On May 20, 1954, Forrest White joined Leo Fender and his burgeoning Fender Electric Instrument Company in Fullerton, California, as General Manager. In early 1955, an employee came into building #3 at the Fullerton factory and asked Forrest what he wanted to do with the white nameplates that just arrived. He told the messenger to send them back because Fender nameplates only came in brown or chrome. The brave messenger came back with, “No, you don’t understand; they are ‘White.'” The employee proceeded to show Forrest the nameplates with his own name boldly inscribed. It would soon grace a “studio” amplifier model that Leo was developing for the new “White Instrument Company.” Leo surprised Forrest that day; even as General Manager, White had no idea what Mr. Fender was up to, and that his boss had named this new line after him.
The first White Amplifier was born soon after the nameplate incident. In his book, The Fender Inside Story, Forrest White (photo) wrote that they received the first White sales order, #402, for the new studio line–a White Amp Model 80 and a 6-String Lap Steel–on September 13, 1955. The units were constructed in October and November, just weeks later. The White lap steel guitar and amp usually came as a set and were sold at music instruction studios. Fender also planned a White student standard guitar, but never put it into production (Fender: The Sound heard ‘Round the World by Richard R. Smith).
I was able to talk with Adam Grimm, co-owner of Satellite Amps, at the Nashville Amp Expo last weekend. His company announced in June, 2011 that they will be recreating the original White Higher Fidelity amplifiers. They are making spot on reproductions–as close to the originals as possible.
Adam expressed to me that full rights to the name and design were acquired by Satellite. As you can see in the photos below from the amp show, it is not white in color, but a variation on battleship gray. Satellite, as shown in both photos, has added an optional extension speaker cabinet, not originally offered by Fender, which is convertible from closed to open back. Adam told me that the original series had varying cabinet depths, but that they settled on the current one. The original series, just like many Fender products, went through various changes in certain aesthetics over it’s lifetime–like a “square” power switch and some detailing around some of the controls. As Satellite proceeds with this model, some of the details may change in future incarnations. (In the photos I took of the reproduction, the toggle and chrome chassis are basic).
Adam also explained that, because of the safety and health issues surrounding the chroming process, these shiny chassis are hard to come by, and are expensive. Mojo Musical Supply still carries several chrome options.
The White Amplifier at Fender had a short run and, according to Adam Grimm, the number of amps manufactured is in question.
Forrest White went on to serve as Vice President of Fender. He also worked at Rickenbacker, CMI and Music Man. He died of cancer in 1994.
Below is a demo video of the Satellite Amplifier “White Higher Fidelity Amp“ by Doug Myer From Mountain Cat Guitars: