Swiden’s Stunning Sparkles: Fender’s Sparkle Finishes
Some of the guitars we’re very fortunate to have in our collection are an array of extremely rare, original 50s and 60s Sparkle Fenders! These finishes feature large metallic “flecks” that give each guitar a glitzy effect. This style of painting was and is extremely popular in the automotive industry, from its invention to this very day. To understand the popularity and creation of the Sparkle guitar, one must look at the cultural landscape of California in the late 50s and early 60s. “Hot Rod” Car Culture and Surf music was all the rage at this time in Southern California, and musicians were keen to incorporate this culture into their instruments.
Our very own David Davidson spoke about Sparkle Guitars in Guitarist Magazine: “[Fender was] in Fullerton, California, and all that stuff was happening around them. So naturally, the idea of painting your guitar to look like a hot rod was a cool thing.”
The metallic fleck used in custom sparkle finishes differs from standard colors like Candy Apple Red or Lake Placid Blue, as the metallic particles in the former are much larger. With the chunkier fleck, you can see the texture underneath the clear, and almost feel it on some instruments. While these sparkles were still factory original guitars, Fender’s paint guns were not equipped to spray these rare finishes in-house until 1966. As a result, Fender built the bodies and then outsourced the finishes to the one place they knew could perfect them: auto body shops. Once the bodies were finished, Fender took them back into the factory to complete the electronics. Various shops were tasked with this important job and one artist, Dennis Swiden, is known to have painted a number of Sparkle finishes for Surf players, including Dick Dale and Eddie Bertrand. Dennis worked out of his parent’s furniture store and was close with many of the artists. Many one-off examples of Sparkle guitars were made for these popular artists, and we’re very lucky to have a few in our collection. One example we have even features crushed glass rather than glitter as the “fleck” to really add another dimension to the sparkle and texture.
Authenticating a sparkle finish as an original is no easy task, as no two are alike. We’re lucky enough as a store to possess multiple confirmed originals, allowing us to compare. However, each requires research, history, and even senses to authenticate. It can be anything from texture, smell, what we can see under the paint, and what we don’t. Because of this, and the amount of non-original pieces, authenticating Sparkles is one of the hardest tasks. Even so, here at Well Strung Guitars, we’ve done our homework so you can take one home with peace of mind! Give us a call today to add one of these jewels to your collection! 516-221-0563
Photos Courtesy of Facebook Group, “Dennis Swiden in Memory Of” and OriginalFuzz.com