringjoy.com/the-history-of-the-fender-jazzmaster/ 
Stafford, A. (2012, October 24). All about the fender jazzmaster electric guitar: Proaudioland musician news. ProAudioLand. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://proaudioland.com/news/all-about-fender-jazzmaster-electric-guitar/ 

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