|Body||Alder (basswood on earlier Japanese models, Alder again post mid 1995)|
|Fretboard||Rosewood (maple on models produced in the mid-1970s)|
|Bridge||"Floating" vibrato unit or Tune-o-matic|
|Pickup(s)||Two Single-coil or two Humbuckers|
|(American Vintage Series, as of 2005) three-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black, Ocean Turquoise, Fiesta Red, Surf Green, Ice Blue Metallic (other colors may be available)|
The Fender Jaguar is an electric guitar by Fender Musical Instruments characterized by an offset-waist body, a relatively unusual switching system with two separate circuits for lead and rhythm, and a medium-scale 24" neck. Owing some roots to the Jazzmaster, it was introduced in 1962 as Fender's feature-laden top-of-the-line model, designed to lure players from Gibson. During its initial 13-year production run, the Jaguar did not sell as well as the less expensive Stratocaster and Telecaster, and achieved its most noticeable popularity in the surf music scene. After the Jaguar was taken out of production in 1975, vintage Jaguars became popular first with punk rock players, and then more so during the alternative rock and indie rock movements of the 1980s and 90s. Fender began making a version in Japan in the mid-1980s, and then introduced a USA-made reissue in 1999. Since then, Fender has made a variety of Jaguars in America, Mexico, and China under both the Fender and Squier labels. Original vintage Jaguars sell for many times their original price.
Initial production, 1962-75
Both the Fender company and vintage guitar authorities date the introduction of the Jaguar to 1962. One writer states that the model was introduced in December 1960, but a 1962 ad featuring a Jaguar automobile in the background referred to the "new" Fender Jaguar.
1960s advertising for the Jaguar often had beach themes, underscoring the guitar's appeal to surf musicians. Photographs for the campaign, done by Bob Perine, included photographs of bikini-clad girls on sandy beaches holding Jaguars—many of these featured Perine's daughter and his friends. The guitar was not, however, heavily publicized by surf players themselves, although The Beach Boys' Carl Wilson is featured in one early publicity photo.
The Jaguar never enjoyed the popularity of its Stratocaster and Telecaster siblings. After several upgrades - which included custom finishes, a bound neck, pearloid block inlays, maple fingerboard with black binding, and block inlays - the Jaguar was discontinued in December 1975 after a thirteen-year production run.
Punk and early New Wave rockers such as Tom Verlaine of the band Television (who can be seen playing a Jaguar on a 1978 album cover) adopted the Jaguar for both contrarian and economic reasons; its lack of mainstream use made it both a style statement and less expensive than guitars of comparable quality. In the 1990s the popularity of the Jaguar and Jazzmaster exploded after they were used by guitarists such as John Squire, Kurt Cobain, Kevin Shields, Black Francis, J Mascis, Thurston Moore, and John Frusciante. Despite this, Jaguars still fetch considerably less than Telecasters and Stratocasters of similar vintage.
One of the reasons why the Jaguar was used by indie rock artists is the sonic possibilities offered by the bridge construction. The bridge and vibrato unit of the Jaguar and the Jazzmaster help produce sympathetic resonance since there is a considerable length of string between the bridge and the tailpiece. On top of that, when the strings are strummed behind the bridge, a characteristic chiming sound is created, which has been exploited by artists like Sonic Youth.
Fender reissued the 1962 version of the Jaguar in 1999 as part of its American Vintage Series (lower cost Japanese-made versions have been available since 1986/87, originally made of basswood, now of alder like their American counterparts). Several other variations have been released within the last decade, including several humbucker versions and a Jaguar bass guitar in 2006. Fender of Japan also produces Jaguars for its own domestic market with numerous special editions including an accurate version of Kurt Cobain's modified model. As of 2007, the main difference between Japanese and American models is the electronics - American models use higher quality chrome rather than stainless steel parts and have brass shielding plates installed in the cavities (Japanese guitars made before 96/97 also have brass shielding). American Jaguars have nitrocellulose lacquer. No standard US made AVRI Jaguars sport matching headstocks unlike their vintage counterparts, however many Japanese models do, and also offer some custom colors not found on American models.
Although Fender has many signature Stratocasters and Telecasters designed in conjunction with famous players and the first signature Jazzmasters were introduced in 2007, Kurt Cobain's signature Jaguar was introduced in 2011 (20th anniversary of release of Nirvana's Nevermind album). In the past, a Kurt Cobain replica Jaguar was made for the Japanese domestic market and the Fender Jag-Stang, intended as a Mustang/Jaguar hybrid, was built for Kurt Cobain with his design input.
In May 2008 Fender introduced the Classic Player Series Jaguar and Jaguar HH with dual Enforcer humbuckers, which are made in Mexico and sold for under $1000. Fender have made numerous changes to the classic design, however, replacing the bridge with a Tune-o-matic type, giving it a 9.5" fretboard radius, moving the vibrato unit plate closer to the bridge and installing high output pickups. This Classic Player guitar is also available as a "1966" limited-edition version with a bound neck featuring rectangular block inlays and CBS-style decals as of 2009.
In September 2010 the Black Top Jaguar HH was introduced as part of the Mexico-made Black Top series. Features include a solid alder body with gloss polyester finish, chrome hardware, dual Hot Vintage AlNiCo humbucking pickups with chrome metal covers and black skirted amp knobs. Other refinements include a maple neck with a 9.5”-radius rosewood fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets, 24"-scale length, a stop tailpiece and a three-way toggle switch.
The Jaguar was built from ideas first incorporated in the Jazzmaster, with a similar "offset waist" body and vibrato unit. Unlike the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar was fitted with a shorter 24-inch scale, 22-fret neck and featured smaller single-coil pickups with notched side plates that improved RF shielding, making the Jaguar less prone to interference than the more popular Stratocaster and Telecaster.
The Jaguar and the Jazzmaster also shared a dual-circuit setup, one circuit for lead and another for rhythm, each with separate controls, allowing for two preset tone and volume settings between which the guitarist could rapidly switch. The Jaguar, however, had a more complex lead circuit consisting of three switches and two dials on the lower bout: the first two switches were on/off switches for the neck and bridge pickups, respectively, while the third switch engaged a capacitor that served as a high-pass filter. The rhythm circuit, set into operation when the upper bout switch is flicked upwards, had individual volume and tone rollers but no option to choose between pickups. This rhythm circuit has a bassier, neck-pickup only range.
Another new feature was a spring-loaded rubber string mute, which was flipped upwards from under the strings by a lever. The mute was designed for guitarists who had to palm mute for extended periods, which was difficult or impossible on the Jaguar's floating bridge without knocking the bridge out of position. This feature proved unpopular and became known as a "tone killer"; the cover and its foam were usually quickly removed.
Like the Jazzmaster and Bass VI, the Jaguar has an unusual floating vibrato mechanism that was a complete departure from the "synchronized vibrato" system found on the Stratocaster. Leo Fender believed that this new design was superior to previous designs since the bridge actually moved backwards and forwards along with the strings during vibrato use, thereby maintaining proper intonation even under duress, and preventing strings from binding. This floating bridge concept was also later used on the Fender Mustang. The floating vibrato mechanism also features a built-in lock, which helped the player preserve the guitar's tuning in the event of a string breakage and easing removal of the vibrato arm.
- Fender Blacktop
A Jaguar with high-output humbuckers, alder body, maple neck with rosewood fretboard, 9,5" radius, T.O.M./STP style bridge, volume and tone pots and a three-way Gibson style pickup switch.
- Fender Blacktop Jaguar FSR with Neck Binding
Similar to the regular Blacktop Jaguar with high-output humbuckers, alder body, maple neck with rosewood fretboard, 9,5" radius, T.O.M./STP style bridge, volume and tone pots and a three-way Gibson style pickup switch. This model was manufactured for Guitar Center as a Fender Special Run and came in Blizzard Pearl or Metallic Surf Green. The Blizzard Pearl model featured white neck binding, while the Metallic Surf Green featured mint colored neck binding. The other difference between this and the regular Blacktop models was the presence of flathead screw adjustable Tune-o-matic posts and regular Jaguar knobs.
- Fender Jaguar Special HH
Has the same body shape as the standard Jaguar, but is equipped with two low-output Fender designed Dragster humbucking pickups, a fixed Tune-o-matic bridge (similar to a Gibson Tune-o-matic), a 24" scale length, and chrome knobs. It is made in Japan.
- Fender Jaguar Classic Player Special
This guitar is similar to the Fender Jaguar Special HH, only it has single coil hot rod Fender Jaguar pickups as opposed to the humbuckers on the HH. It is equipped with chrome hardware, and vintage-style vibrato arm on whammy bar, same controls as the bolt-on neck and has plastic control knobs. This guitar is made in Mexico and comes in Candy Apple red and three-color sunburst.
- Fender Jaguar Baritone Special HH
Similar to the Jaguar HH, except that it has fewer switching options, and a longer 27" scale length (as opposed to the normal 24"), and is designed to be tuned a fourth below a standard guitar (B E A D F# B, low to high). This guitar is only available in black with a matching black headstock and chrome hardware to emphasise its unique design.
- Fender Classic Player Jaguar Special HH
A Jaguar modeled after the guitars of players such as Kurt Cobain. This Jaguar has two Fender Enforcer humbuckers which are able to be coil-tapped, a Gibson-style "Tune-O-Matic" bridge, and the vibrato-bar tailpiece has been moved closer to the bridge. It is made in Mexico.
A MIJ combination of a Jaguar and a Fender Bass VI with additional features. It has a fixed bridge, a 28.5" scale length and heavier strings (the same set as the slightly longer Bass VI) to achieve an E-E tuning one octave lower than a standard guitar. Renamed the Fender Jaguar Bass VI Custom (some Fender catalogues omit the word Jaguar) a few months before it was discontinued.
Essentially a Fender Jazz Bass with a Jaguar-shaped body and Jaguar-styled switching options. Features a switchable onboard preamp with bass/treble controls.
- Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar
A Jaguar, with two Duncan Designed humbuckers, basswood body, top-load bridge, and stacked concentric controls. A different model was released in 2012, it is more similar to a standard Fender Jaguar.
- Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar
A "Made in Mexico" Fender Jaguar model; a replica of the 1965 Fender Jaguar that Kurt Cobain used. Equipped with DiMarzio humbuckers, Gotoh tuners, and a Tune-o-matic bridge. It is currently the only active Jaguar that is sold left-handed along with right-handed.
- Fender Modern Player Jaguar
Basically a stripped-down version with two Fender "MP-90" pickups, two Jazz bass knobs, and a Tune-o-matic bridge. It is crafted in China.
- Fender Johnny Marr Signature Jaguar
US made signature model based on Johnny Marr's favourite vintage guitars plus some modifications to make it a more player-friendly guitar. Specs include four-way pickup selector, dual strangle switches on the upper control plate, custom Bare Knuckle pickups, body with extra deep belly cut, nitrocellulose finish and a modified vibrato arm.
- Fender Jaguarillo
As part of "Pawn Shop Series" Fenders released this hybrid model features a traditional Jaguar body with a HSS pickup configuration. All three pickups - two standard Stratocaster® single-coils and an Atomic humbucking bridge pickup - are angled for enhanced bass and treble response. Other unusual touches include one volume knob, one tone knob and a five-way blade pickup switch.
- Fender Reverse Jaguar Bass
Also in the "Pawn Shop Series", this model features a reverse body and reverse headstock, a slim, off-center pickguard, and two humbucking pickups. The control layout consisting of a single three-way pickup toggle switch and one volume and one tone.
- Special Edition Jaguar Thinline
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar, Fender released a semi-hollow version of the Jaguar, with an Ash top and back and two Vintage-style Jaguar single-coil pickups.
- "The Jaguar: From surfboards to shoegaze and beyond, it’s been a remarkable 50-year journey ...". Fender® News. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-24. "the new top-line guitar model that Fender was preparing to unveil in 1962 included a major design departure"
- Meeker, Ward (November 2012). "Fender's Flasy Front-Runner: The Jaguar Turns 50". Vintage Guitar. pp. 42–45.
- "Fender Jaguar Vintage". fenderjaguar.net. Retrieved 2012-09-24. "the new top-line guitar model that Fender was preparing to unveil in 1962 included a major design departure"
- "Fender Vintage Guitars - Collector Information / Collectors Weekly". Collectors Weekly (online version). Market Street Media LLC. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
- Brosnac, Donald. Guitar History Volume #1 - Guitars Made by the Fender Company. Pg. 23. Bold Strummer, 1987
- Jaguar Baritone Special HH - Official manufacturer's specifications.
- The Fender Electric Guitar Book: A Complete History of Fender Instruments. Tony Bacon. Backbeat Books. 3rd edition (September 1, 2007) ISBN 0-87930-897-4
- Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970. Martin Kelly, Terry Foster, Paul Kelly: London & New York: Cassell 2010 ISBN 1-84403-666-9