Formed by former Fender Vice President Forrest White, Fender amplifier builder and salesman Tom Walker, and Leo Fender himself (ostensibly as a silent partner owing to contractual agreements following the sale of Fender in 1965), Music Man began its life under the name Tri-Sonix in 1971.
Throughout the 1970s, the instruments designed by Leo were becoming brighter and harsher in character, owing to his increased difficulty in hearing. This coincided with the rise in popularity of slap bass technique, making the Fender-designed Music Man Stingray a big success with its active electronics and chunky bridge, offering a characteristically treble-heavy, punchy tone.
Leo left the company in late 1979 to found G&L, and Music Man faced an uncertain future, until it was purchased by guitar string set pioneer Ernie Ball (more specifically, his son Sterling) in 1985. They now offer a wide range of guitars, basses and amplifiers, including the introduction in 2003 of the Bongo Bass, an eccentric collaboration with BMW's Designworks team.
Music Man runs its operations using an open-source software policy, and since 2001 has paid a living wage to all employees at its San Luis Obispo plant.
Famous players of Music Man basses include Nathan East, Flea, Tony Levin, Squarepusher and Pino Palladino.