Leo Fender’s Telecaster initially had an identity crisis
to rival Jack Torrance in The Shining. It was first introduced
as the Esquire in 1950, and it was the first electric
guitar to be mass produced for national distribution.
Then Fender added a neck pickup and changed
the name to Broadcaster, but the Gretsch corporation
claimed the new name constituted copyright infringement
because it already had a drum set called the
Broadkaster. Because of this, there was a period during
1951 when Fender continued making the guitar
without placing a model name on the headstock. This
rare version came to be referred to as the “Nocaster.”
By the end of the year, Leo had settled on the final
name, which was inspired by everyone’s favorite living
room appliance—the television.
Over the past 60 years, the Telecaster hasn’t wandered
too far from its basic shape and configuration,
and in its various incarnations it has come to be
viewed as a reliable workhorse for artists as diverse as
Steve Cropper, James Burton, John 5 (Rob Zombie,
Marilyn Manson), and Jim Root (Slipknot). The
first major change didn’t happen until 1968, when
Fender’s Roger Rossmeisl decided to build a lighter
alternative. The result was the Thinline Telecaster.
New appointments on the Thinline included a
12-screw pearloid pickguard, a semi-hollow body,
and a bass-side f-hole. Instead of using a cap on
the body, Fender sliced the back from pieces of ash
or mahogany, routed out chambers, and then put
the pieces back together to form the finished semihollow
body. The rear-routed guitar weighs about
seven pounds and has a maple neck and fretboard, a
six-pole single-coil in the bridge and a metal-covered
single-coil with two visible height adjustment screws
in the neck position. It also included Fender’s original
raised-side bridge with brass saddles and throughbody
stringing. The guitar shown here is a 1969
model that has been refinished in fiesta red and
modified with chickenhead volume and tone knobs.
Thanks to Jeff Sadler of guitarphotographer.com
for this twang-tastic photograph.