Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fender Swinger

Fender first introduced Fender Swingers in 1969. The Fender Swinger was a 22.5" scale guitar created by taking leftover bodies from an unsuccessful Fender Bass V and adding musicmaster hardware and surplus 22.5" scale necks. By taking these compenents, and altering them, Fender created one of their most bizarre guitars to date. The Fender Swinger was born from the minds of CBS Fender as a way to make money white getting rid of surplus parts.

They were made in a very limited quantity and were finished in almost every custom color Fender had to offer:


Sonic Blue

 Candy Apple Red

Dakota Red

Olympic White

Lake Placid Blue (greened)

Competition Blue (minus the rally stripes, besides the Swinger this color was used exclusively on competition mustangs - Photo from Olivia's Vintage Guitars.

Daphne Blue (photo courtesy of Tim Pershing)

I don't believe Fender made the Swinger in a left-handed version as I have yet to see or read about a lefty Swinger. Furthermore the Swinger was made with unused Bass V bodies and I haven't ever seen or heard of a left-handed Bass V.

In The Fender Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day it is noted that "The Swinger was a bitser made from unsused Musicmaster and Bass V bodies". I question if Musicmaster bodies were ever used to make a Swinger. My logic is that Fender was trying to get rid of unused surplus parts with the Swinger and at the time the Musicmaster was still in production. Below is a picture of Swinger body which lacks the standard Bass V routes so one might think that Fender really did use some Musicmaster bodies to make the Swinger, but measurements show a stock Musicmaster body isn't wide enough to make a Swinger body. The reason for the lack of routes is likely because that particular Bass V body that hadn't been routed for pickups.

Standard Swinger with pickguard off (with Bass V routes visible)

Bass V body and with pickguard off showing routes (for comparision)

Example of Swinger with pickguard off (No Bass V routes)

As previously noted the swinger had a 22.5" scale neck which has 21 frets. It is not uncommon for 22.5" scale necks to have very early stamped neck dates. Examples have surfaced with 1966 and 1967 stamped neck dates. Evidently Fender over produced these necks in the mid-60's and the surplus was spread into the late 60's and even into the early to mid 70's. All Swingers I've seen so far have had Kluson tuners.

The "Fender" portion of decal was a standard waterslide style and was applied under the clear coat. The "Swinger" portion of the decal looked to be an after thought. It was a sticker that was applied on top of the finish to some of the Swingers.

Looking at pictures of the guitars that did get the "Swinger" portion, it is evident that the stickers would start to peel after years of use. It is not uncommon to see a light rectangle on the headstock from where the sticker used to be.

It appears that less than half of the Swingers out there appear to have ever received a rectangular "Swinger" sticker on the headstock. Here are a couple examples of headstocks which do not appear to have ever received the "Swinger" sticker.

The ink on the "Swinger" sticker was prone to fading.

Add the sloppy "Swinger" sticker application to the fact that Fender never promoted this obscure guitar and the end result was major name confusion. Evidently many people didn't know what to call these guitars. Some people called them "Arrows" due to their pointy headstocks. Others called them "Musiclanders".

The following Swinger has a unique headstock decal which reads "Custom" however this guitar is mostly likely a lark or perhaps the "Custom" was added by someone other than Fender. (Photo courtesy of Gruhn Guitars)

Fender Swingers will have 6 digit serial number stamped on the neck plate which usually start with 25, 26, or 27.

Musicians who play Swingers:
There are not a lot of known musicians who play Swingers but here are a few:

 Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads

Ben Kweller:

Ben bleeding all over his Swinger

Ben actually has at least three Swingers in his arsenal:


The Barry Richman Collection

Barry Richman is a guitarist in a blues, rock, and jazz band and has a nice collection of Fender Swingers.

For more info on Barry Richman or his impressive guitar collection check out his website at

More on the Bass V:

A good review of the Bass V can be found on Vintage Guitar's website

References and Links:

A great source of information about ALL 3/4 scale Fenders:
Tim Pershing's article Fender's 3/4 Scale Guitars

Note regarding photos: I've tried to use photos that I've took of guitars that I've owned but also have used various photos of guitars that I've saved off the internet over several years. I did not keep record of the sources of where these photos came from. Contact me if I have used your photo and you would like it removed. 

Contact me at with any questions, comments, photos, information, etc.


  1. Great article and photos - never realized the Swinger was made from Bass V bodies !!

  2. Hello Markis,

    The story I was told back in the 70's was that "Swingerland," a chain music store in middle-America, asked Fender for an inexpensive student guitar to fulfill the needs wrought by the British invasion. I learned this from Eddie, who owned "Strings n Things," on the lower Bowery, NYC, in 1975. He had two. (I bought one in '77.)

    Eddie also told me that the cut-away and the short scale (good for Hawaiian slide guitar which was held with guitar in an upright position on the knee using the cut-away) made it a favorite of the Pahinui Brothers, of Hawaii, with whom Ry Cooder studied before he brought the style to Nashville.

    Thanks for your blog!