Sippican Cottage

Close this search box.

Minor Seventh Heaven — 1959 Fender Factory Tour

Aw, yeah. That’s Leo Fender hisself in the office at the beginning of the video. A little later on, you can see Freddie Tavares playing one of the finished guitars. Freddie was a lead designer of the Stratocaster, which is the guitar you mainly see being built in the video. Freddie was a well-regarded steel guitar player, born in Hawaii. How cool is Freddie Tavares? He played the big glissando that opens every Looney Tunes cartoon. That makes Freddie Tavares cooler than everyone you ever met, and everyone they ever met.

I’ve owned a Fender Telecaster. I still own an old Stratocaster. If you bought one of the Stratocasters you see being made in the video and stuck it in your closet, it would be worth about twenty grand right now, according to the place I bought my Strat back in the day, Gruhn’s in Nashville. Stevie Ray Vaughan thought the old beater Strat he played the most was a 1959, but it was probably a couple years newer than that. The 1959 written on the back of his pickups might have thrown him off. Maybe those lovely ladies you see winding pickup coils were winding his right then, and they went in a bin for a while.

I used to work in a factory not far from the Fender factory in Fullerton, back in the early eighties. It looked just like that. Concrete block and a metal roof. It’s hot as hell out that way in the summer, and the doors would hang open a lot, just like you see. I was a welder, and would have much preferred to be bandsawing a poplar guitar body. I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to the neck. Amusingly, I was the only anglo guy working with all messcans, and we had a Hawaiian floor boss, so it looked like I’d have fit right in at Fender. The video can’t capture one aspect of it. I bet that place was loud. And not from guitar music, either.

I’d be able to walk right up to any work station in that Fender plant and start working without training. Part of me –a substantial part — wishes I could. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Defective Stool Sample

Semi-obscure footage of a sound check from 1986 at a Shriner’s hall in Pittsburgh called the Syria Mosque.

Stevie’s yawning and picking his nose, so I imagine he’s been rousted out of bed at some ungodly hour like four in the afternoon so the roadies can figure out if everything is plugged in.

He looks a little like what would happen if John Wayne was accidentally assigned Liberace’s dressing room, but he sure could play. He died and they tore the Mosque down. The end.

(Thanks to my brother for sending that one along.Go say hi to him if you’re in LA. )

Tag: Stevie Ray Vaughan

Find Stuff: