Monday, January 12, 2009

Fender Jaguar - Chrome craze

In mid-1962, with the instrumental rock and roll blooming into “surf” and becoming hip in California and elsewhere, Fender introduced the Jaguar model. This short scale (24″ instead of 25.5″) guitar was considered a high-end instrument, and with its chrome-control plates, the mute and bridge cover it had just THE look. Actually, it was considered Fender’s top-of-the-line model until 1967 when Jimi Hendrix changed everything with his use of the Stratocaster.

The Jaguar pickups are more powerful and better shielded, which eliminated some of the hum problems associated with the Jazzmaster. It’s overall sound is more aggressive, but thinner than the Jazzmaster’s, the short scale, the tremolo/bridge design and the pickups together produce a percussive sound with less sustain. Playing the bridge pickup alone with the “strangle” switch added results in an icy, sharp tone, that cuts through any band sound easily.

The Jaguar shared the rhythm circuit with the Jazzmaster, but the lead-circuit works different: Three two-way slider switches operate like this:
* neck-pickup on/off;
* bridge-pickup on/off
* “bass-cut” or “strangle” switch that adds a capacitor to the circuit when on - resulting in an even thinner sound (see the Interactive Jaguar).

The Jaguar has nearly the same body and peghead shape as the Jazzmaster (the body dimensions are slightly different), 2 white narrow Strat-like single coil pickups with notched metal side plates (”saw teeth”), 2 knobs and 3 individual pickup switches on treble side, selector switch and 2 roller knobs on bass side, string mute, and Jazzmaster type floating tremolo/bridge.

The string mute was meant to help the player mute the strings, which was a difficult thing to do on both the Jaguar and Jazzmaster with the palm of the hand when the bridge cover was attached. But the mute was never popular with the players, since it allows zero control over the muting and it could detune the guitar - when engaged it presses at the strings from below directly in front of the bridge and the relative low tension of the strings (a result of the unique bridge/trem design) will allow the tuning to go sharp. So many mutes went right into guitar case and were lost, so not too many vintage Jaguars are found with mutes attached.

Jaguar specs:

* 1962: Alder contour body, three color sunburst finish. Celluloid tortoise three layer pickguard with two Strat-like pickups. Serial number on neck plate. Slab or veneer rosewood fingerboard. After mid-62 veneer fingerboards only.
* 1964: Pole pieces on pickups changed to staggered height; see pictures
* 1965: Pearl fingerboard dots replace “clay” dots. Plastic tortoise three layer pickguard replaces celluloid.
* 1967/68: Black Fender decal. “F” style tuning gears replace “Kluson-Deluxe” gears. Polyester thick finish replaces nitrocellulose lacquer. The faceplate of the necks remained lacquered in nitro finish.
* 1975: discontinued.
* 1986/87: Japanese-made 1962 Reissue introduced. Read a user’s comparison between a CIJ and a vintage Jag
* 1994/95: Japanese Limited Edition introduced - Olympic White Blond body with golden hardware.
* 1999: American-made 1962 Vintage Reissue (MIA) introduced. See specs.
available colors (Nitro-Cellulose Lacquer Finish): 3-Color Sunburst, Candy Apple Red, Olympic White, Black, Sherwood Green, Dakota Red.
* 2001: available MIA-colors (Nitro-Cellulose Lacquer Finish): 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black, Inca Silver, Dakota Red, Ice Blue Metallic.

Fender Japan introduces hardtail models with humbucker and tune-o-matic bridge - the “Japanese Special”.
* 2002: again new colors on the MIA’s, including Ocean Turquoise. Fender Japan offers reissue models with custom colors and matching headstocks, but only outside the U.S.
* 2003: Fender Japan introduces the 1966 Reissue modell (JG66B) with bound neck and block inlays, available in 3-tone Sunburst and Candy Apple Red (with matching headstock).
* 2004: Available colors are: 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black, Ocean Turquoise, Surf Green, Ice Blue Metallic
* 2004/05: Fender US offers two humbucker-Jaguars: The Jaguar HH and the Jaguar Baritone HH

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