Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Fender Performer

There was a time in the history of Fender Guitars and Amplifiers when there was no domestic manufacturing.

In 1985 CBS owned Fender Electric Musical Instrument Company was in negotiations with a group lead by Bill Schultz to purchase Fender.  The deal went through and thus the Fender Musical Instrument Company (FMIC) was started.  However there would not be a manufacturing facility to later that same year.  Fender guitars were all manufactured in Japan during this period, including the Fender Performer.

It is believed this guitar was produced from leftover scap wood from Japanese manufactured Fender Stratocasters. The ever thrifty Leo Fender would have loved this idea.

The Performer was designed by John Page. Page worked for CBS Fender and the privately owned FMIC in their R and D department for many years and is responsible for other Fender guitar and bass designs.

Page was the force behind Fender’s Custom Shop when FMIC took over the company. Page states this guitar was a predecessor to the Fender Elite Jazz Bass.

At the time Fender was competing with Kramer, Jackson and B.C. Rich and Fenders Teles and Strats were considered pretty conservative.

Page came up with this design in 1983 as Fender’s entry into the market. He also states the peghead he designed was more Fender-like, however was changed during the manufacturing process.

The guitar’s double cutaway horns are reminiscent of a Stratocaster, but more pronounced. The quality of this instrument is excellent. The headstock is not typical of Fender as it is triangular, similar to the Fender Swinger, (which also was made of leftover wood). The tuning gears were enclosed. It came with a locking nut that clamps the strings behind the plastic nut. The guitar had a floating tremolo System with Fender style adjustable bridge saddles.

The 24 fret micro-tilt neck is maple with a rosewood fretboard. The knob on the pickguard have inset rubber grips for easy grasping. The jack socket is an improvement over that found on most Fender guitars.

The guitar came with a metallic finished paint job. The variety of colours could be burgundy mist, candy green, white or sun-burst (which was non-metallic).

The guitars two humbucking pickups both were set at a reversed angle than what one would find on a Stratocaster or Telecaster. The coils were offset to keep in line with the strings and potted in epoxy, which meant you better like these pickups, because they could not be replaced.

The controls featured a coil-tap switch to provide a sweet humbucking sound or a brighter single coil tone.

The tone knob was unique in that it used a stacked potentiometer with 250k and 1M capacitors with a center detent.

The bass version of the Fender Performer also had a two octave, micro-tilt adjustable neck. Due to this, light gauge strings were suggested. The neck was slim and the action was set low.

The Bass pickups were parallel to the strings. It came with the same accouterments's as the guitar, although the pick-ups were similar to the single coil versions of those on a Mustang Bass. However they were wound tighter for more punch.

The bass guitar came with two volume knobs and a single tone knob.

I believe Fender learned a valuable lesson from making these guitars and several others; stick to making great guitars, such as the Strats, Teles and P and J Basses that we all know and love.


Mr Noble said...

the upper horn looks like parker fly guitar

Richard said...

I own one of these. It's a beauty to play and has a unique sound. At jam sessions it nearly always attracts the attention of other players most of whom have never seen one before. The big unanswered questions is, how many were made?

Itz Me Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Itz Me Dave said...

I own a Perfomer bass in white, bought it new in '85 and loved it ever since!

iohntrem said...

I read that the body shape was based on the flat shape of the back of a strat body.

kvs said...

Yes, I bought one of these when they came out in 85. They were actually inexpensive at the time, came in a cardboard box. I still have the owner manual that comes with it. Incredible variations in sound.

sumnerscott said...

I have two Performer basses, beautiful in midnight blue, I had the frets pulled and wood inlays put in. Then I bought a second one in Pearl color. The pearl color has yellowed with age. I bought the first on in 1985, after a prior bass was stolen, and the second on in probably 1987, and there were no others to be found. I recently swapped the necks. The scale is a full two octaves, but the fretboard width is matched with the Steinberger basses of that era, and is far narrower than the standard basses then or now. Great for smaller-handed players, fast action, good tone. They are somewhat collectible now. I ditched the stock pickups and white pick guards, and had black pick guards and active EMG pickups installed on both basses, adding a ton of punch and growl with adequate gain.

Aldebarán said...

Hi. I am mexican. I have a Fender Performer Guitar. It´s great.

sumnerscott said...

When I was looking to adjust the setup on my original Performers (one fretted, one fretless), I found a guitar-maker in Las Vegas, Roman Guitars, that makes a hand-made custom Performer model. I bought it, and have been playing it for over half a year now. Amazing bass. I recommend Performer fans check it out:

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Unknown said...

Someone has the owner manual in PDF of this pear to share with us?