It’s called gear-acquisition syndrome—GAS, for short—and it affects countless men of your dad’s age. Some manage to hide their symptoms even from loved ones, but the consequences can be serious.
The sufferer will buy a guitar in the morning (a semi-rare 1981 Japanese Les Paul copy he’s been hunting for months) and then, by early afternoon, return to scouring Craigslist in a light sweat. He has no choice but to derail casual music-store conversation so that he can declare his favourite type of control knob. He may have a picture of legendary pickup winder Abigail Ybarra in his wallet, slotted in over one of his family.
What to buy this man for Father’s Day, given that you don’t have a spare nine grand for the mid-’60s Epiphone Casino he keeps banging on about?
For a very reasonable $32.99, you can pick up the brilliant, newly arrived coffee-table book Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970, by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster, and Paul Kelly (published by Cassell Illustrated). It’s certain to blow his addled mind.
Lots of glossy hardcovers on vintage guitar gear have come out over the years, but the quality of this one is several cuts above. Thanks in part to the wealth of Fender ephemera (catalogues, brochures, print ads, factory photos, posters, et cetera) contributed by Martin Kelly and the Canadian-born Foster, all richly reproduced here, Fender: The Golden Age offers a fascinating history of the once-modest Californian company when it was at the peak of its world-changing powers.
The story is remarkable, if for the Telecaster guitar model alone, one of Leo Fender’s earliest and greatest innovations. Its austere, modular solid-body design caused shock and even derision in some quarters when it first appeared in 1950. What serious musician would want this stringed boat paddle?
The reply came quickly and has been repeated millions of times in the ensuing 68 years, with everyone from Jimmy Bryant, Muddy Waters, James Burton, and Buck Owens to Keith Richards, Chrissy Hynde, Joe Strummer, PJ Harvery, and Courtney Barnett making the wildly versatile Tele their tool of choice. It’s hard to think of another piece of design in the last hundred years that came out of the gate arguably perfect for its purposes and has remained in wide-scale production, more or less unaltered, ever since.
And of course, the rest of Fender’s fabled creations are here in the text and sumptuous images: weathered Stratocasters and Jazzmasters, Mustangs and Jaguars and Precision basses, lap steels and reverb units, brown- and black- and silverface amps, and on and on.
Fender: The Golden Age may be the ideal—if temporary—treatment for the ravages of GAS. Then again, with all of that classic gear so lovingly described and depicted, it may only wind up aggravating the condition.