It wouldn’t be unfair to say that, over the years, Fender has struggled to find their footing in the pedal market. That’s not to say their record is absent or undecorated.
They’ve had their share of hit singles, like the Fender Blender, for example, which offered the flash of something original following a decade of fuzz in the 1960s. This angry little box saw multiple re-releases and ascended to the indie rock pedal pantheon. In a similar vein, Fender attempted a twofer in the 1970s with the Fuzz-Wah pedal. This relic is pretty much as it sounds and was too re-released in their Classics Series.
Fender’s also been successful in collaborative efforts. Tag teams with Boss in the “Legend Series” are a case in point. The Boss FDR-1 (modelled after a 1965 Reverb Deluxe) and Boss FBM-1 (modelled after a 1959 Bassman) are still popular on the used market.
Until last month, Fender’s current offering of pedals was limited to a small lineup of micro pedals and a few items best characterized as economical gateways into the pedal-verse. Then NAMM 2018 happened where the world met Stan Cotey, the author of the latest chapter in Fender’s stompbox story.
Cotey’s bio in the engineering world spans twenty-five years in pro audio and twelve spent in Fender’s amp department cultivating iconic yet modern Fender tones for the likes of Eric Clapton and The Edge. When Fender was exploring how to make its latest foray into the pedal game, Stan volunteered a few prototype designs he had been tinkering with. These formed the basis of the new line.
The idea was to go all in but to build from the ground up. No once-gently-over refresh to previous circuits, no flashy redesigned chassis with the same old product under the hood. A blank page, an empty breadboard, that’s where it all began. As Cotey shared in a recent video with Fender, “There’s a lot of clones in the world and I just didn’t have any desire to do that.” I just love the idea of starting from a blank sheet.”
The freedom to start afresh also meant the ability to prioritize design features usually typical of only boutique makers. As Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show commented in a recent episode covering the NAMM 2018 show, “What’s interesting about those Fender pedals is that, with features like analog dry through, even including a buffer at all in a pedal line, kind of indicates that they’re serious about pedals…They’re a serious entry into the pedal market for sensible money.”
If there are two things that come to mind when I think of Fender gear, its reliability and originality. With Cotey’s designs, Fender’s found a way to stay true to these roots yet press in an entirely new direction. The story continues…