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The Strings that Broke the Brand: The Squier Saga

Today, Squier is the bold, brilliant, bargain younger brother of Fender. While the tales of these two brands has blended for decades, their stories began as separate entities with one brand building instruments, the other providing strings. 

It’s no secret that by the early 1950s, music was changing fast and not least due to the new breed of instruments in the hands of players across genres. Then as now, Fender was one of the major movers and innovators in solid-body electric guitars. Well before Fender and far before the electric guitar, however, the seeds of what would become Squier were sewn.

Squier is a heritage brand with roots in the violin building industry that go back to the late 1800s. Jerome Bonaparte (“J.B”) Squier and his son Victor set up shop in Boston that focused on violin repair and building. To this day their builds are remembered for their exceptional quality. For all the aspects of the design and craftsmanship they oversaw, one key aspect of their violins was outsourced: the strings. Around this time, violin strings were almost universally imported from Europe, the home of classical music.

As the business grew, changed, and retuned to Battle Creek, Michigan where the family started, Victor began making hand-wound violin strings in 1900. The business and demand exploded so much so that their strings won accolades well beyond violin players. In short order, Squier became the brand of choice for guitarists. 

As Leo Fender was building the Fender brand of electric instruments in southern California, Squier’s quality and reliable strings were an easy pick (pun intended). Starting in 1963, the relationship was formalized and Squier became the official string manufacturer for Fender. Apparently, the match was spot on and by 1965 Fender acquired the Squier brand. If you’re up on your Fender history, you know this was a pivotal year for another type of acquisition. Within months of Squier coming under the umbrella of Fender, Fender itself was acquired by CBS. With CBS shuffling product lines, in short order the Squier name was retired and the company’s strings were developed in house now under the Fender name. 

It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the Squier brand was resurrected as Fender set its sights on a new market and challenge. In an era where made in Japan models cloning classic American designs were shifting the orbit of the guitar market, one of Fender’s strategies for staying relevant was launching their own Japanese made models in an economical price bracket. Under the reimagined brand, the Squier JV (“Japanese Made”) line of guitars rose to quick fame in Japan and sent ripples even as far as the American market. To meet public demand, by the mid-1980s Fender imported Squier guitars stateside and they’ve been here ever since. To say the “rest is history” is at once cliché and entirely accurate. Squier is now a staple brand around the world and offers a blend of designs that range from traditional throwbacks to outside the box innovations. Not bad for a brand that started off focusing just on the strings!

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One thought on “The Strings that Broke the Brand: The Squier Saga

  • February 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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    there’s a little more to the Squier story for sure, prolly only had so many words however the earliest Squiers from Japan rivaled those made in the USA.. in fact when the US plant got them to Fender USA they were alarmed at the quality, fit and finish, not to mention playability and tone.. and that quality literally inspired the Custom Shop and Dan Smith ran with it.. that’s a whole story there that eventually leads to Suhr Guitars..

    its been said Dan Smith literally shut the plant down here in the USA to achieve the same quality of the Japanese Squiers which promoted a plant move and the workers acquiring Fender back from CBS a few years later in 85, so the Japanese quality inspired a total plant shift seeking the same quality, Fenders custom shop, a plant move and plant acquisition from CBS, and Surh guitars, perhaps not immediate and directly but those guitars from Japan certainly created a stir that made the USA realize hey, we can do better, much better..

    and so the story goes.. 🙂

    also today Squier has plants in Mexico, Korea, Indonesia and China, Japan is no longer involved in Squier however their early 80’s are still talk of the town with their JV’s, Sq’s and E’s being formidable to any Fender Standard ever made IMHO.. Strats, Teles, Jazzmasters, Jazz basses, and the P-Bass..

    one has to only get one in his or her mitts to truly understand the quality and playability of a Japanese Squier, specially the early 80’s that have American sourced components..

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