Hey Guys, it’s Brian here with World Music Supply and I’m here to talk to you about the new line of Fender Pawnshop Guitars. By now we’re all at least semi-familiar with this new line of Fender guitars, but if you aren’t, let me fill you in. The Pawnshop line is in Fender’s own words are “guitars that never were but should have been.” They’re patterned after some of the more eccentric models that were produced during the latter years of Pre-CBS Fender, when they were coming out with models like the electric XII, the Musiclander, the Marauder, the Bass VI and let’s not forget the Starcaster or the Coronado.
In truth though, the first line of these guitars, the 51 and the 72 are based off of the unexpectedly successful Squier 51, a strange Tele, Strat hybrid that looked like an old 51 P bass scaled down to a normal guitar size. I personally loved the Squier version, with its weird switching system, and no tone control. The fender model though? It took everything I loved about the Squier and supersized it. Fender gave it a hotter humbucker in the bridge, a bolder sounding neck pickup, and a much cleaner, and more intuitive switching system, and don’t even get me started on the 72. I am in love with that guitar, and if they offered it in fiesta red, I would pick one up in a heartbeat….but I digress. Now, Fender has created a new set of wild, retro looking guitars. The Pawn Shop line now includes the Offset Special, the Jaguarillo, a reverse Jaguar bass, and the Mustang Special.
Let’s start first with the Offset Special, the strange, mutant love child of a Fender Jazzmaster, and what looks like a Stratocaster. You want a weird and quirky guitar? This guitar has it in spades. The Jazzmaster has always been one of my favorite guitars, made as an attempt by Mr. Leo Fender to try and diversify his company away from making “country” guitars, he made what he figured jazz guitarists would love, big, full sounding pickups, a floating tremolo, and a circuit just for the neck pickup, so you could get two different flavors of smooth tone. Problem was…jazz guitarists tend to be a pretty conservative bunch, and they didn’t want any part of it.
The only people to give the model recognition were surf guitarists during the 60’s, but they soon migrated back to their Stratocasters with the success of bands like The Shadows and Dick Dale, and when Fender came out with the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster fell into disuse and mediocrity. It wasn’t until bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth got their hands on these old relics that Leo had designed for jazz guitarists, now found acceptances by post rockers and grunge players alike. So why did I go through this short history lesson on the Jazzmaster? Well I want to point out just how weird the Offset Special is. They took most of the hardware from the Jazzmaster, one of their least successful guitars of all time, and mated it with the Stratocaster, arguably one of their finest guitars of all time, and what do we end up with? Something amazing, a guitar with all the smooth tone and class of a Jazzmaster, and all the power and playability of a Strat. So in short, what do you get with the Offset Special? We get a hollow, offset, Strat style body, with big steel guitar style pickups, a floating tremolo, and a 21 fret Strat style neck, and the sounds of this thing is huge! It’s like a cross between a Gretch Country Gentleman, and a Jazzmaster. Thanks to the hollow body, and the shorter distance from the tremolo to the bridge, the Offset Special defiantly sounds bigger then a normal Jazzmaster, a bit fuller, a bit rounder, and the floating trem lends itself well to smooth jazzy bends. I love the period correct style of the guitar, what with it looking like a cross between a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, and a 72 Tele, the Offset Special has something for everybody. I give it an 8 out of 10 stars, because even though it does have a very distinct tone thanks to the Jazzmaster style pickups which are well suited to country, jazz and certain brands of alternative rock, that same distinctive tone that gives it that signature shimmer and spank, might not lend themselves to heavier styles of music as well.
Next up is the Jaguarillo, my personal favorite of the new line up, because its just one of those “really why didn’t they do that sooner?” kind of designs. I’ve seen people do this with Jaguars for years, take out bridge pickup and replace it with a humbucker. By itself that would be enough to make the Jaguarillo a great little guitar, but pair that with a much simpler switching system and a slanted HSS configuration, and you have one monster of a guitar. The Jazzmaster style trem is well suited to bigsby style flutter, or some light vibrato. The HSS configuration is slanted, meaning it makes the low strings sound a little fatter, and the high strings a tiny bit brighter, so it sounds like a Strat, just with a little wider range of tones. Lastly, something about the offset pickups and the simplified control scheme, just makes this guitar look so, so good. Out of the new pawnshop line up, I like the Jaguarillo the best, especially in the faded sonic blue, easily 9 out of 10 stars, simply because some people might have reservations about buying a guitar with slanted pickups. Regardless, the Jaguarillo looks and sounds amazing!
Then, rounding out the Pawnshop Guitar line is the Mustang Special. Now this is something I’ve been hoping fender would do for a long time, introduce a nice small guitar again. Sure I loved the old Mustang, but that tremolo unit on it always frustrated me, sure it worked, but it was just so tedious to maintain, and though I love the sound of fender single-coils, on an instrument this small, they just sounded a tad too bright even for my tastes. So the addition of a good hardtail bridge and some nice fender full-range humbuckers is just what this guitar deserves. The Mustang style switching system is still there, but now with the more powerful pickups, its given a whole new twist of being able to do strange coil tapping, where you can either have the back, or front pickup of the humbucker. Overall I give it a 9 out of 10, because even though I love it, I’m sure a Fender purist is going to be mad that the mustang trem and phase switching isn’t there. This guitar sounds amazing though, purists aside, and I’m glad that Fender finally has a good sounding, and good looking little guitar again, and at an affordable price.
Now a strange turn for the line is the more modern flavor of the new Reverse Jaguar Bass. Featuring a Fender high mass modern bridge, a bigblock humbucker in the neck, a reverse jaguar special humbucker in the bridge, and a short-ish scale 32” neck with a reverse headstock and trust me, this thing sounds massive. I like the shorter scale length, but I also like that they didn’t go as low as 30” like fender used to with the mustang basses, which always sounded a little dark to me. This thing though? It’s the perfect place between too dark and too bright, with more then enough power on tap for even the most modern bass players. The reverse design is something I love too, it reminds me of old Mosrite guitars, and basses from the 70’s All in all, this bass is a nice addition to the new line up that is the Fender Jaguar bass range. Easily the best idea fender has had in a while. I easily give the Fender Reverse Jaguar 10 out of 10 stars, because even a Fender purist can’t get mad, because the jaguar line is such a new line of basses. Now if only they would make a guitar version of a reverse jaguar, maybe with some modern touches as well? Some high output humbuckers and a Floyd Rose anybody?
At the end of the day, I like the Pawnshop line up, probably because I love all those weird Fenders from back when Leo ran the show, and let’s be honest, these guitars are beautiful. So what if they don’t look like your standard Strat or Tele, if you get one of these, you will have a weird little gem of a guitar that is quirky and unique, with all the spank and sparkle that you have come to expect from Fender. So how about you go on over to Worldmusicsupply.com, find something unique, and start standing out from the crowd, go get yourself a Fender Pawnshop guitar today!