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I have always admired Leo Fender’s high-end creation. Always wanted a white Jazzmaster ever I since I saw a surf guy playing one. Looked at many vintage ones, but never pulled the trigger. Fender has done a nice accurate recreation with the American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster.

After conquering country, rock and pop players with the Telecaster, Precision Bass and Stratocaster. Fender wanted to expand its market and try to sell their solid body guitars to players that were using high priced hollow body electric guitars. The Jazzmaster, first introduced at the 1958 NAMM Show was Fender’s attempt to attract the Jazz players at the expense of competitors like Gibson. So Fender innovated an offset body that would be more comfortable when sitting as many Jazz guys were known to do when performing. Added a rosewood bound neck, designed new pickups and controls that Fender hoped Jazz players could not resist. The Jazzmaster was designed to be Fender’s top of the line guitar.

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Well the Jazzmaster was a total failure as it did not attract the Jazz players that Fender targeted. Instead Surf and Indy Rock guys picked these up and made sounds Fender never anticipated. In the 1960’s Surf bands like the Beach Boys, The Ventures, The Surfaris and The Fireballs found the Jazzmaster (and Jaguar) pretty great for the look, playability and tremolo system.

The Ventures with Jazzmasters

The Ventures with Jazzmasters

Jazzmaster production ceased in the U.S. around September 1980. After the Jazzmaster was no longer in production you could pick up a vintage ones from pawn shops on the cheap. Indy, Garage and Punk rockers began to play these funky uncommon looking Fender guitars as they were well built, quality guitars that could be purchased at pretty low prices. Jazzmasters were not in demand at the time while Telecasters and Stratocasters were already collectible and out of reach.

Once players like Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Tom Verlaine of Television and Elvis Costello hit it big using the iconic Jazzmaster, vintage prices started soaring. Finding a vintage model in good condition at an affordable price had become pretty hard. Then came the reissues.

Bob Dylan with a Jazzmaster

Bob Dylan with a Jazzmaster

From the mid-1980s the only ‘new’ Fender production versions hailed from Japan. The first American Vintage 1962 Jazzmaster reissues arrived in 1999. In May 2008 Fender introduced the Classic Player Series Jazzmaster, which is made in Mexico. These were not period correct with a 9.5 neck radius, a tune-metic bridge and high output P90s.

Fender had then decided to go back and re-tool to build a Jazzmaster with accurate vintage specs like the old days. Fender and Squier now offer Jazzmasters at different price points with the Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster being the top of the heap. Hugely more vintage-accurate and detailed than the Japanese reissues or the current Classic Player Series offered by Fender.

Started around 2007, Fender has offered several signature Jazzmasters like the J Mascis, Elvis Costello, Lee Ranaldo Thurston Moore, Jim Root and Troy Van Leeuwin signature Jazzmasters. So there are plenty of Jazzmaster choices to be found in production today which shows the model is pretty popular now-a-days.

The Jazzmaster, despite what its name implies is a very versatile all-around guitar that can be used for most any style of music. Great garage rock, surf, jangle-pop, soul, funk, grudge, indie tones and yes you can get some nice Jazz sounds from the neck pickup especially.

There are many offset guitar body loyalists that regard the Jazzmaster as one the best balanced electric guitar although this can be argued. The synchronized floating-tremolo vibrato system is loved or hated depending on opinions. Light gauge strings generally does not do well with this tremolo system. With the right strings and setup, this can be one of the smoothest and most musical vibrato systems around. Fender ships the guitar with 10 gauge string installed, but gives you a nice hint by including flatwound 11 to 50s as part of the case candy.

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The Jazzmaster looks similar to the Fender Jaguar (introduced in 1962), but is quite a bit different in several ways. The Jazzmaster has a full 25.5-inch scale as opposed the Jaguar’s 24-ince scale. The pickups on a Jazzmaster are a bit like a P90 with “pancake winding” that gives them a warmer thicker tone without losing the single coil clarity. The Jaguar is sonically quite different with its smaller single-coil pickups with notched side plates that improves shielding. The Jaguar pickups are a less prone to interference and less noisy than the standard pickups on most Stratocasters and Telecasters.

Fender has based the American Vintage Series Jazzmaster on the actual vintage guitars from their history. The result is a period-correct ’65 Jazzmaster that plays like a modern classic. The American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster is built just like an original… you get an alder body, a larger ’60s C-shaped maple neck, a laminated-rosewood fingerboard, and vintage-style appointments throughout with a duo of specially voiced American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster single-coil pickups.

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Fender restored original tooling dies, voiced new pickups, and even reformulated vintage finishes based on actual vintage examples. The result is a guitar that not only looks accurate — it feels like you’re playing a well-built classic.

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The Jazzmaster’s much maligned bridge is a sore point for some players. Many Jazzmaster owners replace the stock bridge with a Fender Mustang-style, StayTrem or Mastery bridge. Some recommend a Buzz Stop for Jazzmaster and Jaguar roller attachment that provides some down pressure on strings to reduce excess buzzing and rattle that some claim these guitars are prone. Seems your mileage can vary and there are many opinions.

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This one weighs in at a light 7-lbs 7.5-ozs in classic Olympic White. Nice weight for a Jazzmaster. Fender factory fit and finish is very good.

Tech Specs:

  • Body: Alder Solidbody Jazzmaster
  • Body Finish: Fender Flash Coat Lacquer
  • Color: Olympic White
  • Neck: Maple, Bolt-on with Mid ’60s C profile
  • Fingerboard Material: Bound Laminate Rosewood, 7.25″ Radius with Dot inlays
  • Number of Frets: 21 Vintage-style Frets
  • Scale Length: 25.5″
  • Nut Width: 1.650″
  • Nut Material: Bone
  • Bridge/Tailpiece: Vintage Style Floating Tremolo with Tremolo Lock Button
  • Tuners: Fender Deluxe Vintage Style
  • Pickups: Neck and Bridge are Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster
  • Controls: Lead Circuit – Volume, Tone; Rhythm Circuit – Volume, Tone, 3-way Switch, 2-way Tone Switch
  • Strings: Fender USA 250R, (.010-.046) also ships with a set of Flatwounds (.011-.050)
  • Case Included: Fender Hardshell
  • Included Accessories: Vintage ’65 Jazz Strap, Cable, and Cloth; Flatwound String Set, ’60s Jazz Information Kit, Bridge Cover, Vintage and Modern Owner’s Manuals, Saddle Height Wrench

I have done two popular upgrades for Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars. I have ordered a Mastery Bridge and a Staytrem tremolo upgrade. These resolve two issues that are as old as the Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.

A properly setup Jazzmaster or Jaguar can be just fine with the stock tremolo and bridge. So these are not absolutely needed upgrades. They are not inexpensive, but many as well as myself, feel they are well worth the cost. They make a great guitar even better, more playable.

Mastery Bridge

The stock bridge on Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars use threaded saddles. They can tend to rattle. The grooves can allow for inaccurate string spacing. Sometimes when played hard the strings can actually pop out of the groove in the saddle. One solution is to file in a better groove for the string on the threaded saddles. Many players swap out the stock bridge and replace it with a Fender Mustang bridge as it is better designed.

There are a few other bridge replacements available like the Staytrem bridge which is like the Mustang bridge in design.

Fender Mustang bridge

Fender Mustang bridge

Some players like the Buzz Stop used on Jazzmasters or Jaguars. This are said to increase sustain and keep the strings from popping out of the saddles. It is a metal part that screws onto the stock tremolo plate that shortens the string path and increases the angle of the strings. It also tends to add string tension, which I personally don’t care for.

The Buzz Stop

The Buzz Stop

The Mastery bridge is well regarded and used by many players like Nels Cline & Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Elvis Costello, Troy Van Leeuwen, Bill Frisell, Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. It eliminates buzzing and rattles with the stock threaded saddles. The deep grooved design make sure the strings won’t pop out — no matter how hard you play. The Mastery bridge saddles are made of solid brass that is plated with a unique, self-lubricating hard chrome only found on the Mastery bridge.

The Mastery Bridge

The Mastery Bridge

The Mastery bridge requires no modification to the guitar. Can always go back to the stock bridge it desired. According to the maker, the Mastery bridge changes the downward tensions and this can add sustain Instead of around 18 lbs of string tension bearing down on an individual saddle as found on most bridges, our bridge applies over 50 lbs of downward string tension on each saddle. This added tension per saddle forced downward transfers more string-to-body energy, which you’ll hear in your guitar acoustically as well as amplified.

I ordered two Mastery Bridge for Offset guitars to retrofit onto my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar and my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster. Both of these offset guitars share the same bridge. Except, my Fender Jaguar also had a Fender Mute installed under the bridge (which takes a little more work if you want to keep it installed). You can only order these direct from Mastery Bridge website. It took about 2 weeks for them to arrive.

First thing you notice is how much better it appears compared to the stock Fender bridge. Bit heavier and substantial. The install is pretty easy as it comes with detailed instructions and there is a video on the Mastery Bridge website showing the installation on a Fender Jazzmaster.

Mastery Bridge installed on Fender Jazzmaster

Mastery Bridge installed on Fender Jazzmaster

The Mastery Bridge replacement is a nice improvement over the Fender stock bridge that could always be put back on. The Mastery Bridge is a more solid design that does not rattle. The strings will not pop out. I do think it improves the tone and sustain of the guitar.

Staytrem Tremolo Upgrade

The Staytrem tremolo upgrade replaces the stock tremolo arm and collet. The stock collet/bushing tends to allow the tremolo arm to come loose, rattle and even fall on the floor when playing. It rarely stays put and spins freely. Not great if you like the tremolo arm to stay put in the position you leave it in. The reason is that the Fender stock collet/bushing uses slotted “teeth” and some pressure. These are not screw in tremolo arms like a Stratocaster tremolo on most Jazzmasters and Jaguars.

You can try and tighten the “teeth” by unscrewing the tremolo plate and using a pliers to bend them tight a bit, but they tend to loosen again and you need to be care not to break the collet/bushing.

Original stock Fender tremolo arm collet

Original stock Fender tremolo arm collet

The Staytrem uses a an internal nylon sleeve to hold the tremolo arm. No metal to metal contact with the tremolo arm allowing a very smooth rotation that stays where you put it. It is manufactured to last for years. The metal is stainless steel. Best part is it looks like the original tremolo are and collet and no modification to the guitar is required. You can easily put back the original parts at any time if you like.

Staytrem replacement tremolo arm and collet

Staytrem replacement tremolo arm and collet

One thing to note is when you slide in the new tremolo arm that comes with the Staytrem it takes a good push to get it on. If you do not push it down enough the tremolo arm will be too high and not stay put sometimes. Just give it a good push down and it is all set. It is a very nice improvement over the stock Fender parts. The tremolo will have less play and the arm will stay where you put it.

Apparently, Johnny Marr is a fan of this upgrade. This is the same tremolo arm and collet used on his Fender Signature Model Jaguar.

These upgrades are nice improvements.

Fender American Vintage '65 Jazzmaster and Jaguar Guitars

Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster and Jaguar Guitars