Imagine a part of Orange County style captured in a guitar.
Mark Kendrick, a former Huntington Beach resident and former master builder at the Fender Custom Shop, did just that by designing a custom Fender Stratocaster for the shop’s 30th anniversary.
“Every bit of it [the guitar] is Orange County influenced, even the Fender influence feeding off itself,” said Kendrick, who has worked with musicians such as Merle Haggard, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.
The golden teal guitar is inspired by the “Cholo low-rider culture” out of Santa Ana during the ’70s, the product description said, and the Stratocaster features nickel and chrome hardware with vintage-style staggered tuning machines and an American Vintage Synchronized Tremolo bridge.
The instrument costs $7,450 and is considered one of the most exclusive collections in the shop’s history, as only 30 units of each design will be built at Fender Custom Shop in Corona and released throughout 2017 at select dealers.
The idea for the anniversary was to have eight of the original founders design their own signature guitar, said Mike Lewis, Fender vice president of product development.
A 10-minute documentary follows the story of the trailblazing luthiers — Kendrick, Michael Stevens, John Page, George Blanda, Fred Stuart, J.W. Black, Alan Hamel and Gene Baker — and includes footage of each builder in his home workshop.
Kendrick said he hesitated in the beginning to participate in the project because he didn’t want to create something that was going to have to go to a committee and be dismantled, but Lewis told him he had the freedom to do as he chose.
“We're all about individual creativity and we wanted to capture the essence of each founding builder,” Lewis said.
Kendrick said the artwork for his guitar was done in 48 hours. His guitar was influenced by many things, such as the Chicano lowriders, with their sparkle paint and henna, which inspired the engraving on the guitar plate.
“I wanted it to be kind of seamless, where you pick it up and know where everything is going to be,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick said he has been involved with Fender for more of his life than he hasn't been involved with it.
In 1991, he was hired to paint for the Fender Custom Shop and went on to be a builder a year later. While at the Custom Shop, he painted and built guitars while also collaborating in artist relations and research and development.
During his 25 years at the Custom Shop, he worked on the “Gold Leaf” Stratocaster for Eric Clapton.
Though Kendrick got his first guitar at age 5, his first real guitars were at age 9 and both were made by Fender.
Jason Smith, a Fender Custom Shop master builder, has known Kendrick for almost 23 years.
“He tried to incorporate the past as well as where he is in his present life into the guitar,” Smith said.
Though most of the original guitar builders have left, Kendrick said the magic is still there.
Each founder’s guitar design is a pure reflection of each designer’s style, Lewis said.
“Mark’s is no exception — it’s unmistakable,” Lewis said.
“One day, one of the other founding master builders came in to consult on his project. Having not seen any of the other prototypes, he happened to see Mark’s laying on a workbench,” Lewis said. “He just pointed at it and said ‘That’s Mark Kendrick right there.’ ”
For more information: fendercustomshop.com/features/founders-design.
JENNIFER LANE is a contributor to Times Community News.