A private two-day magnificent opening event celebration of the new Fender Visitor Center in Corona, Calif. finished on the night of Thursday 15th of September, with outstanding performances by the rocking Dave Mason Trio, the funky Raphael Saadiq and the legendary Buddy Guy.
The Visitor Center is located near Fender’s historical Southern California birthplace. It features museum-quality exhibits with interactive displays of modern Fender musical products, historic instruments, rare photographs and artifacts, a tribute to Leo Fender, the Fender Hall of Fame, video presentations on the evolution of the electric guitar (including rare archival footage), and displays presenting reflections on Fender by musicians throughout the history of modern music.
The minute you enter the visitor center, the Fender Hall of Fame plaques instantly welcome you, honoring the company’s key innovators and musicians – such as Leo Fender, Johnny Cash, James Jamerson and Jimi Hendrix. On the other side you are greeted by a massive a glass case, which encloses signature guitars of Fender legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and Kurt Cobain.
The core room includes a small retail shop where visitors can browse and purchase Fender attire, accessories, collectibles and other items such as Fender snowboards, skateboards etc! This leads to a floor filled with overwhelming displays on important figures such as Leo Fender and Fender artists including Bass legends Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastorius, punks and post-punks such as the Clash, Green Day and Blink-182, country artists such as Keith Urban, and classic rock stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards and David Gilmour.
A roster of Fender’s musical soundtrack is on display at the center too. High upon the walls of the main room are the names of hundreds of famous songs recorded with Fender guitars, basses or amps, appearing by year: “Scar Tissue”, “Respect,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Layla,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and many others.
The center also boasts a sound room where guests can plug in and test a variety of FMIC instruments – Fender, Jackson(r), Charvel(r), Guild(r), and Gretsch(r). What I really loved about the Fender Custom shop is that visitors can design and purchase their very own Fender American Design instrument!! You can choose everything from electronics to wood, color, etc.
Noted guitar author and historian Tom Wheeler, who has written several highly acclaimed books about Fender, also spoke about the design experience.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wheeler said. “What if?” That’s the question. What if I could have this body and that neck, but with these pickups, and that kind of hand tremolo, and chrome hardware or gold hardware? They can do it right there. So you can literally make your dream come true. You can try all the necks, pick out your body and the circuitry, and they’ll put it together for you. That’s a dream machine right there.
Leo Fender’s genius and craftsmanship still continue at Fender, and for the first time in the company’s 65-year history, Fender is now opening its doors to the public for a fascinating up-close look at the manufacturing processes for its iconic instruments and amplifiers. “It’s a big step,” said Sergio Villanueva, Fender’s senior vice president of global manufacturing. “This has been a proprietary, closed factory for all the decades that it’s been here. So we are going to be very proud to show the world what we do.”
The Visitor Center will serve as the launch point for the free public tours of the adjacent manufacturing facility, allowing guests to watch as Fender staff in the Wood Mill, Metal Shop, Final Assembly, and other areas practice their craft. Visitors will see actual instruments and amps take shape at each stage in their production.
“I think our visitors across the board will be impressed with the amount of manual labor we have in our product,” said Villanueva. “I think there is a perception that it’s very automated, and that things are stamped out and pushed forward. I think what they’ll see, to their surprise, is so many aspects of hand-made parts.”
The Fender Visitor Center opened to the public on Monday, Sept. 19.
For more information www.fender.com
Photos: Constantinos Isaias