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History of Fender Brand Strings

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Linnin, Jun 8, 2015.


  1. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Yahboy and 20db pad like this.
  2. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    I'll go back through and put together a condensed chronological version of what been posted so far.
     
  3. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    The History of Fender Brand Strings


    Oddly enough the history of Fender Brand Strings starts long before Leo Fender was born with the V.C. Squier Company of Battle Creek Michigan.

    Jerome Bonaparte Squier, a young English immigrant who arrived in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the latter part of the 19th century, was a farmer and shoemaker who had learned the fine European art of violin making. He moved to Boston in 1881, where he built and repaired violins with his son, Victor Carroll Squier. To this day, their violins are noted for their exceptional varnishes, and they command high prices as fine examples of early U.S. instrument craftsmanship. Indeed, J.B. Squier ranks among the best-known U.S.-trained violin makers and is often referred to as "the American Stradivarius."

    Victor returned to Battle Creek, where he opened his own shop in 1890. As his business grew, Squier moved the company to 429 Lake Ave. and eventually to 427 Capitol Ave, S.W.—the famous "fiddle factory" of Battle Creek. With a limited market for violins in Battle Creek, however, Squier astutely sought relationships with national music schools and famous violinists.

    Up to 1900, the best violin strings were made in Europe. Victor Squier started making his own hand-wound violin strings, and the business grew so quickly that he and his employees improvised a dramatic production increase by converting a treadle sewing machine into a string winder capable of producing 1,000 uniformly high-quality strings per day. Squier violin strings, banjo strings and guitar strings became well known nationwide and were especially popular among students because of their reasonable price.”


    "Fender Musical Instruments Corporation entered the picture in the 1950s, when the V.C. Squier Company began supplying Southern California inventor and businessman Leo Fender with strings for his unusual new electric guitars. The V.C. Squier Company became an official original equipment manufacturer for Fender in 1963, and Fender bought the V.C. Squier string company in early 1965 shortly before Fender itself was bought by CBS in May of that year." – Wikipedia

    We have to take all Wikipedia articles with a grain of salt as there are a few discrepancies.


    Leo Fender hired Forrest White to be the general manager of the Fender factory and production. He started on May 20th, 1954. In White’s book “Fender – The Inside Story” on page 52 He talks about the Precision bass and the special strings needed as they didn’t exist yet. Leo “had V.C. Squier make strings for him. He had been buying all of his guitar strings from them, and I also continued to buy our strings there after I was employed as manager in 1954.” Forrest and Leo went on to become the best of friends. Leo went so far as to buy a lot and build a new house across the street from Forrest.


    V.C. Squier was acquired by Fender Sales “in the early 1960’s” according to Richard R. Smith on page 247 of ‘Fender – The Sound Heard ‘Round The World’. This reinforces the Wiki stated date of 1963. In an absolute stroke of luck, a page of a scanned document was reproduced on page 67 of Tom Wheeler’s ‘The Fender Archives’. It’s an agreement between Leo Fender, Don Randall, and C.B.S. dated December 15th, 1964 which states in part “and Fender Sales, Inc. owns in excess of 95% of the outstanding shares of stock of V.C. Squier Company”. Don Randall was Leo’s business partner from the very beginning. His half of the company was Fender Sales which he ran autonomously.


    Once CBS had acquired Fender in January of 1965 they built a huge brand new factory adjacent to the original Fender factory buildings at Fullerton, California. It was completed in 1966. Don Randall became a Senior Vice President in charge of Fender, and Forrest White became Vice President and General Manager. Leo Fender’s ‘right hand man’ in the factory lab was Freddie Tavares and became the head of Quality Control. As far as I know all the factory workers also kept their jobs.

    In 1972 CBS moved V.C. Squier to a new larger 35,000 square-foot factory on 35 Edison St, and continued to operate until CBS announced on May 19, 1981 it would shut down the Battle Creek factory on July 2, 1981. 107 employees were affected.


    F.M.I.C. bought themselves back from CBS in 1985, and would build a new plant in Corona, California and a string factory in Chula Vista. In a fact is stranger than fiction event Leo Fender and George Fullerton would go on to manufacture G&L guitars and basses at Leo’s original factory on Fender Ave. in Fullerton, CA where it remains to this day.

    Sometime in 1987 FMIC began trucking strings down to Ensenada, Mexico for packaging in an old rented church by a small group of women. Esther Marron was one of those women and is known as “Fender Mexico Employee #1”.


    Fender built its first factory in Ensenada in 1987 which burned to the ground in 1994. Fender rebuilt bigger and better and now has a massive complex of eight buildings. Fender string production was relocated there sometime after and I am unsure of the date. FMIC inexplicably shut down string production and instead contracted American string winders to produce their strings. I have read a date of 2010, but have no hard evidence. I continue to see threads posted from 2010 about the change in Fender Strings, so 2010 looks to be a 'hard date'.


    We do know that D’Addario is producing Fender’s bass strings to Fender’s specifications, and that they are not simply repackaged D’Addario product.


    *Some of this information was drawn from various posts made by brotherdave on the Fender Forums, so we thank him for sharing his vast encyclopedic knowledge of all things Fender. *

    * BIG thanks to Anne at the Willard Library in Battle Creek for all her efforts and research on my behalf, and also Mike McCullough of the Battle Creek Enquirer. *

    * Many thanks to Jon Moody of GHS for all his insight and ongoing efforts to help me track down historically accurate information. *
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  4. Slowpicker

    Slowpicker

    Jan 25, 2013
    Germany
    Hey Linnin, thanks for the nice work. Its quite interesting, really. ;-)
     
    Pbassmanca and Linnin like this.
  5. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    You're quite welcome Slowpicker. There's a lot of room for improvement as the there is quite a bit of 'empty space' that I don't have reliable information to fill. Perhaps @Jon Moody can help. Jon do you know of anybody that used to work for V.C. Squier or has some hard intel as to when CBS shut it down?
     
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  6. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    I'm curious about the CBS Acquisition. Is that CBS as in the TV network?
     
  7. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Yes, that is correct. They paid Leo Fender $15,000,000.00 for his company. That's a lot of simoleons, especially in 1965! Leo's health was poor and he thought he was going to die soon. He didn't, and went on to found MusicMan (sold to Ernie Ball for even more moola), and then started G&L. Clarence Leonidas 'Leo' Fender died on March 21st, 1991 at the age of 81. He is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.
     
    bluejack likes this.
  8. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    Doing the math, it looks to be the equivalent of about 115 million in todays purchasing power. That's a big ol bucket of money! Sadly though, that makes me cringe when I think about what I am going to need to retire...
     
  9. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Here's a link to G&L with 3 photos. One of which is Leo's cluttered old office at the Fullerton factory. The same one he worked in every day since the late 1940's. It's been preserved by G&L as a shrine.
    About G&L
     
  10. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  11. Camaro

    Camaro

    Sep 25, 2013
    Germany, NRW
  12. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Well that is sad indeed. :( Looks like they wanted to steal anything signed by Leo Fender for his autograph, and just turn around and resell them to Fender Fans. As much as I'd love to have an authentic Leo Fender autograph, I'd turn these low down good for nothing thieves in to the authorities in half a second.
     
  13. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Aside from the three people that left Squier to form GHS, nothing offhand. I can ask around though, and see if anyone would know somebody.
     
    Linnin likes this.
  14. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    :laugh: :roflmao: :laugh: So Gould, Holcomb and Sokol were former employees of Squier. Very interesting!
    Are any of them still alive, and if so I wonder if they'd like to comment?

    As an addendum, here is a Battle Creek Enquirer article from August 12th, 1979. V.C. Squier was still in operation at that time.
    1979_08_12_enquirerandnews_024_clip_zps1t90dnxf.
    Contains information on GHS founders; Gould, Holcomb, and Sokol.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  15. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    I've been in contact with Mike McCullough, the Managing Editor of the Battle Creek Enquirer, who in turn suggested I contact the Willard Library. Anne at the Willard Library Reference Desk really came through with the goods! She found a number of newspaper articles and sent me digital photocopies. Many thanks to them both, and I will update my original post with the new information.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  16. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    They were. If I remember, after about a year, the only people that were still with the company were the Holcombs. As far as I know, none of them are living. Dave Holcomb (son) worked here for decades and I think is still around. I can probably talk to Mr. McFee as well, who was originally the lawyer that helped everyone incorporate into a business, and then ended up buying the company.
     
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  17. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Hey, that's great! Thanks Jon!
     
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  18. Linnin

    Linnin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    And The Beat Goes On! Called George Livingston in Battle Creek as I was told he was 'the' historian for the city only to find out that he is not a native and hasn't been living there that long! So, no intel from the so called city historian! What a bite! :meh:
     
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  19. Marko 1

    Marko 1

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    "Leonidas" caught my eye, and upon a little investigation I found that he was Greek American.

    Being Greek American myself, I thought that was kinda cool, and I never would have guessed. :D
     
    Arthur U. Poon, soflbass and Linnin like this.
  20. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Okay, finally tracked down Mr. McFee (when he's not here, he runs a law firm in town), and sadly he does not have a whole lot of information on the VC Squier company. He knows them more because OB Holcomb and May Holcomb left Squier and, with Mr. McFee's help, founded GHS Strings on August 1, 1964.

    Otherwise, that's all I've got here at the office. Most of the people that would've known about Squier have very little knowledge of them pre-GHS, and those that might've known have either retired or passed away. Sorry that's all I've got.
     
    Pbassmanca, trothwell and Linnin like this.

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