A history of the Fender Telecaster

all images courtesy of Fender.com and Gear4Music (affiliated partner) & Wikimedia Commons

A Whole New Sound

The Fender Telecaster is a classic guitar that to this day has changed the least among it’s six stringed counterparts, but where has the guitar come from and what made this design such a revolutionary advancement?

Keith Richards Hannover 2006

Keith Richards with his Fender Telecaster – image by Patrick Baumbach, original uploader was DieBand

From a workshop in California – 1949

The Telecaster took root in Leo Fender’s Fullerton, California workshop in 1949. The guitar luthier was particularly interested in creating a two pick-up solid body guitar, something that hadn’t yet reached the market. As Leo grew closer to realising his prototype, word got out of a competing luthier who was preparing to release their own version of a solid body guitar. In order to see that his own model would be released in time, Leo temporarily let go of his two pick-up idea to see that he could release a solid-body guitar in time.

Bendy neck Fender Esquire

In 1950 the first solid body Fender guitar went up for sale and became known as the Esquire. Not far off from today’s Telecaster, the Esquire featured only a bridge pick-up and was yet to include a truss rod in the maple neck. As Leo would soon realise, although maple was a strong wood, it was not strong enough to keep his guitar necks from bending and as such most of his Esquires would soon be returned to his workshop with necks bent beyond repair.

Buy your Fender Telecaster from an AUTHORISED dealer

A range of Fender Telecaster from Gear4Music UK

Heart of Innovation

Turning a new corner with his guitar design, Leo Fender soon implemented the truss rod to all of his guitar necks and before the end of 1950 was marketing his new Broadcaster guitar, featuring a truss rod and dual pick-ups. During the success of his newest guitar model, instrument manufacturer Gretsch wrote to inform Fender that they had already coined the phrase ‘Broadkaster’ for a line of their instruments and threatened Leo with a lawsuit. In response Leo famously dropped the ‘Broadcaster’ text from the guitar’s headstock and continued selling the guitars referred to as ‘Nocasters’ due to their lack of a label. By the end of 1951, Leo and his team had settled with the term ‘Telecaster’ for their guitar, in reference to the growing world of television at the time.

Telecaster Variations

Fender Telecaster Vintera – click image to shop at Gear4Music

By 1954 the Telecaster had reached far and wide in the world of music and a revised take on the guitar was marketed moving forward. The famous black pickgaurds were exchanged for a white tone and the creamy butterscotch finish of the body became a translucent white. Fender continued to upgrade the hardware components, including a modern transition from dome top knobs to flat tops and converting the brass bridge piece to instead be made of steel.

Although various takes on the Telecaster have been released over time, including the semi-hollow ‘Telecaster Thinline’, the ‘Cabronita’ featuring humbucking pick-ups and the ‘Tele Jr.’ sporting a set of Les Paul style P-90 pick-ups, for 70 years now the design has undergone very little change since first debuting in 1950. This is an engineering accomplishment that speaks to the ingenuity and value that Leo Fender’s Telecaster design has had on guitar players worldwide.

Famous Telecaster Players

Although time goes on, the Fender Telecaster has proved it’s self as a timeless classic over the decades. From Waylon Jennings and his early Broadcaster and Keith Richard’s Butterscotch black guard Telecaster, to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbon’s collection of 50’s Telecasters and Jeff Buckley’s 1983 model, the Fender Telecaster will always have a home in the hands of aspiring and professional guitar players alike.

Some more Fender Telecaster Legends

Franz Ferdinand – Alex Kapranos

Franz Ferdinand (band) 2008.11.24 007

Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) and his Fender Telecaster (photo LivePict.com / CC BY-SA)

Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen with Telecaster

Bruce Springsteen playing a Fender Stratocaster (photo manu_gt500 / CC BY-SA)

Examples of Fender Telecasters for sale

More information pages

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A sample of Fender guitars available from Gear4Music
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Want to know more ….

For even more information on the history of the Telecaster guitar here at Fender.com