The Jaguar was released in 1962 just about the time that surf music was starting to really take off. Whether it was created specifically for the surf market is a question of serious debate, but what is sure is that surf bands did take it on along with Stratocasters and other guitars. Developed from the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar was the first Fender with 22 frets, a change made great use of by guitarists such as John Frusciante for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
The sound was a bit different too due to the alternative pick up switch set up which allowed for a sound that really stood out amongst the rest of band noise. There were a few other unique features with the Jaguar, such as the floating tremolo, and the string mute, however, these needed real mastering and is probably the reason why there are a few high class guitar players that use the Jaguar, but as a whole it’s not as popular as the Stratocaster, or Telecaster.
Chris Dreja of the Yardbirds was one of the original 1960s guitarists to use the guitar, and more recently it’s been taken up by Joshua Third from the Horrors.
Discontinued in 1975, the grunge players guitar of choice came back in the 1990s lead by Nirvana. Kurt Cobain used 1965 Sunburst finished left hand modified Jaguar. The use of the tailed bridge is what helped create that surf durge sound, and with the return to a guitar sound that relied heavily on a natural resonance from the guitar.
Realising the increase in popularity of the guitar, Fender reissued it in 1999. Although not the biggest selling reissue, sales have been enough for Fender to realise that the Jaguar isn’t dead, especially in Japan where they are produced for the domestic market, although cheaper components are used for the electronics.
In 2008 Fender started introducing new models manufactured in Mexico at a lesser price starting with the Classic Player Series Jaguar and Jaguar HH. In September 2010 the Black Top Jaguar HH was released which was a refinement on all previous Jaguars.
Since then Fender have been continually modifying the guitar as it’s perhaps at the more experimental end of their range, which means that can afford to take a bit of a risk which they wouldn’t be able to do with the Strat or Tele. This makes the Jaguar a choice for guitarists who want to take their sound a little bit over the edge, and although its popularity may wane occasionally, it is likely to continue being produced in one form or another.