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 Pearlcaster Performer Upgrade

Ed Roman Believes The Fender Performers Are Among The Best Basses Fender Ever Made
It's too bad they only made them for a short time


The Fender Performer was a guitar designed for guitarists in the mid 1980s. The Performer was only made for one year (1985-86), and was assembled in Japan. It was introduced in the middle of a business crisis at CBS and was discontinued after only one year.

However in recent years its reputation as a fine, versatile rock instrument has risen. The Performer was also made as an electric bass.

The unusual body and headstock shapes have been rumored to have originated in the shape of the scrap wood leftover from making Japanese Stratocasters. The poplar body is small with a deep double cutaway. The tuning machines are found on the upper edge of the triangular headstock and a locking nut clamps the strings behind the plastic nut typically found on Fender guitars. The rosewood fretboard is two octaves and features a locking nut and jumbo frets. The bridge is a floating System I tremolo. Both bass and guitar are built to the highest level of quality and detailing. For example, the controls have inset rubber grips, the tuning heads have fully enclosed gears and the jack sockets are an enclosed, not 'skeleton', type, in contrast to many other Fender products with 'economy' hardware. A variety of poly finishes were available.

The bass is characterized by a slim two-octave neck with micro-tilt adjustment, that demands the use of light-gauge strings. The profile is closer to a typical six-string guitar than a normal bass guitar. Combined with light strings and a low action this encourages a very fast fluid playing style - but it is not really a 'slap' bass.

The two pickups are custom Humbuckers which sit at an angle as in the case of a Strat Or A Tele bridge pickup. It appears that the coils are offset to keep the magnets in line with the strings, although they are potted in epoxy so it is difficult to tell. The guitar features a volume knob, a tone knob, a pickup selector switch (neck/both/bridge) and, most importantly, a coil tap switch which disables one coil of each humbucker, resulting in a guitar with two single-coil pickups. This is perhaps the guitar's most famous and useful feature, as it can produce heavy, fat humbucker sounds as well as crisp, sharp, Strat-like tones. The tone knob used stacked 250k and 1M pots with center detent which may have been a predecessor to the TBX control of later years.


The Fender Performer bass was a uniquely styled bass guitar designed by John Page, renowned for its extremely slender neck. It has an alder body, with a bolt-on 34" maple neck and a 24 fret rosewood board. Controls are: Tone, Volume, Pickup Selector Switch, TBX Circuit Control (Treble Bass eXpander).

It was available in Burgundy Mist, Gun Metal Blue, Candy Green, White and Tobacco Sunburst.

It was manufactured in Japan in 1985 at a time when Fender was not making guitars in the USA. Soon after CBS sold Fender to its employees and production of the Performer ceased. It is rumored that only a few hundred were made and that some were ordered to be destroyed because of a copyright dispute concerning the neck. However there is no credible evidence for this.

Once largely ignored by Fender enthusiasts recent years have seen an increase in popularity and second hand values.

The following is a post that the designer John Page made on a guitar forum:

"Yes the Performer was one of my designs. Believe it or not, the Performer bass (designed before the guitar) was designed to be the Elite version of the Jazz Bass.. yes that's right... it was going to be the top version of the Jazz Bass... scary huh? The shape of the instrument is derivative of the back of the Strat Look at the waist cut on the back of the Strat and you'll see where the basic horn/body shape started. At the time (1982-3ish?) I was designing this, Fender was considered a pretty conservative instrument Kramer, Jackson & BC Rich were building these radically styled instruments, so we wanted to get into that market. In my original design, it used a Strat-style peg-head and the pickups were a double Strat hum-bucking setup. I also designed the Fender Logo On The Performer I can't say that that a good thing, but it was kinda cool to design a new Fender logo. We got some comments that it looked like the Peavey logo, which really pissed me off.
The guitar that was produced was different than the original that I designed. I initially designed it to be made in the US, but it ended up being made in Japan. When that transition happened, things were changed. The peg-head went from the Strat to the Swinger, for example, so I don't remember what pickup they actually went with. I angled the pickups to thicken up the top end a bit... and it looked cool. Well, at least to me, I like "off-line aesthetics". Why weren't they successful? Look, I was a designer in Fender R&D for years before I started the CS. I was always trying to design something new and different. When we started the CS, I tried to do the same. Reality is, the public wants Strats, Teles, P & J basses from Fender. So it's really tough to get them to accept any "new & different" designs in any great quantities. I'm afraid I have no idea how many were actually produced.
I designed the five string version when I first came back to start the CS in '87. To the best of my knowledge there was only one prototype made by Fuji Gen Gakki It was kind of a pinkish color and had the same basic features of the 4 string Japanese model. When I initially designed both basses, the were modified Mustang coils, wound beefier and wired to be hum-bucking. When the four string version was released it used a single coil p/u under each cover. The original also was designed with a angular/massive/fine-tuning bridge, and a "lightning bolt" styled string tree. Both were prototyped but never released. I never heard of any instruments being destroyed for any legal issues... maybe another one of those "legends"? The idea behind the neck was simple, at the time a lot of bass players were guitar player converts. Bass playing style started to have more of a "lead guitar" approach, so the idea of a narrower neck was to help along those lines. The original proto went on the summer before it was released with the them "hottest" bands, Billy Idol (I don't remember his bass player's name) and The CARS bass player, Ben Orr. "

John Page


Fender Performer Bass
We Are Always Looking For Used Japanese Fenders
We Believe The Quality Is Excellent & The Prices Are Good
These Play As Well Or Better Than Any Vintage Jazz Or P Bass & They Cost A Fraction Thereof !!
 This Is My Favorite Bolt On Bass In The World

Ed Roman

 Pearlcaster Performer Upgrade

Could the Fender Performer by the last real original design from Fender before they decided instead to produce a myriad of subtle variations of the same vintage designs?

The Performer was produced for only one year between 1985-1986 by Fender Japan during that strange period in Fender's history in which there was no USA guitar production happening.

The Performer was originally designed as a bass (the guitar came later) by John Page, who has commented that the original intention was that it would be an Elite version of the Jazz Bass! The angular body shape was in fact inspired by the Fender Strat - flip one over and note the shape that the flat surface makes.