Despite designing the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster, and the most influential of all electric guitars, the Stratocaster, and inventing the solid-body electric bass guitar, the Precision bass, Leo Fender was an engineer, not a musician. He had to bring in musicians to properly test the prototypes of his guitars.
Fender’s fascination with electronics started when he was 14 years old. His uncle built a radio from spare parts and the loud music coming from the speaker impressed Leo. Later, repairing radios became a hobby for Fender.
He convinced Clayton Orr “Doc” Kauffman, an inventor and lap steel guitar player, to start “K & F Manufacturing Corporation”, which would design and build electric Hawaiian guitars and amplifiers. Fender began to design steel guitars that rested in the musician’s lap while being played with a metal slide. In 1944, Leo and Doc patented a lap steel guitar that had a special electric pickup also patented by Fender. Fender’s guitar “Broadcaster” was steadily improved over several years to become a Telecaster, which in turn led to “The Esquire Model” in 1950, the first six string one pickup Fender guitar.
Fenders designs helped turn electric guitars, which weren't very popular at the time, into the dominate type of guitar used by performing artists. His Telecaster design particularly has seen minor changes during the decades that followed. The ultimate goal for Fender was to create an electric guitar which would have no feed-back, even in small settings, and which would be easy to play and to tune. The Fender Stratocaster is still the most popular and copied electric guitar in the world.