Fender : An Icon & The People Who Help The World To Rock

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We had cut some tough driving the day before coming down the old coast road from Monterey, a road NOT dissimilar to that of the coast road between Cannes and Monaco. This morning it was Gabby to take the wheel and drive like psychopath through Los Angeles and get us to the Fender factory before it closed at 4pm - as they were closed for the following day (Wednesday) all day. As I mentioned in an earlier post HERE we turned up the previous Wednesday when closed and they still looked after us!!

The choice of driver was well founded. Gabby who is known on the web as @Gabsatrucker and famed for International half marathon running, 100 mile cycle racer, former Harley rider and kick-ass big rig driver – can adapt to pretty much to any driving style and can make progress where most people simply can’t.  Her adaptation and traffic reading of the nightmare known as the freeways of LA are not for the faint heart – but every defensive and offensive action founded in years of advanced driving skills were positively put to use.

For me this meant bemused pondering like “Toyota Sequoia drives well on two wheels” and “These brakes are GOOD!” including “The view from the rear window is great” and of course, that old nugget “I left my teeth in the dashboard”.

It was tough going, everything and everyone who could get in the way – did get in the way and this went on for hoursF12!!

Finally, minutes before the 4pm deadline I phoned Fender and left a message to say we were only 5 miles out…

We arrived at 4:10pm and as I walked up to the door – it opened with the smiling face and ever greeting persona of David Brown the Manager of the Fender Visitor Center and Ralph Esposito who is the Projects Coordinator / New Product Development for the Fender Custom Shop.

Running past us was Gabby, hoofing it at speed towards the toilets.

We hung out a while and it was decided that as they’d had an extremely busy day, they’d invite us back the following day (when shut)to carry on and Ralph Esposito wanted to give us a complete, indepth and thorough tour of the Fender Custom Shop.fender-customshop-logo

We set to retire, but was delayed by sudden outpouring of adoration from the Fender team over the two dogs Elsie (who I call Wubble) and Ben, the most timid little fella who we took in from a Dog Shelter. With adoration over, we headed in to Anaheim and a hotel.

The following day was an education the likes of which no ordinary factory tour could ever provide. David Brown took us over to the Factory to check on the body of the Telecaster they’re building for me and which has bF4een principally engineered by David.

We went through the main factory and into some parts where no one from outside goes, through the paint shop, curing areas and final assembly. In the waiting area of hundreds of guitarF8 bodies we found my Telecaster body and inspected work already done prior to that evening’s satin coating.

We headed out in search for a walnut neck to see if there had been any left over from the limited run of the Stratocaster’s, one of which I had purchased. With none left, we headed down past the wood shop we entered the Fender Custom Shop and was taken through to catch up with Ralph.

FCSTo describe Ralph is easy - he knows his shit! He’s been there a long time, believes in what he does and believes in getting the very best for whoever the customer is. He’s knows that what they do in the Custom Shop is the very best of their efforts and abilities, yet FCS1with so much knowledge and insight he’s very down to earth and easy to listen to and indeed – learn from.

We were taken through every work area, if there was a master builder about we were introduced and where not – Ralph explained the work that Gt1each did. We talked and talked as he led us through a history of music from a side few rarely see. We moved on to the Gretsch Custom Shop and then into an area where they’re building a special run of Eric Clapton guitars. WeF1 went further to where they turned the finished necks and so much more.

Back in the Custom Shop, examples of models they make and have made were everywhere, and even one incredibly light weight Stratocaster which was so light I thought was made of balsa – but obviously wasn’t. With much talk of food and beer next time we’re in town – thus sealing my return at some point (it was this word : “Beer” that did it) we headed back to F2Visitors Center so I could put the rest of my guitar parts together with David Brown.

There was still more to choose including neck type, electronics, metal furniture and finally the information to be placed on the Neck Plate of the guitar. This Neck Plate will show the name of the guitar which is TWBrit, F11the date and where it was born and finally “Engineered by David Brown” whom has been the most outstanding, outgoing and friendliest person from the F5outset.

Together David Brown and Jane Esposito of the Visitor Centre are a great team; they’re knowledgeable and  passionate about what they do and the products they provide.  In fact it was Jane’s husband Ralph who we’d met the evening before while waiting to go home who taken us around the Custom Shop and all it’s workings.

Now I’ve said this before; We’ve been to Gibson hollow body factory in Memphis, We’ve been on a fantastic tour of Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, San Diego (who had no interest at all when I wanted them to build me a custom guitar). But out of these, nothing prepared us for the welcome, friendliness and great people at Fender. While this is easy to throw all under the title “Great Customer Service”, of which I am the greatest of sceptics and picky when presented with the good stuff – the team at Fender humbled us! No, they didn’t make us feel special, they made feel welcome and like friends and that is very rare, very rare indeed!

David, Jand & Ralph

To David, Jane and Ralph who did so much for us

Thankyou

Of the three guitar companies we have visited; Fender has not just done a little more or been a little better than the rest – they have and are miles ahead in the entire experience of dealing with and understanding customer wants and needs. They go the extra mile without being asked and around the world Fender and these great people in Corona, California create things so iconic to the USA and music as a whole it is amazing how they take all this in their stride without any of the pretentiousness of so many other companies.

Gibson for instance will charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars to add a plastic strip around the edge of a guitar (called a binding) and in some cases, add $1000 for that added extra – not great for the present financial climate and considering how much work you have to do to get Gibsons truly playable.  But with the “can do – will do” and friendly reception that awaits all at Fender; Fender is certainly on the road to a better recovery from the financial doom and gloom of the past few years – and frankly? I will buy from the people who give me their time and effort and appreciate their customers where so many others don’t!

Fender Musical Instrument Corp is now one of (if not) the biggest guitar manufacturers in the world! Their other products include:

Squier

Gretsch

Jackson Guitars

Charvel

Hamer

Tacoma

Guild Guitar Company

SWR Sound Corporation

Sunn

Brand X

Orpheum

Olympia

Heartfield

Starcaster

They are also exclusive the U.S. sales representative for Sabian Cymbals and exclusive worldwide distributor of Takamine Guitars and Gretsch Drums.

Fender APPROVED

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Gibson Guitars Factory Tour

So the other day I finally went to Memphis… but more importantly for me, I went to Gibson Guitars for a tour of their factory. I had already phoned Gibson before Christmas and talked to them and decided to go when the factory restarted production in the New Year.

I’ve had a lot of questions for Gibson for a number of years, especially regarding build and play quality of the Les Paul guitars made in the early 2000’s. On arrival we entered the vast empty reception and then the shop. We looked about and then enquired about the factory tour. Moments later and $10 lighter for each of us and the tour was booked and would happen on the hour. So I spoke to a female assistant and asked her questions about the Gibson Dark Fire which is basically a robotic guitar that tunes itself in any pitch you like etc. She was amazingly informative, really, and thoroughly knew her stuff. In fact I asked her dozens of questions for which she answered all of them in depth. She also invited me to play anything they had and to feel free to try all I liked… (you don’t hear that every day) I was frankly starting to feel impressed… On the question of setup and overall quality she informed me they now use a thing called a “Plek” machine that traces the fret board and grinds the frets and the “nut” to the optimum height and “action” (the distance of the strings from the fret board). So the bottom line is: if you’re buying a new Gibson – make sure it has a “Plek’d” sticker on it. Before the tour we had to sign disclaimers to enter the factory floor, wear safety glasses and get told that absolutely no cameras are allowed and mobile phones etc. The mobile phones thing was because 90% of phones can take pics.. But this is where I started having a trouble with the tour!! We were then taken through to a long windowless corridor where, upon the wall hung loads of guitars, one of which was a hand signed version of BB King’s “Lucille”. It was here we stopped for our tour guide to explain the very basics of guitar types, their respective parts… Obviously we weren’t in any sensitive area, so why no pics of these great guitars? Now, don’t get me wrong here, you don’t want flash photography around moving machinery… but nothing of what we were about to see was anything near what you can actually see on YouTube!! In fact I’ll go further… there was only one person working in the factory putting on machine heads… So what in god’s name is so secret to prevent photography? Why do I say this? Well, I do understand when they’re working with new technology’s that they wouldn’t want others to see… And it’s kinda cool to hear over and over again “we invented (or) did this/that first”  – but how the hell would anyone know if you wont let them take a pic?? But the reason I will say it is this – I live 5000 miles away.. I got more information, images and background info watching YouTube!!! I didn’t see shit being made!! I didn’t get to touch, hold, have shown how or experience fk-ALL!! THEN while the guy showing us around kept holding up things and guitar parts and waving them slowly past us – he took time out to do the same with an 8” grounding wire!! And for $10 each we all stood there like frigging morons as he took his time to show each and every one of us an 8 inch bit of wire!! I just thought ”this has got to be the ‘in’ factory joke” I even mentioned this to others there… The guide’s “patter” was perfect… then he suddenly turned and said “that concludes the tour, any questions?” which is ok for a 30 minute stroll – but then said nothing. We all looked at him blankly… I eventually asked where the hard shell cases are made – the answer was simply “in Canada”… Then more silence.. it was actually uncomfortable..

Gibson, for what you charge for guitars etc, there are thousands of things you can do to improve this tour – heck I didn’t even know it was for hollow-bodies only until we started the tour…

The lady in the Shop was totally awesome, the tour was dire. I’m not taking anything from the fact Gibson make some of the finest guitars in the world, if it has the Gibson name on it, it’s exclusive made in the USA and over 60% of everything they make is exported globally and that is testament to their craftmanship, put another way – if you listen to or play music of any type, you’ve heard of and know who Gibson is. But there was an air of real disappointment with the tour  – so word up if you’re a Gibson fan, I’ll save you the time, air fare, patronization and disappointment… here is a video that will show you much, much more than anything a Gibson tour will show you. You won’t have to wear goggles, sign disclaimers, you can smoke, eat, drink and take all the pictures you like…

I think I’ll head to Taylor

Say What? The US Dept. of Justice has got Wood…. :-/

So, right on the heels of the dumbfounded activities of the United States ATF who thought it would be a great idea to supply Mexican drug cartels automatic and military weaponry (just see where it went you understand), leading to same weapons being used against the ATF with the unfortunate result in one of them being killed…

It turns out that the Dept of Justice is sooo bored, they’re almost making up reasons to do a bust…. But who or what could they raid and torment??

It turns out that there are some in the DOJ who spend more time looking at other countries laws than their own… Worse? They act on obscure laws without request!!
Soo, who to raid….
Oh, oh here’s one… Gibson Guitars of Nashville and Memphis..

Gibson, renowned for their illegal activities of course (none of which spring to mind) and a global brand and along with others, are the face of the US guitar industry with a fairly spotless history when it comes to being an ambassador of the USA and US manufacturing…
Anyone who knows anything about the modern history of the guitar – knows the name Gibson… a household name!

As this plot thickens, we must ask ourselves “Oh aye, what have this lot been up to, to have dozens of armed agents storming their factories in both Memphis and or course Nashville?
Well, as any person with a newly acquired Gibson guitar may wish to know as they go about barricading their homes (start now please)… Is that there is an obscure law in the country of India (yes, India) that states that if wood from India isn’t ‘finished’ by Indian workers… then the wood is illegal!!
The thing is, in India the wood passed this requirement and was signed off by the Indian Govt.

So then this legally purchased timber/lumber has fallen under the gaze of the DOJ acting on obscure laws of another country – without request!! Yeah, it’s like they’re trying to re-write the “Law unto ourselves” and probably throwing out the constitution at the same time…
In fact… the DOJ claim it wasn’t finished ENOUGH by the Indian workers – an area where they have NO jurisdiction or right so say as such. They now (in violation of law in every known free country) demand that Gibson prove the timber is legal or it will be deemed illegal.. when Gibson have ALL the legal documentation to say it is.
So much for them having to prove it’s not… (oh freedom, I knew you so well)

This is all very strange stuff… especially as it was without the request or support of the Indian Govt..

But here is a radio interview with Henry Juszkiewicz… it begs belief


On behalf of Guitar players and lovers everywhere, On behalf of and in support of Henry Juszkiewicz and the workers at Gibson and to everyone who ever owned more than one brain cell of commonsense…

To the US Department of Justice… for actions that run contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America, in total contradiction to both US and Indian Law : You are duly awarded the HUA
For violations to individuals Human and Commercial rights in the national and international interest of the United States, Indian and all persons who enjoy these products (globally) and of those whom feed their families by working in the construction of them.

The US Dept. Of Justice

Seriously though…  Have a word with yourselves!!

Published in: on 27 August, 2011 at 18:02  Comments Off  
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