Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

So what was so bad about 70's Fenders?


Riffster

Recommended Posts

I played this bad boy all last week and it is a very nice guitar, neck was very narrow, frets could use some work but other than that very nice, light and resonant guitar. either a '76 or '77 if I was to guess.

 

I noticed the part of neck joint in the lower cutaway was not flush with the neck and I though that was sloppy but then I just saw a 1956 Nocaster or Tele type guitar at GC for $56K that has the same thing going on.

 

Are these guitars looked down upon because of the different specs and designs?

 

I came back home and now my Strat looks so odd with the small headstock :unsure:

 

IMG_1142.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I played this bad boy all last week and it is a very nice guitar, neck was very narrow, frets could use some work but other than that very nice, light and resonant guitar. either a '76 or '77 if I was to guess.

 

I noticed the part of neck joint in the lower cutaway was not flush with the neck and I though that was sloppy but then I just saw a 1956 Nocaster or Tele type guitar at GC for $56K that has the same thing going on.

 

Are these guitars looked down upon because of the different specs and designs?

 

I came back home and now my Strat looks so odd with the small headstock :unsure:

 

IMG_1142.jpg

 

 

They're sort of like the Norlin era Gibsons. When sales went down in the mid-70's CBS did a lot of cost cutting. There are good ones and bad ones just like there are good and bad Gibsons from the Norlin era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IMX it depends largely on what one expects from a Strat.

 

If you want a guitar like Buddy Holly's then steer clear. If you like the Deep Purple vibe then a '70s is the way to go.

 

Partly, as has been mentioned, there was (relatively) poor QC and they varied a lot from one to the next. I had a few '70s Strats back in the '80s and early '90s. One was very good and I kept it as my #2 for years. The others never grew on me and were swapped for other things - often another '70s Strat in the hope of finding another 'good' one.

 

There were a few design details which weren't liked at the time, such as the 3-bolt neck with micro-tilt-adjustment or whatever it was called. Some of mine had neck stability issues and I suspect it was down to having 3 as opposed to 4 bolts holding the neck in place. Two others cracked along the neck socket.

The 'Bullet' truss-rod adjuster bolt - although much easier to use than the end-of-neck screw-head - wasn't a favourite either. Nowadays, of course, most modern Fenders are adjusted from this same area but at least Fender has improved the aesthetics (IMO).

The shielding was an area where fender were cutting corners. My '64 had a sheet of thin gauge metal covering the whole of the rear of the scratchplate. By the '70s there was a small triangle of what seemed like aluminium foil stuck to the area where the controls were located. I can't remember if there was more hum or not, though.

 

They also varied enormously in weight - much like the LPs of the time - and my #2 must have been about 2 lbs heavier than my #1. The area where the waist was 'dressed away' was sometimes vast - coming to within a centimetre of the front - and sometimes hardly there at all. Again, my #2 had the merest hint at a cutaway on both the rear and at the front where the arm comes across the lower bout.

 

Other more general things were more common to them as a collective group. If a player wanted the sound of a '50s Strat then the '70s wouldn't appeal as the p-ups were (again, IMX) far more powerful. Think Gibson's ceramics compared with '57 Classic and you'll get the idea. They were great for Hendrix/Blackmore/Trower type stuff but forget trying to sound like Mark Knopfler. When the '50s re-issues appeared in the early '80s these had lower output p-ups and were aimed squarely at players who wanted 'Vintage' in terms of both sound and looks.

 

In the '50s Fender's maple necks were finished with lacquer. Come the '70s and they were coated in a polyeurethane finish that was very thick and slightly soft to the touch which could become almost sticky in use. To this day I have a strong dislike of Fender maple necks for this reason. The rosewood 'boards were fine, though.

 

So, all-in-all, not 'Bad'; just not the same as what had come before. I have an issue of Guitar Player magazine from May 1982 which has, on the rear cover, an ad for the 'new' Vintage Stratocaster. The copy reads (in part) "To call them "new" isn't quite accurate. Because we went back to the original blueprints and meticulously reincarnated two guitars that helped to shape musical history." Lovely guitars; terrible grammar.

 

I'll try to add a scan of the ad...

 

EDIT : Just for fun here's a snap I've found from around '86/7. My '64 in LPB; next to it my '82 1957 RI in two-tone s/b; my '73 tri-tone 'burst. This was my #2 until I got the RI. The light blue one is a friends Tokai. The small black thing is my '67 'Swinger'. The 'Les Paul' is my first guitar; a '75/6 Grant copy now fitted with a pair of DiMarzio 'Dual Sound' p-ups. The mini-toggles can be seen between the vol/tone knobs. This is the only guitar in the snap I still own...

 

Guitarsonbedlo-res-1.jpg

 

P.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well one thing for sure that I remember, when they changed the neck plate, to three bolts instead of four, and introduced the "micro tilt neck" that was not stable. I had one of these, and you could easily pull that neck around if you got a bit too "excited" during a session. The bullet truss rod was a decent idea, but it got yaked up easily.

 

The pickups were pretty nice tho. Great tone, and the in between settings were heavenly on those early 70s strats. I've yet to come across one that sounds quite like those 70's strats with the stock pickups sounded.

 

I also had a 1980 Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop with the mini humbuckers. If I wasn't such a stooge back then and insisted on using the lightest gauge string I could find, it probably would have actually stayed in tune.

 

so yea, like said, there was good and bad, just like today, no surprise eh?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kills me, but I can still remember a friend of mine who owned a guitar shop in the late 80s paying only $200 for every "big head" Strat that walked through the door. You see what they are bringing these days? Hindsight is indeed 20/20!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pippy has a good commentary..experience too.

 

I think there are 2 separate issues: quality and specs. My view is that it wasn't the specs that sucked so much as it was the quality.

 

If I had my way, I would prefer a good early-mid 70's Strat, but finding a good one, as in "light and resonant" is rare. It got worse by the end of the decade. I might even say that by '79, impossible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the three bolt neck unfairly has a bad rap .I had a '72 with this setup. If you DIDN'T use the "micro-tilt" adjuster it was compleltley stable IMX. In fact , it actually had a "bolt" that went into a threaded insert ,not wood screws. and was inherently less likely to strip out or get loose if removed a few times. However, if you actually USED the micro-tilt, everything went to hell becase the entire heel of the instrument was sitting on a small raised setscrew instead of a flat wooden base. Then you could easily yank the neck around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually Fender was putting out such low quality guitars in the late 70s (not just strats) that they turned to a Japanese manufacture to build them under the contract.

 

The Japanese used Starts from the 50s and 60s as models and turned out a superior guitar compared to Fender (CBS). The Japanese Fenders were used by the new management, (after CBS) as templates.

 

Many guitarists think that the old Japanese licensed Strats are a superior product even today and have quite a following.

 

I have a '89 MIJ Strat and can attest to its sweet tone and playability.

 

Note: I went to buy a Strat in the early 80s. I played about 4 of em, all sucked. Heck the neck edges would almost cut your fretting hand, very uncomfortable and poorly made guitar, ended up buying an Electra MIJ with triple HBs.(rip off of a Gibson Custom).

 

My favorite 3 electrics are Strats, PRS SC SEs and LPs. I like them all equally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had an early CBS Precision. Sounded and played good. The Bassman head and cab were pre CBS. I still have the head.

 

To me there likely were two issues, not dissimilar to the Norlin-Gibson "thing."

 

First, one wants to think that human beings run our guitar company. Nowadays we make a saint out of Leo, but even folks who for whatever reason think HenryJ is horrid would have to agree that a human who plays guitar is far preferable to a faceless machine like Norlin.

 

Yet... some of the CBS and Norlin era guitars were darned good instruments. Some were crud.

 

And second... as today, there are those who will pick on a company forever, for reasons that don't necessarily make good sense.

 

m

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not all 70s Fenders were dogs but in their attempts at cost cutting CBS also cut corners in Quality inspectors and even cut down in the quality of electronics and hardware.Some Strat models were released with only 1 tone and 1 volume control,which certainly didn't sit well with Fender die-hards.Having said that though some 70s Fenders were just phenominal.I had a '78 ash bodied Strat that was one of the most fantastic Strats I ever played or heard,it sustained like a grand piano but was very heavy,weighing in at 11 lbs.

 

Just like the Norlin years with Gibson CBS had its good and bad too but sadly there were more than enough of the latter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cause' purists hate it when things change!

 

I actually think the big headstock looks cooler than the original! SHOOT ME VINTAGE NERDS!!!!!

 

The finishes could get really thick on those. Which bugged a lot of people....

 

If it's a great guitar, it's a great guitar. I'm sure Leo and Ted churned out some piles of firewood in their tenures with their respective guitar makers!

 

I think the 3-bolt neck, the bullet truss rod, and the super thick polyester paint jobs were the shortcomings.

 

Not to mention the often overlooked fact that the metal hardware (especially the saddles and the vibrato bar) was of very low quality at the time.

 

But a nice Strat with a big headstock and some hotter pickups=aweseome!

 

Oh, and you can still find Teles that weigh 12-13 pounds from that era!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, and you can still find Teles that weigh 12-13 pounds from that era!

 

You can still find modern ones that weigh that much. I have a scrawny friend who leans when he plays his because it's simply a monster. I'm not sure what model he has, but it's really heavy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Leo was not a very good business man, he was a great Idea Man. Fender wasn't in good financial shape when CBS bought them, that's why they were able to buy them. If CBS hadn't stepped in when they did Fender would be compared to REO as opposed to Ford. It wasn't the Devil buying out St. Leo's heavenly baby, it was a string of bad business decisions that left the company in near ruin.

 

CBS's mistakes were in not realizing that the Fender designs had become American Icons. Had they produced a classic line of instrument along side their modified designs, they would likely have been more fender sales in the 70's and they never would have cut the corners that eventually led to their bad reputation.

 

And, if you can find a '79 hardtail for less than collectors price you better jump on that deal, 'cause that 70's Fender has been sought after for decades.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Fender wasn't in good financial shape when CBS bought them, that's why they were able to buy them.

:-k

 

With the greatest respect, and not trying to start a bunfight, FM, but are you sure about the financial situation? Leo Fender's poor health was a serious issue and (AFAIK) was cited as being the main factor behind him selling the company.

 

At the time of the sale to CBS (1964-65) Fender were out-selling Gibson and the years '64 - '67 were Gibson's most succesful, in terms of sales, over a forty year period from the late '40s right up to the 1980s. In fact 1965 was actually their most successful year of all so that doesn't suggest Fender would have been in a poor position, financially speaking.

 

Nor does the price paid by CBS reflect the thought that they were buying a company which was failing. Fender was originally going to ask $1 m. for it but, and I quote from an interview with the guitar historian Gil Hembree;

 

"Don Randall (Fender's business partner) told him "You're out of your mind!" and reminded him it's worth much more. So Randall sold it to CBS for $13 million".

 

But this is all just stuff I've read, of course. I certainly wouldn't bet my life on it.

 

P.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:-k

 

With the greatest respect, and not trying to start a bunfight, FM, but are you sure about the financial situation? Leo Fender's poor health was a serious issue and was cited as being the main factor behind him selling the company.

 

At the time of the sale to CBS (1964-65) Fender were out-selling Gibson and the years '64 - '67 were Gibson's most succesful, in terms of sales, over a forty year period from the late '40s right up to the 1980s. In fact 1965 was actually their most successful year of all so that doesn't suggest Fender would have been in a poor position, financially speaking.

 

Nor does the price paid by CBS hint at a company which was failing. Fender was originally going to ask $1 m. for the company but, and I quote from an interview with the guitar historian Gil Hembree;

 

"Don Randall (Fender's business partner) told him "You're out of your mind!" and reminded him it's worth much more. So Randall sold it to CBS for $13 million".

 

But this is all just stuff I've read, of course. I wouldn't bet my life on it.

 

P.

I certainly haven't read everything there is on the subject, but I could have sworn it was financial. And not because they weren't selling, but because of poor money management and bad record keeping. It was just an article in guitar player magazine that an excerpt from a book so something could have been lost in the translation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the three bolt neck unfairly has a bad rap .I had a '72 with this setup. If you DIDN'T use the "micro-tilt" adjuster it was compleltley stable IMX. In fact , it actually had a "bolt" that went into a threaded insert ,not wood screws. and was inherently less likely to strip out or get loose if removed a few times. However, if you actually USED the micro-tilt, everything went to hell becase the entire heel of the instrument was sitting on a small raised setscrew instead of a flat wooden base. Then you could easily yank the neck around.

I tend to agree, except I think when you barely use the set screw just enough to make contact, it works a little better.

 

The thing is, the CUT of the neck pocket is what keeps them from being able to get wacked out. If the neck doesn't sit well in the pocket, it can move regardless of being a 4 bolt or a 3 bolt. Worse if the neck wants to sit off kilter because the pocket isn't cut right, so you are constantly putting it back straight and trying to tighten it in an effort to keep it from going where it wants to sit. "Tilting" it a moderate degree makes a bad pocket fit worse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I certainly haven't read everything there is on the subject, but I could have sworn it was financial. And not because they weren't selling, but because of poor money management and bad record keeping. It was just an article in guitar player magazine that an excerpt from a book so something could have been lost in the translation.

 

Guy named Smith has a very fat book called Fender The Sound Heard Round The World. Far more actual information than any guitar advertising magazine or internet wisdom.

 

Leo was a known hypochondriac, and in Forest Whites' book(good luck finding it), he mentions much about Leos constant non sickness sicknesses. Leo was convinced he didn't have long of this earth and sold the company.

 

As for the original question, my experience has been that nearly 100% of the people that slag 70's fenders were conceived at proms and weddings I played in the 70's, and have no idea what they are talking about.

 

rct

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cause' purists hate it when things change!

 

I actually think the big headstock looks cooler than the original! SHOOT ME VINTAGE NERDS!!!!!

 

The finishes could get really thick on those. Which bugged a lot of people....

 

If it's a great guitar, it's a great guitar. I'm sure Leo and Ted churned out some piles of firewood in their tenures with their respective guitar makers!

 

I think the 3-bolt neck, the bullet truss rod, and the super thick polyester paint jobs were the shortcomings.

 

Not to mention the often overlooked fact that the metal hardware (especially the saddles and the vibrato bar) was of very low quality at the time.

 

But a nice Strat with a big headstock and some hotter pickups=aweseome!

 

Oh, and you can still find Teles that weigh 12-13 pounds from that era!

 

 

I do dig the looks because I grew up listening to Ritchie Blackmore, for a long time (before I knew anything about guitars)I wondered why some Strats had a smaller headstock.

 

The finish on this one is nitro, feels harder than the 60's Mustang my brother owned at one time but it was definitely nitro, part of the the back of this guitar came in contact with something that made the finish melt down to the sealer. I don't think polyester can be melted like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...