The Fender Jaguar is one of the better-known electric guitars in the world of music, although most people don't realize it unless it is pointed out to them. Used by the likes of Kurt Cobain, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, and John Frusciante (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame), and seen and heard often in surf, punk, and various other types of music, the Fender Jaguar is one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll history.
The story begins with the Fender Jazzmaster in the late 1950s, which was almost a complete failure. While the company marketed the Jazzmaster as it's top-of-the-line instrument, the single-coil pickups, which produced the Jazzmaster's signature sound, also produced an unpleasant buzzing sound, all too common in instruments equipped with the single-coil design of the pickups.
But instead of cashing their chips in and going home, Fender went back to work, and in 1962 came out with the Jaguar. This new model was almost a body clone of its Jazzmaster predecessor, but featured a shorter-scale neck (24" from bridge to nut) with 22 frets (as opposed to Fender's usual 21), and a spring-loaded muting device which (perhaps unsurprisingly) automatically muted the strings. The pickup selector toggle switch was replaced by three slider switches, which were mounted on a chrome plate, as were all of the tone and volume controls. The new-model single-coil pickups had a static shield to protect against the godawful hum for which they were notorious, and the Jaguar was the most technologically advanced guitar of its time.
Unfortunately, the complicated design of this guitar made it a bit of a hassle (the bridge is a bitch and a half, as this noder can testify) and therefore undesirable to many musicians, and the guitar was shoved aside by Fender's other guitar models, the famed Stratocaster and the Telecaster. It took little effort to find a vintage Jaguar for an incredibly low price, and even at $200, demand for the Jaguar just wasn't enough, and the Jazzmaster/Jaguar line was discontinued.
But in the late '80s and early '90s, underground music groups like Sonic Youth and NIRVANA were coming onto the scene, and when NIRVANA made their big break, Kurt Cobain's mysterious Fender guitar made heads turn, and demand for the Jaguar exploded. The low-end price for a vintage Jaguar soon rose to $900, and it became nearly impossible to find one without paying an arm and a leg. When Fender brought the Jazz/Jag line back into production in Japan, the guitars were of relatively low quality and nobody bothered with them. Eventually, in 1999 Fender introduced the re-issue of the original 1962 Fender Jaguar as part of their Fender American Vintage series, and their current list price is around $1500 (US$).
It should be noted that the Fender Jaguar, in this user's experience, is a damn fine instrument, and it is nearly guaranteed to get you laid.
- Fender JagStang
- Fender Jazzmaster