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Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World

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Holly Stephey

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Leo Fender invented the electric guitar. But what made him even more special is that his guitars were used by giants spanning decades of music from Elvis to Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix to Keith Richards all the greats of rock and roll! 

When Rolling Stone Magazine published a list of the world's top 100 guitarists, 90 of them used one of Leo's guitars and the rest used guitars that basically copied Leo's invention.While Fender guitars were recognized around the world, few people knew much about the man behind the legendary guitar. Leo Fender grew up in California, where an interest in electronics led him to open up a radio repair shop in 1938. But he didn't just work on radios; his reputation earned him the respect of musicians and band leaders who trusted him to repair their equipment. As time went on he founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company and later, G&L Musical Instruments.Leo's wife Phyllis, along with Randall Bell, Ph.D., give music fans a memory-filled look into the remarkable world of this quiet genius in their latest book, Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World. Randall Bell also grew up in Leo's neighborhood and his father was the head of the R&D department at Fender's company.

Fender's game-changing contributions to the music world have been widely recognized. He was presented with the Country Music Association Pioneer Award in 1981, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock Walk of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His accomplishments were also acknowledged with a Technical Grammy Award in 2009.

Leo Fender died in 1991. Today, Phyllis Fender volunteers at the Fullerton Museum where she shares with visitors stories about her life with Leo.   

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