Vintage guitar of the week #16 - 1959 Fender Jazzmaster

Time to talk about an old Jazzmaster

Concerning a real-deal 1959 Fender Jazzmaster, you're probably thinking, "there is no way a Fender made in '59 can look good today." With a Jazzmaster, it's actually routine that yes, most do in fact still look (and perform) very nicely, and I'll tell you exactly why.

The Jazzmaster way back in the day was Fender's flagship guitar. It was the guitar built to compete with other jazz electrics of the time, and probably had a price tag to match. Not too many people cared for it, but was picked up a few years later in the early '60s by the kids who were making this newfangled noise called surf music.

Really, really old Jazzmasters are usually in really, really good condition. Something you have to remember is that with the exception of surf music players and a very small selection of grunge players in the '90s, nobody wanted this guitar. People saw the crazy switchgear all over it, "weird" vibrato system, "odd" shape and wanting nothing to do with it.

There were several guys who actually bought a Jazzmaster in the '50s and early '60s, only to pluck around on them only a few times, then put in a case and not touch the guitar for decades.

Prior to 2012 when Squier put out the Vintage Modified Jazzmaster (I'm on my second one currently,) I never even touched one of these guitars. The only time I ever saw one was in a guitar store waaaaay in the back where nobody could see. This was back in my teens in the '90s. I barely knew anything about guitars back then, but I do remember seeing that "weird" guitar.

Is it worth it to buy a 57-year-old electric guitar?

I can't say for sure. But what I can say is that out of all vintage Fender electrics, a Jazzmaster is the one I would trust to actually still work like it should today.

While 1959 isn't the oldest Jazzmaster (that would be 1958,) the thing to know about '50s and '60s Jazzmaster guitars is that Fender put a lot of effort into building them. Again, remember that this was Fender's flagship guitar at the time. This was supposed to be a premium jazz instrument and the best electric guitar they could possibly make. Combine that with the fact that many '50s Jazzmasters even to this day were barely played, and that's why I'd trust one over other Fender electrics of the time.

I'll put it another way. The Jazzmaster is the only '50s Fender electric I'd even consider touching from that era. 1958 Strat electronics only had 3-way switching, and I've explained before why I can't stand vintage Tele wiring. The Jazzmaster however pretty much has the exact same electronics today as it did way back in '58.

There are a lot of players who dream about owning a '50s era Fender. I'm not one of them, but if I were, functionality of the instrument counts a lot with me. I know vintage Jazzmaster wiring would agree with me, but vintage Strat and Tele wiring absolutely would not.

If I ever do have the disposable cash to pick up a real-deal vintage Jazzmaster, I'd have to weigh that decision carefully, because in all honesty, I could get a new one built by Fender Custom Shop for the same price (probably for a few thousand less, actually.) This ticks off collectors when I say this, but I don't care because I'm a player and not a collector. Guitars aren't "investments" to me. I buy them to play and not to sit in a case in the closet for 20 years.

Anyway, in the end, yes the '59 Jazzmaster would be a solid purchase for a collector.

Published 2015 Oct 24