Flying Fender?  The Fender Katana

Flying Fender? The Fender Katana

Right in the thick of super strat shredders and aggressive metal guitars there was Fender, the odd man out.  

In 1981 Fender (CBS) poached three executives from Yamaha to help rebuild the company and its reputation. The guys were Bill Schultz, John McLaren, and Dan Smith.  

Dan was the marketing guy and one of his first ideas was to revamp the basic production model Strat which was unveiled as the Standard Stratocaster complete with a pre-CBS smaller headstock. 

The changes were well received and this version (1981-1983) has the unofficial title of the “Dan Smith Stratocaster”. To Dan’s credit, this version also signified the end of the 70s styled CBS strats, a welcomed change.

FENDER 1982 Stratocaster Sunburst "S9" Serial RW Electric Guitar
1982 Dan Smith Stratocaster

A few years later CBS sold to Bill Schultz and a group of investors, Dan remained in his role as marketing chief.  That was towards the end of 1984, the deal was finalized on March 5, 1985.

However, the deal did not include machinery or the Fullerton, CA factory. All production stopped and nearly all guitars in 1985 were made in Japan. 

To fill a couple of voids Dan had another “great” idea.  Except this one wasn’t so great.

Dealers were anxious for a more aggressive Fender version that rivaled the likes of Jackson, BC Rich, and Charvel. Plus Fender needed inventory (period) and inventory of something different.

The result of Dan’s vision was the Fender Katana, made by Fender Japan. (There was a Squier version with one humbucker and a natural finish headstock and a bass Squier as well.)     


Production lasted one year.

1985 Fender Katana specs: Set maple neck, Rosewood fretboard with small triangle fret markers, Fender floating tremolo, Fender humbuckers, 3-way switch, 1 volume and tone control, Truss rod cover on the arrow headstock, Headstock painted same as body color 

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