Top tweed: the evolution of Fender’s earliest guitar amps

Fender Tweed Deluxe
(Image credit: Future)

”Fender amps are rooted in Leo Fender’s radio repair shop,” says Terry. “By 1940, he had a full-time business with several employees in Fullerton under the Fender name. It was very successful in the local area, and, according to Leo, they did over 10,000 repair jobs in 1943 alone. 

”Around that time, Doc Kauffman – a local professional musician and inventor – would often go into Leo’s shop, which also sold records and sheet music, and they struck up a friendship. Doc came onboard full-time in 1942 and they ended up patenting a pickup [called the Direct String Pickup], so Leo used his existing knowledge of radio to adapt an amp for it. That’s when Doc starts making lap steels and Leo starts making custom amplifiers. 

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Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.