1976 Music Man Stingray I

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: A logical development path for Leo Fender, build quality, pickups, versatility

Thumbs down: Non-intuitive control layout, active electronics may not be for everyone

Decree: A very cool piece of Leo Fender’s legacy and a sign of intent for the future

Model Description:

When Leo Fender sold his company to CBS Corporation in 1965, he entered into a 10‑year ‘non‑competition’ clause that restricted his business dealings. In 1976, after the clause expired, Leo Fender became president of Music Man and, with his partners Forrest White and Tom Walker, designed and produced guitars, basses and amplifiers in Fullerton, California. Leo Fender applied a long list of innovative ‘improvements’ to what he saw as the next evolution of his past classics. The first Music Man instruments to appear from mid‑1976 were the dual‑pickup Stingray guitar and single‑pickup Stingray bass. While Ovation had used active electronics on their Breadwinner guitars from the early 1970s, Music Man became one of the first large‑scale manufacturers to incorporate on‑board active circuits on their instruments. Like Fender models, the Stingray guitar featured a bolt‑on maple neck and single‑sided headstocks. While electronically innovative, the Stingray was not well received by musicians, who said that it was too bright, loud and clean. However, this is possibly because guitarists didn’t know how to get the most from the new instruments. Some also didn’t take to the guitar’s quasi Fender‑like aesthetic. Internal politics at Music Man didn’t help and The Stingray guitar faded into obscurity from about 1979, basically disappeared by 1982 and, unlike the Stingray bass, it did not survive when Music Man was taken over by Ernie Ball in 1985. Music Man remains an active part of the massive Ernie Ball empire and an updated version of the Stingray guitar was given a new lease of life in the 2010s.

Guitar Description:

For your consideration, a rare, completely original Music Man Stingray I, a wonderful example from the early days of the company when the Music Man brand was very cool. This particular Stingray I is one of the first 500 made in 1976 with the white scratchplate and the retro control knobs. The lovely ash wood grain on this guitar is quite something. The dual humbucking pickups and active electronics provide for a very flexible and adaptable instrument with a wide range of sounds available, as long as you remember that this isn’t a normal passive guitar. Playability and ergonomics are fine and well up with anything that Fender was producing at the time, although the rotary switch takes a little getting used to. The ‘I’ in the model’s name simply refers to the fingerboard radius – the ‘I’ has a modern flatter profile and the ‘II’ had a more vintage‑style curved shape. Call me weird if you want but I personally really like the visual style, as well as the sound. For those in the know, though, this is a really great axe and a hugely underrated hidden gem of a guitar. I bought the Stingray from Ross Godfrey, guitarist with and co-founder of English trip hop band Morcheeba who bought it from the original owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and brought it back to the UK. NB. This guitar comes with signed provenance, courtesy of Mr Godfrey.


  • Made in the U.S.A. in c.1976
  • Ash body with original polyester natural finish
  • Maple bolt-on neck (3‑bolt ‘adjustable’) with mahogany ‘skunk stripe’
  • Maple fingerboard with 22 frets and black dot markers
  • Scale length 25½” (647mm)
  • Original Music Man (by Schaller) tuners
  • Original mix of chrome and nickel plated hardware
  • Original 3‑ply white scratchplate with chrome control plate
  • Original twin humbucking pickups
  • Original active electronics, pots, knobs, switches and jack socket
  • Original hardtail bridge assembly with through body stringing
  • Vintage hard shell case


  • Joe Bonamassa
  • John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  • Albert Lee
  • Steve Lukather (Toto)
  • Eddie Van Halen

Detail Gallery:

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