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Trade Regrets: Mike Lewis

Christian Wissmuller • Trade Regrets • March 11, 2024

On March 11, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation shared the following sad news:

Today, we reach out with heavy hearts to share the news of the passing of Mike Lewis, VP of Product Development at the Fender Custom Shop. Mike’s departure has left a void that will be felt deeply within the Fender family and guitar community. While his legacy and impact cannot be replicated, FMIC is honored to continue his legacy.

Mike first joined Fender in the Sales department in 1991, where he engaged with dealers over the phone. Later, he revitalized Fender’s evolving amp line, ensuring the business reclaimed the #1 market position by introducing iconic products such as the DeVille Series and the Vibro-King. Mike’s innovations also extended to Fender’s electric guitar department, where he actively contributed to guitar innovations based on player preferences. Notably, he introduced Fender’s first production Stratocaster with a regular humbucker: the Lone Star Strat.

His pioneering spirit was further demonstrated as he spearheaded Fender’s first online store, showcasing his commitment to pushing boundaries. Mike went beyond just overseeing the site; he immersed himself, acquiring unique coding skills. Mike consistently exhibited a voracious appetite for learning new skills, whether in bowling, tattoos, ukuleles, painting, photography, or web design—he delved deep into each pursuit.

Mike’s impact reached new heights when Fender collaborated with Gretsch. He revamped the entire line, restoring specifications to the original magic recipe, which resonated instantly with fans. His commitment went so far that he took an old ’59 6120 to a medical facility for an MRI and CAT Scan, ensuring authenticity in its internal construction.

In the Fender Custom Shop, Mike brought his design aesthetic and keen management skills, resulting in the best 10-year run in the shop’s history. His legacy is not just in running product lines but reimagining them, often tearing them back to their essence before rebuilding them anew.

Fender and the Fender Custom Shop mourn the loss of not just a colleague but a beloved member of our family. Mike’s passion for guitars and his unwavering dedication to his craft was evident in every project he touched. His legacy at the Fender Custom Shop is a testament to his profound influence, and we are deeply grateful for the time we spent alongside him.

“Mike Lewis didn’t merely oversee product lines; he possessed the rare ability to reimagine them, stripping them down to their essence and rebuilding them anew. His strong vision, cultivated over decades as a player, shaped his approach. From touring with Chuck Berry and opening for the Rolling Stones to serving as a studio session musician in 1970s NYC and owning a music store in Virginia, Mike’s wealth of experience, perspective, and wisdom became the foundation he brought to Fender. He didn’t just work here; he lived and embodied the spirit of the brand. Though I initially worked for him for many years, there came a point where the dynamic shifted, and he started working for me. And yes, throughout our time he consistently remained a mentor, a wellspring of wisdom, and, above all, a treasured friend until the end.” said Justin Norvell, EVP of Product at FMIC. 

Our thoughts are with Mike’s family, friends, and loved ones. We extend our deepest condolences and support during this difficult period.

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