Don Randall, the marketing dynamo who gave Fender's Stratocaster guitar its name and led the brand to onstage ubiquity, has died. He was 91.
Randall died of age-related causes Dec. 23 at his home in Santa Ana, his son, Tim, told the Los Angeles Times.
Randall's marketing savvy elevated electric guitar designer Leo Fender's instruments, played by such musicians as Ritchie Valens, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, into a hugely successful franchise during the brand's first two decades.Tom Wheeler, a former editor of Guitar Player magazine, said Randall changed the way the public viewed guitars and playing music, adding: "It's highly unlikely that Fender could have achieved anywhere near as worldwide success without Don Randall."
Randall was born Oct. 30, 1917, in Kendrick, Idaho, and moved with his family to California when he was 10. He was managing an electric parts wholesaler in Santa Ana when he learned about the lap steel guitars and small amplifiers Fender was building in his small radio shop in nearby Fullerton. The two teamed up to form what is now the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Fender Musical Instruments Corp. He named Fender's first commercially available guitar the Broadcaster in 1950, then renamed it the Telecaster following a trademark dispute with another company. In 1954, he tapped into his background as an aviation enthusiast and pilot to dub Fender's newest guitar the Stratocaster. Randall negotiated the 1965 sale of Fender's firm to CBS for $13 million. In 1970, he founded Randall Instruments in Irvine, which he sold in 1987. Fender died in 1991.