Phyllis Fender

After reading several publications on Leo Fender’s career, it was a refreshing treat to hear about the man behind the workbench when Mrs. Phyllis Fender sat down for her NAMM Oral History interview in 2003. She recalled her late husband’s passion for his work and how he would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. She spoke of their marriage, his love of ice cream, and the illness that took him from her in 1991. Phyllis was the proud keeper of his flame, providing presentations about him whenever she was asked and standing for hours at a time at The NAMM Show answering questions from those who admired her husband’s contributions to music.

When she passed away on July 22, 2020, in her home in Fullerton, California, not far from the factory where her late husband made his famous electric guitars, it was a time of reflection for me.

I admired her spirit and her dedication towards others. Over the years she was a strong advocate for The Smile Train, a nonprofit organization that raises money to provide corrective surgery for children with cleft lips so that they are proud to smile.

We would hug each time we saw each other at The NAMM Show over the years, and on one such occasion, she told me, “If anyone wants to honor Leo, don’t raise a glass. Go to Sizzler, he loved that place!”

She sure made a lot of people smile.
And she will be missed.

To see a segment from Phyllis' Oral History interview click here

Dan Del Fiorentino
Music Historian