The Fender Jazzmaster was introduced in 1959 and at the time was considered Fender’s top of the line model. Following on the heels of the success of the Fender Telecaster and the Fender Stratocaster, which had met with tremendous success in the country and pop / rock genre’s, Fender hoped to provide a model that would appeal to the jazz musician. Though some jazz musicians used the Fender Jazzmaster, it failed to make serious inroads among the jazz set. However, the Jazzmaster did gain acceptance among musicians of other genres. The first groups that the Jazzmaster connected with were the surf music set and rock instrumental groups. One of the classic Jazzmaster songs was “Walk, Don’t Run” by the Ventures.
The Jazzmaster was the first Fender that was offered with a rosewood fingerboard. Until the introduction of the Jazzmaster, other Fender’s had a one piece maple neck with the frets directly on the neck. The original Jazzmasters had what is referred to as a “slab” rosewood board. Later, Fender began using what is referred to as a “veneer” rosewood board. The veneer was thinner than the slab board and was curved where it contacted the maple as opposed to being placed flat on the maple. Fender quickly began offering rosewood fingerboards as standard issue on most of its models.
The Jazzmaster has a 25 1/2 “ scale length, which is the same scale as the Fender Telecaster and Fender Stratocaster. In early Jazzmaster necks, position markers were “clay” dots. These were later replaced with plastic pearloid dots. After CBS bought Fender, Jazzmasters sported block pearloid inlays.
Fender was after a “jazzier” sound than that offered by the Telecaster and Stratocaster. Hence, they developed a wider single coil pickup that offers a mellower sound than that of the narrow single coil pickups in the Telecaster and Stratocaster. Each Jazzmaster has two of these pickups. The wiring on the Jazzmaster demonstrated new innovations from Fender. The guitarist was offered two separate circuits that could be preset to different settings. This way, it was simply the change of a switch to go from a rhythm to a lead setting. Each circuit had is own volume and tone. One circuit has knobs for the volume and tone in the conventional place on the body, and the other has roller knobs for volume and tone on the other side of the strings, near the upper horn of the guitar. There is a switch to choose between the neck pickup, the bridge pickup, or both pickups. There is also a switch to change circuits.
The Jazzmaster offered an “offset” waist body which Fender claimed was for “extra comfort”. The standard body finish was three color sunburst, but was offered in a number of “custom colors” from the very beginning.
The Jazzmaster also introduced a new tremelo (as Leo Fender called it) design which was also later used on the soon to be introduced Fender Jaguar model.
Fender Jazzmaster Popularity
The Jazzmaster enjoyed a renewed interest when the indie rockers, grunge bands, punk bands, and others took a liking to the guitar in the 1990s.
Fender Jazzmaster Case
The Fender Jazzmaster would not fit in the same case that was used for the Telecaster and Stratocaster. Hence, Fender offered a new case size. Later, when the Fender Jaguar was introduced, the same case size was used for the Jaguar.
Fender Jazzmaster Cost
When introduced, the Jazzmaster was considered Fender’s top of the line model and was priced as such. On the used and vintage markets, though, the Jazzmaster has never commanded the high prices that Telecasters and Stratocasters attained. Even still, vintage Jazzmasters in decent condition, and especially in custom color cost far more than an equivalent new model, and more than many other vintage guitars.
The Fender Jazzmaster is a very interesting solidbody electric guitar, even if it is a bit quirky. It sounds different than what most people think of “the Fender sound”, and it certainly doesn’t sound like a Gibson or other popular electric guitars. It has its own unique voice and feel. It is a completely professional level guitar, and has stood the test of time, even though it never attained the popularity of Fender’s Stratocaster or Telecaster, or Gibson’s Les Paul model, or SG, or ES-335. If you get the chance to try one, it is definitely worth the effort!