Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fender Lead II

I was racking my brain trying to think of other guitars that I used to have and, DOH!, how about the very first electric guitar I ever owned? In the early '80s I lived in the small town of Enid, OK for a couple of years. I have documented this previously a number of time (most lovingly here), so I'll spare you the details of most of it. However, the important thing is that my good friend Russ tells me one day that he's got an electric guitar and amp that he'd like to sell and, hey, would I be interested? I had only owned an acoustic up to that point and thought that sounded like a darn fine idea. I will tell the story of the amp next time, but just to whet your whistle, it was a Hiwatt head with a very cool Musicman cabinet. I had NO idea what I had.

Anyway, the guitar turned out to be a Fender Lead II. This was the late '70s, early '80s student model put out by Fender at that time and was very much in the image of a Strat. The one I had was all black with a black pickguard, had two single coils, a fixed bridge, and was maybe ever so slightly smaller than a regular Strat. The guitar actually played really well from what I remember and was a sweet guitar. I looked them up on eBay today to see what was for sale and there is one pretty much just like it for $350. I checked the items already sold and they seem to sell for $250-350 for the most part. People have them advertised for more, but that doesn't mean a whole hill of beans.

As my Great Uncle Willie used to say, "It ain't what it's worth, it's what it brings."

By the way, that old redneck saying is included in my book...yes I'm sort of an author..."Redneck Words Of Wisdom," a collection of real redneck sayings that real rednecks really say. How do I know? My wife is from South Carolina. 'Nuff said. Anyway, click here to check it out and maybe even get a copy for someone for Christmas. Or just to read on the toilet.

Back to the guitar. This is the official description: Lead II, 1979-1982: Two specially designed X-1 single coil pickups, one at the neck, and the other at the bridge. The X-1 pickup was also used in the bridge position on the "Strat" and the "Dan Smith Stratocaster" models. 3 position pickup selector switch (neck, neck and bridge, bridge), 2 position phase shift switch (in phase, out of phase) which operates only when both pickups are selected (middle position). Master Volume and Tone Control.

So what the heck happened to the Lead II? If you are old, like me, you might just remember when Fostex came out with the very first 4-track cassette recorder. I remember seeing an ad in a guitar magazine for one and I couldn't believe it. How was I going to get one? HAD TO HAVE IT. I drove on over to Stillwater, OK (home of the Oklahoma State Cowboys) to a music store that had one. These Fostex recorders were expensive. The X-15 if I remember correctly. I told the guy I had to get one and asked if they took trade-ins. He said they did and I carted in the Hiwatt head, the Musicman cabinet and the Fender Lead II in it's original black tolex case and asked if they would trade straight up. The guy knew a sucker when he saw one and told me I'd have to pay the tax. I did and walked out with a little box that fit in the front seat rather than a carload of gear that I'd arrived with.

Now he may have gotten the better of the deal in retrospect, but that little 4-track recorder put me on a path of songwriting and home recording that I continue on today. In the meantime I've bought and sold dozens of guitars and amps. So, I'd have to say it was well worth the trade in terms of what was right for me. HOWEVER, now that I look at these photos of the Lead II, I really want one. Quite a bit. Very cool guitar. I just got my Christmas bonus at work and depending on how I ration it out, I might just have to consider a Lead II.
Hey, one more thing...I got the photos of the Fender Lead II at this fan site. There is a TON of information about the Lead series guitars there and you should check it out.


G L Wilson said...

I absolutlely had to have a Fostex X15 when they first came out too.

I've still got mine, although I couldn't tell you when I last used it.

Anonymous said...

This was like I was reading something I might have written... Not only do I still have the Fender Lead II that I bought new, I still have my Fostex X15. I even have the orange balloon like footpedals that you could use to stop and start the recordings. It's been over 20 years since I've used this machine but it still sits proudly with all my old musical gear.


Martin Stender said...

Hi there

I did almost the same.
Bought a new Lead II in '80 and sold it a few years after to get a Kramer with aluminum neck! Stoooopid :-)

Anyway, I have two Lead II's now - one translucent red w mable fingerboard and one I'm refinishing as we speak - rosewood fingerboard on that one...
The stock pickup's are very dull sounding, so I'm thinking about a pair of mini-humbuckers on the refinished one ...
The red one stays totally original, of course :-I

russ.johnson said...

I bought a brand new red Lead II back in 1981 with my first few weeks wages as a 16 year old apprentice. It was either that or a red Strat for just a little more than I could afford, but because I wanted to buy something there and then I came home with the Lead II. Being a bassist, I never really played it much, just for a bit of home recording, and spent many years wishing I'd waited that bit longer and bought the Strat instead. Funny what the passage of time does to you, though. I still have the Lead II and have reacquainted myself with it. Being older and wiser now, I realise what a little gem I have. It's something a bit different, not a "run of the mill" Strat (sorry, sisn't mean to offend!). I'm now very glad I bought it, and there's no way I'm parting with it now!

russ.johnson said...

The guitar I regret parting with was a black Hohner Jack bass. Lovely guitar which I sold to a friend (bassist with Psychastorm, if anyone remembers them). Now I just want it, or one like it, back. If you're out there reading this, Chris ...

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

I just read your comment and then 5 minutes later saw this on Craigslist in San Diego:


Anonymous said...

My first guitar was a Fender Lead II. Red, maple fretboard. To this day i regret letting her go. I had her customized a couple years after i bought her: a British flag pickguard from WD, and a DiMarzio humbucker in the bridge position. Oh how i would love to have her back! If anyone has seen her (from what i recall i traded her at a music store in Salisbury, Maryland, way back in the very late '80's), give me a shout: intrepidremnant@hotmail.com.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, a friend of mine offered to lend me his gear just to noodle around with. An unidentified twin amp with some preetty decent 12 jensens in it, about five different stomp boxes, (chorus, flanger overdrive, phase shift, and maybe an equalizer) and a 1981 Gibson SG. Now I know some people bemoan the state of early 80's Gibsons, but this was a wonderful machine. Heavy, but super sweet to play. So after about a month he offers to sell it to me. I told him I'd have to think about it for a bit. lateron, I decide to move out of the midwest and back to the east coast so he said "I'll sell you the whole thing for $150. I guess I was particularly stupid that week because I told him that I had to keep the money to move. I should have said screw the money, work another week and buy the gear. That was 20 years ago and I've been kicking myself ever since. Sometimes trying to be responsible is just dumb.