Music Man was formed in 1974 from another company, Tri-Sonix Inc. (originally formed in 1971), by Forrest White and Tom Walker. Leo Fender (1909-1991) was a silent partner in the venture. He was formally named Music Man’s president when a 10-year exclusion clause after the sale of the Fender brand to CBS in 1965 ended. Leo’s other company, CLF Research (after Clarence Leonidas Fender’s initials), was contracted by Tri-Sonix to make Music Man guitars and basses which started appearing in 1976.

The 2 key instruments in the Music Man line up, the Stingray guitar and bass, had many innovative features including being recognised as the first large scale production guitars and basses to include active electronics. Like Fender, Music Man also manufactured innovative hybrid solid state/valve amplifiers. The instruments and amps had noticeable Fender traits evidencing the direct lineage from Fender to Music Man.

In 1979, relationships between Music Man and CLF Research deteriorated to the point that the two parted company. In 1984, the Music Man business was on the verge of bankruptcy and trademark designs were sold to the massive Ernie Ball corporation. Notably, Sterling Ball had been involved in the design of the original Music Man Stingray Bass. Instruments under the new brand (EBMM – Ernie Ball Music Man) started appearing in 1985. The Music Man Stingray bass survived the transition and remains in successful production today, while the Stingray guitar sadly didn’t endure despite its many merits.

After Music Man was taken over, Leo Fender went on to work with another music company, G&L formed in 1980 (named after George Fullerton and Leo Fender) also producing Fender-like instruments (including ‘improved’ Stratocaster and Telecaster-style guitars retaining some of Leo’s innovative features).

Music Man remains a strong part of the Ernie Ball empire. While pre-Ernie Ball instruments have a mixed reputation with collectors, for enthusiasts, Music Man provides an interesting perspective on a key part of Leo Fender’s long and illustrious career.

Music Man is a relatively young company compared to its main competitors, therefore pre-Ernie Ball vintage guitars, basses and amplifiers have yet to reach high open market prices and therefore represent reasonable value and investment potential.

1976 Music Man Stingray 1
1976 Music Man Stingray 1
1970s Music Man 210 ‘sixty-five’

Music Man’s official website is…

Check out the Music Man page on Wikipedia…

Other famous Music Man instruments include… Sabre, Cutlass, Sterling, Bongo, Sub

Some famous Music Man guitar players include… Albert Lee, Alex James (Blur), Eddie Van Halen, Joe Bonamassa, John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Steve Lukather (Toto), Steve Morse (Deep Purple)

Parent Company… Ernie Ball

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