History of Fender Guitars
Founded in 1946, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation introduced the first commercially viable solid body electric guitar, the first electric bass and countless classic amplifiers, Fender musical instruments have left their mark on jazz, blues, country, rock and many other styles of popular music. At the pinnacle of guitar artistry, Fenders Custom Shop in Corona, California, and its Guild Custom Shop in Nashville, Tennessee, offer hand-crafted custom guitars built to suit the tastes of individual players including exactly the kind of neck, body, and pickups that are desired all the way to a hand-built guitar.
Fender Telecaster: The tone of the Tele is a full sound that can be adjusted to get a sweet tone, or a very twangy tone with a three way tone switch. The Telecaster sound is very unique and has been preferred by many country music musicians like: Buck Owens, Muddy Waters, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Fender Stratocaster: The Strat is the largest selling Fender guitar and has a five-way tone switch which offers a wider variety of tonal qualities. The Strat and Tele both have their own distinct personality when it comes to the tonal qualities and the necks have their own distinct feel. The personality of each guitar inspires guitarists to play an almost entirely different kind of music on each one. Rock and blues musicians who have preferred the Stratocaster are: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Richie Sambora, Yngwie Malmasteen, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) & Mark Knopler.
The History of the Ibanez
The introduction of the "improved" RG and new JEM in 1987 set a precedent for Ibanez guitars. Over the next few years Ibanez would add more models, set trends and sign up rock 'n roll heavyweights. It was crystal clear that Ibanez' Japanese guitar factory had shifted into high gear. They were skilled at making bodies, necks, parts, painting and overall assembly. While Ibanez was setting a high standard for those to follow, most of us didn't realize that hot on their trail was a small group of Ibanez employees in America.
In the late 80s, Japan started shipments of Ibanez guitar bodies and necks to the Hoshino USA factory in Bensalem, PA. This supply of guitar parts enabled Hoshino USA to begin the arduous task of learning the business of custom guitar creation. To no surprise, the American team would show itself as a studious apprentice. Sometime in 1988, Hoshino of Japan decided to put their new "resources" to use. They provided the final piece of the puzzle by supplying the Bensalem factory with guitar building equipment. With this turn of events a new division of Ibanez employees would be formed. Internally it would be called "H&S Guitars", the heart and soul of the legendary "Ibanez Custom Shop".
"The concept behind the USA Custom was to build Ibanez Guitars in America and enable individual players to design the instruments of their dreams" (Ibanez 1991 catalog)
For the first several months, H&S Guitars received more and more parts from Japan. Stockpiled in the war chest were necks, bodies, and hardware, all the necessary ingredients for guitar manufacturing. Essentially, H&S Guitars was operating as an assembly line at Hoshino USA's factory in Bensalem. H&S would be producing complete guitars to be sold under the Ibanez name. Among the first "made in USA" guitars created were the Pro Custom 540 Guitars in 1988. From this lineup came the 540S, 540P and 540R, all H&S Creations. The Pro Custom would soon evolve into the "USA Custom", an extensive lineup by H&S that could be custom made to order. Certain other guitars such as the RG770 had their pickups installed there before being shipped to Ibanez dealers in America.
At the same time, Ibanez would introduce the upscale "American Master" lineup. In print, Ibanez called this this "it's first American hand made guitar." Released in mid-1989, the American Masters were an Ibanez brand guitar produced by Roger Gresco, a luthier in California. Roger utilized an advanced "topographic" system which actually inlaid the neck in the body. These neck-thru like bodies were gorgeous, albeit with one minor setback. Production was slow and California paint codes were very strict (much more than Japan). As a result it was proving difficult to obtain the trademark "Ibanez" finish we all know and love. Due to these problems and strict environmental laws (for PSI and Material Data), the American Masters production by Gresco would last about eighteen months. Customers were unaware of the situation, and seemed willing to wait out the one year backorder on the American Masters. In the end, two models were made available: the MA2 (Solid Color) and MA3 (Maple Transparent). You can see these in the 1990 Ibanez print catalogs.
With their newfound experience, Ibanez USA set it's sights on loftier goals. They would soon open their "Custom Shop" to customers worldwide. As before, the bodies for these guitars came from Hoshino in Japan. Customers would order their guitar from Ibanez dealers, and Ibanez USA's "custom shop" would build it to their specification. This time however, the bodies came from Japan with only the bridge Humbucker body route. H&S would route each body per order, which allowed any pickup configuration with the use of DiMarzio pickups of your choice. Various neck options were available to customers, including choice of fretboard wood, inlays, neck binding and an optional reversed headstock.
In addition H&S would make available some spectacular graphics and finishes on their guitars. Three artists were used to paint the guitars: Dan Lawrence, Pamelina H. and Pedro Cruz, with perhaps one additional artist.
These folks contributed to create the entire graphic series models of Ibanez guitars, a production feat that is perhaps unmatched today. Pushing the envelope, for 1991 the Custom Shop created the "Metaldesign" guitars, such as the Gray Snake, Serpent and Silver Peacock. These featured a laminated fabric on the body burst over with paint (like the JEM77FP).
"Since the debut of the USA Custom, the striking looks of the Metaldesign series have continued to turn heads. The unique Metaldesign appearance is achieved by applying iridescent fabrics to both sides of top grade basswood bodies. Each piece is then clear finished and polished to a deep, brilliant luster. All are available with USA Customs wide variety of neck, hardware and pickup options." - Ibanez 1991 Catalog
By early 1990, H&S eventually moved it's production out of Bensalem, PA. They headed west, taking their moving vans and equipment all the way across the States to their destination in California. In conjunction with the relocation, it was decided that H&S would be split into two separate locations. One shop was to be used exclusively for Ibanez endorsed artists, the other to product the "USA Custom" Ibanez guitars for the public who ordered them. The endorser shop was established on Case Ave. in North Hollywood. The customer H&S Custom Shop opened it's doors about 10 blocks north.
Once again, the H&S Customer shop recruited outside help to obtain their supplies and materials. It started to get parts such as bodies and necks made for them, but this time from California, rather than Ibanez in Japan. Necks and Bodies were sent to H&S unpainted. They had a pin router, probably used for modifications. It is said that the standard USA Custom bodies and necks came from Hosono, whose credits include being a leading founder of ESP Guitars. The bodies from Hosono were for the bolt-on neck models USA Customs UCEW models (USA Custom Exotic Wood). These UCEW guitar line featured premium woods and were sold from 1990-1992.
While in California, H&S created neck-through guitars and basses, which were the new "American Master Series". This time the American Master Series guitars were made by Wildwood Guitar in California. Again these used the MA model numbers like MA1FM or MA1QM and are featured in the 91-92 Ibanez catalogs. Not to rest on it's laurels, H&S was also producing the Starfield Guitars, for a small guitar company outside of Ibanez.