Phyllis Fender is the wife of the late Leo Fender. Born in East Los Angeles in 1934, Phyllis attended Compton Jr. College where she belonged to Delta Kappa Phi and graduated with a Business Degree. She has three children from her first marriage. Phyllis worked for 22 years as the Executive Vice-President and Secretary of a family business, Dalton Enterprises, which owned two restaurants and manufactured and distributed restaurant baking equipment. Phyllis was ultimately fired by her mother, who after six years of being married to Leo; felt that Leo needed a full-time wife. Today, Phyllis often volunteers at the Fullerton Museum where she shares stories about life with Leo. She also has held numerous positions at her church and serves as the Honorary Chairman of G&L Guitars, based in Fullerton, California. Randall Bell, PhD is a socio-economist and author from Laguna Beach, California.
"When other companies made electric guitars, that is all they did. Leo had the whole concept in mind. He made an amplifier to match. It is, after all electric. This left the other guys with half an egg.
So simple, so complete whether you prefer a Stratocaster or a
Telecaster. If you used a Fender amp, you had the whole deal.
Sturdy, reliable and beautifully made, they remain the standard
that others strived to reach, let alone the BASS!!" Keith
Richards The Rolling Stones Leo Fender The Quiet Giant Heard
Around the World Few names in the world of guitars are more
recognized than Fender. If Leo had stopped after creating the
Telecaster he would still hold a secure place in guitar history.
Not only is he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Fender also
received a Grammy Award, Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and an ACM
award. The recently released book "Leo Fender - The Quiet Giant
Heard Around the World" provides a different perspective on the
music icon as written by his wife Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell
(son of longtime Fender employee - Pete Bell). In the opening
pages, Phyllis explains that most of the book was conceived and
written in Polly's Pies in Fullerton, California not far from the
G&L instruments factory, Leo's last instrument company. Mrs.
Fender and Leo were opposites as he was shy and reserved and she
was outgoing and constantly talking, but that worked for them. She
isn't afraid to share deep dark secrets that the public never knew
about Leo like that fact that as a child he fell off a truck onto a
picket fence, lost his right eye and had a glass eye for the rest
of his life. An Uncle that was also mechanically inclined and had a
shop was the first person to feed Fender's passion for taking apart
things and putting them back together. Most books state that he was
not a musician but Phyllis informs us that as a youth he played
piano, sax, and trumpet. Leo's first music equipment venture had
nothing to do with guitars at all but a local band had asked him to
build them a PA system, which led to creating five more.
Considering how highly Fender's instruments are thought of now,
especially the vintage and pre-CBS models, it is interesting to
know that when he first released them people laughed and scoffed at
his guitars and called them boat paddles! The chapter on Phyllis
and Leo's courtship is very touching and provides us a glimpse of a
lonely and shy inventor that was need of companionship. It is also
amazing that they got married on the actual Love Boat from the TV
show and that Freddie and Tamar Travers played at the wedding!
Similar to geniuses like Steve Jobs of Apple, Leo had a regular
daily routine and didn't care for clothing choices so he limited
them to primarily black pants, belt, socks and white or blue
shirts. It seems that later in life with his marriage to Phyllis
that his stepchildren and grandchildren bettered his life so it
didn't all revolve around his work. Leo was apparently very
patriotic and was proud of the "Made in America" on the headstocks
of his guitars. No guitars were brought home or kept at the Fender
household because Leo wanted them in the hands of musicians and he
knew his next one would be even better. Phyllis and Randall are
both obviously proud of the legacy that Leo left behind. This book
reads more like a personal journal with family photos interspersed
between touching moments. Leo Fender - The Quiet Giant Heard Around
the World, isn't a guitar book but if you're a fan of the man that
invented them it is a must read! Eric Dahl Maverick Magazine
I used to live in Southern California, so I thoroughly enjoyed the
photos and hearing about the Fullerton area. It was a delightful
read and I thought it was a lovely tribute to her husband. I will
be So Cal sometime in the early part of December and then again for
the NAMM show in January, so maybe I can make time to stop by the
Fullerton Library and meet Mrs. Fender. Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant
Heard Around the World is a lovely tribute from Phyllis Fender to
the simple, yet complex man that impacted the world of music. The
reasoning behind the book? In the introduction, Mrs. Fender
explains that there's a plethora of books on the market today
behind the iconic Fender guitar, but she wanted the world to learn
more about the man that behind the guitar. This is her tribute to
the man that amplified a solid body guitar, impacted the sound of
music, and became a household name and iconic figure in the music
industry. Co-written with Randall Bell, Ph.D., he and Mrs. Fender
spent hours at Polly's Pies in Fullerton, California sifting
through documents and research and photos; and made notes of the
memories they both shared from their time spent with Leo Fender.
Dr. Bell grew up in the same neighborhood as the Fenders and his
father was the head of the Research and Development Department, so
he was very familiar with the life and times of Leo Fender. This
treasure of work walks us through Leo Fender's life from his birth
to his ultimate demise in 1991 recounting the memories he shared
with her on his upbringing on a farm; his perseverance through
physical disabilities; his education and relentless pursuit of
gaining knowledge about anything mechanical; to taking a chance at
opening his own radio repair shop after being laid off from several
accounting jobs; becoming the inventor of amps and electric guitars
that would dominate the music industry for years and still does; to
his final days up to his death. His meager beginnings were on a
farm in Fullerton, California where he was born in 1909 to Clarence
Monte Fender and Harriet Elvira Wood. From early on, his chores on
the farm taught him the value of hard work. At the age of eight, he
had an accident where he lost an eye resulting in a glass eye. He
was always tinkering with motors, clocks, old radio parts and
batteries- and anything where a screwdriver was needed to open to
peer inside. He attended public schools in Fullerton and pursued an
accounting degree which would ultimately provide him with the
financial knowledge needed to run an entire business. After
college, Leo worked for several companies in the accounting
department, but was laid off from both because of the depression.
That setback didn't upset Leo as he wasn't happy doing that type of
work. He loved tinkering with and designing electronics. He married
his first wife, Esther, in 1934, and in 1938 he borrowed $600 to
start his own radio repair business in Fullerton. And, so it began.
With his burning desire for electronics and his love of acoustics
and music, he began to design PA systems for local churches and
musicians. Although he didn't play guitar, he loved the way it
sounded, but felt they needed to be heard more in a hall setting as
the sound of the acoustic guitars were drowned out by the horn and
brass instruments of the big bands popular at the time. He
partnered with Doc Kauffman, an inventor, lap steel player, and
employee of Rickenbacker to develop his first solid-body electric
guitar. They began their company K & F Manufacturing Corporation.
And as they say, the rest is history. She goes on to tell the
stories of the trials and errors of designing, patenting, and
selling his guitars. Being a perfectionist, his guitars were made
of high-quality materials with exceptional electronics and garnered
the attention of musicians around the world. The Telecaster was his
first successful guitar and a few of the famous musicians that play
his guitar are Buck Owens, Keith Richards, and Jimmy Page. He
followed up with the Stratocaster which was played by Jimi Hendrix
(Mrs. Fender acknowledged that Leo was not pleased with Jimi's
destruction of his beloved instruments), Elvis Presley (Leo wasn't
particularly fond of his provocative dance style), Stevie Ray
Vaughan, and Eric Clapton just to name a few. Basses and amps were
also designed and perfected. The Fender Musical Instrument
Corporation was formed in 1946, and Leo ultimately sold the company
in 1965 to CBS due to his health. His wife Esther died of lung
cancer in 1979. After his regained his health, he went on to create
the G&L Musical Products in 1979 with George Fullerton. The
company remains in business today carrying on Leo Fender's mission.
Phyllis was introduced to Leo by mutual friends. Two completely
opposite personalities collided creating a new family. Phyllis
describes herself as outgoing, religious, talkative, and loves to
hug. Leo was none of those, but she said he learned to love and
expect those hugs. Never having children with Esther, Phyllis came
with a family of three children and grandchildren, so it was an
instant "big" family for Leo. For as quiet and reserved as he was
on the outside, he loved that family and would even cry when the
grandchildren would have to leave. A very quiet man in the public
eye, he rarely granted interviews nor gave or asked for autographs.
It was apparent he was not in this for the money. A successful CEO
of a major corporation would normally live lavishly in a mansion
behind gated walls, spend thousands of dollars on a suit, drive
expensive cars (if not being chauffeured around), and dine at the
finest restaurants. But not Leo Fender. A night out at a restaurant
was the Sizzler! He lived in a mobile home. He wore black pants,
black shoes and socks, and either a white or blue shirt- complete
with pocket protector and accessories. Phyllis says this is because
he didn't want to take the time to decide what to wear each day. He
had work to do. His mind was constantly working- dreaming up his
next design or how he could improve on current ones. So much so
that at times it would be at the expense of vacations and family
time. But Phyllis understood this man. And, so did those closest to
him. He was known to never raise his voice nor did he ever complain
about his physical disabilities- besides having one glass eye, he
was almost deaf due to an accident at the plant and had to wear
hearing aids. Toward the end of his life, he had Parkinson's and
was unable to swallow on his own, had to be fed through a tube, and
used a wheelchair. Phyllis was always by his side to take care of
him. Retirement was not in his vocabulary as he worked until the
day before he died at the age of 81 on March 21, 1991. It was in
the last years of his life that Leo reconciled his faith in the
church and even shared a special dream he had early on in his life
that would lead him to create his beautiful guitars. This pleased
Phyllis as she was a devout Baptist and actively involved in the
church. He was a smart business man, entrepreneur, inventor,
workaholic, humble, simple, unassuming, world-renowned individual,
husband and father, and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Recipient, but
it was his relentless pursuit of perfection and his deep love for
music (and the angels that brought us that music) and his guitars
that catapulted Fender to its iconic status that lives on today.
Phyllis Fender lovingly refers to Leo Fender throughout the book as
"my Leo." The book is not all about the guitars. It's about Leo
Fender the man. It's easy to read, full of history, and features
black and white photos throughout depicting the Fender Radio Repair
shop in Fullerton, symbols of the Fender name throughout Fullerton,
photos of the Fender plant, of his family and vacations, his office
at the G&L plant which is exactly as he left it, and rock stars
with Fender guitars. It ends with what they refer to as a "driving
tour" of Fender's life showing the schools he attended, the homes
he lived in, and even his favorite "Sizzler" restaurant. Reading
this book, being involved in the music industry, and having lived
in Southern California, I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and history
of Fullerton. I recommend the book for anyone wanting to learn more
about the man behind this iconic brand. Tara Low Guitar Girl
When other companies made electric guitars, that is all they did, but Leo had the whole concept in mind: he made an amplifier to match the guitar. It is, after all, electric! This left the other guys with only half an egg. If you also used a Fender amp, you had the whole deal. So simple, so complete, whether you preferred a Stratocaster or a Telecaster. Sturdy, reliable, and beautifully made, Fender remains the standard that others strive to reach--let alone the bass!
-- KEITH RICHARDS, THE ROLLING STONES
The Leo Fender legacy has continued for decades here at the
G&L factory on Fender Avenue in Fullerton, California, where
Leo's office and laboratory remind us of his genius and passion for
creating tools for musical expression. Though much has been written
about his instruments, amplifiers and the musical revolution they
fostered, precious little has been shared about this complex man
who was brilliant yet humble, competitive yet compassionate,
pragmatic yet spiritual. This book is an absolute must read for any
music fan, a unique vantage point from which we can more richly
understand and appreciate the father of modern music.
-- DAVE MCLAREN, CEO, G&L MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS Leo once told Phyllis that all artists are angels and his job was to give them wings to fly. Leo's vision has guided Fender for nearly 70 years. I think about what Leo said every morning on my way to the office and it makes me smile.
-- ANDY MOONEY, CEO, FENDER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS With unwavering support from Randall Bell, Phyllis Fender's book is a love letter to Leo Fender and to a bygone era. Through funny and intimate stories, she takes us to the man behind the Telecaster, the Stratocaster and the myriad of inventions that shaped music in the last half of the 20th century. Other books cover the inventions - this one dwells on their creator.
-- VALERIE MILANO, EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD TIMES For every young boy like myself or young girl that was influenced by Rock 'n Roll, and maybe were even fortunate to own a Fender Guitar, the story and history of Leo Fender becomes personal. Leo's wife, Phyllis and Dr. Randall Bell reveal his subtle, humble and productive renown. Leo's gift and passion are the perfect story and example of when need meets invention. Rock 'n Roll was born and it needed a parent that would give it a signature sound and instrument. Iconic Fender guitars were born for Rock 'n Roll as much as Rock 'n Roll was born for Fender. As Phyllis Fender says, this is a love story of Leo and his kids and will cause you to fall in love with your Fender guitar again.
-- BILL MARTINEZ, RADIO HOST, BILL MARTINEZ LIVE As a longtime guitar player and the owner of many vintage Fender instruments and amplifiers, I was delighted to learn more about the man behind the legendary company. One of the "friendliest" signatures in the world, comes to life in this amazing behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of Leo Fender.
-- ROB SCHILLING, HOST OF WINA'S THE SCHILLING SHOW The embodiment of the American exceptionalism that won the Cold War and defined the 20th century, Leo Fender's life is essential knowledge for anyone who wishes to understand freedom in the United States, and in the world.
-- JOHN LAFAYETTE RAMEY, MUSICIAN, JOURNALIST Many books have been written about Leo Fender and his marvelous musical inventions, but none have given us a glimpse into Fender's personal life. Phyllis Fender and Randall Bell have done an incredible job of humanizing the genius that was Leo Fender as his legacy continues!
-- ERIC DAHL, FOX 17 ROCK & REVIEW A must read for any person who has ever plugged into an amplifier or dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. We get a unique view under the hood of the selfless utilitarian genius who worked tirelessly around the clock up until his final days to perfect the craft. Phyllis Fender takes us behind the scenes of the man who worked famously behind the scenes for 1 reason alone--to serve the musician. A true underdog story.
-- MATT GIBNEY, THE STRATOSPHERE This short yet captivating book is required reading for any true Fender aficionado. While much has been written about the work of Clarence Leonidas "Leo" Fender, precious little has been written about Leo Fender the man. This book is a game changer.
-- VAUGHN SKOW, VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINE You've heard of the Wizard of Waukesha? How about Leo the Lion from Fullerton? In the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life', George Bailey was shown by Clarence the Angel what things would have looked like had George never been born. I would hate to see what the world would look like without Leo Fender. A one-eyed radio repairman--born in a barn-- transformed the world with one guitar. This is his story captured in an uncommon and absorbing way.
-- BRYAN LOCKE, BOWLING GREEN'S CLASSIC ROCK D93 DAILY NEWS BROADCASTING CO., INC. Phyllis Fender provides a beautifully candid portrait of the humble genius we all know as the inventor of the electric guitar in Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World. From losing an eye in a childhood accident, to achieving fame and fortune through his infamous inventions, Fender's life had plenty of ups and downs. But the one thing that remained the same through all of it was Leo; unfaltering, stoic, and supremely dedicated to his craft.
-- TREVOR ENGLISH, WAREHOUSE GUITAR SPEAKERS Phyllis Fender lovingly refers to Leo Fender throughout the book as "my Leo." The book is not all about the guitars. It's about Leo Fender the man. It's easy to read, full of history, and features black and white photos throughout. Reading this book, being involved in the music industry, and having lived in Southern California, I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and history of Fullerton. I recommend the book for anyone wanting to learn more about the man behind this iconic brand.
-- TARA LOW, GUITAR GIRL MAGAZINE As devotees of both music and technology, it was such a treat to dive into the world of Leo Fender with both Phyllis and Randall. Leo was a visionary who has changed the world of music--and technology--as we know it today. This book took us back in time, and really told stories in such a way that we felt that we were there. Thank you, Phyllis and Randall. We're forever grateful for your storytelling and warm hearts!
-- GEEKS & BEATS Any guitar player who appreciates Fender guitars and amps will appreciate learning more about the unusual man behind them, Leo Fender. This book, by Leo's second wife, offers an admittedly biased view of Leo the single-minded inventor. While short on details about specific instruments and amps, it's long on personal anecdotes and details of his life as only a loving wife can offer.
-- CHRIS BEYTES, BALL PUBLISHING AND PROUD OWNER OF A '57 STRAT REISSUE)