b. Billie Rae Carson, 28 July 1926, Meridian, Oklahoma, USA, d. 15 February 2007, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Raised by his grandparents in Amarillo, Texas, Carson taught himself to play mandolin, then guitar, and by his late teens was playing in local western swing bands. Relocating to Southern California, in 1951 Carson bought his first Fender Telecaster, beginning a long-lasting relationship with the manufacturer during which he reputedly suggested design modifications that led Leo Fender and his team towards the ultimate shape of the cutaway Stratocaster. Carson worked part-time at the Fender plant as an assembler and tester, meanwhile playing in bands led by artists such as Noel Boggs, Spade Cooley, Lefty Frizzell, Billy Gray and Hank Thompson. From 1957 Carson worked full-time for Fender, rising to plant manager, later becoming deeply involved in the company’s customer service centres. He was then director of artist relations in Nashville, Tennessee, and from the late 70s he worked in Fender’s marketing and sales divisions until his retirement in 1992.
One of Carson’s non-musical interests was in gardening, resulting in his entry in The Guinness Book Of World Records for growing the world’s largest watermelon (1990-2006). In October 2006 Carson’s own 1959 Fiesta Red Stratocaster was sold by Christie’s in New York for $66, 000.