Fender Jazzmaster & Fender Jaguar

Elvis Elvis

With the Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Jaguar models, Fender attempted to make further improvements and replace the Stratocaster as top-of-the-line of the catalog. As great as they were, the new guitars didn’t achieve the expected commercial success.

The Fender Jazzmaster

In 1958, Fender introduced the Jazzmaster. As it name indicates, the Jazzmaster was meant to enter the jazz market, dominated by Gibson. Many features of the guitar were designed with jazz players in mind.

Its new body shape, called the “Offset Waist Contour body,” was a refined version of the Stratocaster’s “Custom Contour Body,” which offered more comfort for playing while sitting.

The Jazzmaster was the first Fender guitar to include a rosewood fretboard, which was perceived as a high-end feature.

Fender Jazzmaster & Fender Jaguar

It also featured a new floating vibrato system. Leo Fender thought it to be superior to the Stratocaster’s “Syncronized Tremolo,” since it offered better intonation and the possibility of locking it -very needed in case a string breaks-. However, the vibrato was a source of problems in practice, and a whole set of DIY modifications became soon common knowledge among Jazzmaster players.

The new pick ups were wider than the ones used on the Stratocaster or Telecaster models, providing a mellower sound. Special care was given to minimizing hum, since the wide pickups were prone to be noisy.

The guitar’s electronic circuit was included separate volume and tone controls for each pickup, and a slider allowed smooth transitions between rhythm and lead settings.

Despite all these features, the Jazzmaster never got very popular among jazz guitarists. It did achieve some success among young surf players, such as Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson and The Ventures’ Bob Bogle.

It became popular in the late 1970s among new wave guitarists like Elvis Costello and The Cure’s Robert Smith.

Fender maintained the Jazzmaster in its catalog until 1980. A reissue has been available from Fender Japan since 1996.

The Fender Jaguar

Fender introduced a similar model in 1962, the Jaguar. With its short 24″ scale and its thinner but more powerful pickups, the Jaguar sounded more percussive and sharp than the Jazzmaster, with less sustain.

The electronics were more complex than in the Jazzmaster. The lead channel included individual on/off switches for the pickups, and high-pass filter switch.

The Fender Jaguar was offered as the top-of-the-line Fender guitar. Fender thought it to be superior to the Stratocaster, and even considered plans for leaving the Stratocaster out of the catalogue. Some highly visible players chose it, such as The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson, but it did not come close to the Telecaster or the Stratocaster in terms of sales.

Jimi Hendrix would soon mark the Stratocaster definitively as the flagship of the company from 1967 on.

The Fender Jaguar was discontinued in 1975. It became again available from Fender Japan in the mid 1980s, and from Fender USA in 1999.


Both Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars became extremely popular in the 1990s. Their unique visual and sound character, as well as the fact that they were a budget choice in the late 1980s made them ideal for the upcoming alternative rock and grunge generation. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo were among players that led this resurgence.