In May of 1989, John Page hired J.W. to work at Fender Custom Shop, which was still in its infancy. "It was kind of an unknown of what it was going to be," J.W. reflected. During his time at the shop, J.W. helped bring the art of relicing guitars to Fender and worked with some of the best-known musicians in the world–from Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, to the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
Since his departure from Fender, Black has continued to paint instruments, restore pre-1969 Fender guitars for a few select vintage guitar dealers and build traditionally influenced, Fender-style instruments with modern touches for Japanese release.
J.W. Black always thought his time at Fender was completed, until he got the call to design a guitar for Fender Custom Shop’s 30th anniversary in 2017. Outside of his work with artists for Fender Custom Shop, J.W. built guitars for a large number of doctor/lawyer clientele. "They were a weekend warrior guitar player collector group, and when you talked to them, you knew they were making a special gift for themselves," he said. J.W.’s Founders Design Stratocaster is inspired by this FMT "figured maple top" doctor/lawyer model he became known for. The ‘50s-style Stratocaster features a lightweight ash body with a Tobacco Burst color. Players will immediately notice the 5A quilt maple top true to his FMT models, alongside a 5A birdseye maple neck and ‘50s Stratocaster headstock. The golden hardware includes vintage-style staggered tuning machines. "It’s still about Leo and how he served the musician," he said. "It’s taking his greatest designs and just adding modern twists, artist input, player input, and coming up with something that honors his original concept, but brings it up to standards for the modern player."