A 1983 Fender Elite Telecaster resting against a 1977 Mesa/Boogie Mark I.
After CBS purchased Fender in 1965,
dealers and customers began complaining
about the declining quality of Fender
instruments. As a result, in 1981 CBS hired
new management—including Dan Smith as
director of marketing. Smith came up with
a five-year plan to improve sales with new
products of better quality.
After introducing the Vintage Reissue
line of guitars and basses, which recreated
the classic designs of Fender’s glory years,
Smith developed the Elite series. These
instruments had state-of-the-art, technologically
advanced features for modern playing
styles. (Remember, we have to view “modern”
in the context of the early ’80s).
The Elite series included a Stratocaster, a
Telecaster, and a Precision bass. Each Elite
had a walnut, a gold (this referred to the
hardware), and a regular version. These
instruments were available with maple or
rosewood ’board necks, and came in a wide
variety of standard and custom colors. The
Elites were introduced in June of 1983 and
were dropped by the end of 1984 when CBS
put Fender Musical Instruments up for sale.
This Elite Tele sports noise-cancelling alnico 2 pickups harnessed to active TBX and MDX tone controls.
The massive, top-loading 6-saddle bridge represents another major departure from classic Tele hardware.
This month’s Elite Telecaster showcases all
the radical (for the time) changes made to the
traditional Tele. These include a heavy cast
6-saddle top-loading bridge, noise-cancelling
pickups with alnico 2 magnets, active TBX
and MDX tone controls capable of creating
fat humbucking and cutting single-coil
sounds (similar controls continue to be used
on the current Eric Clapton Strats), knobs
with a serrated rubber insert for easy gripping,
and a Gibson-style, 3-way toggle switch. Elite
Tele necks featured a Bi-flex truss rod, jumbo
frets, and a 12" radius fretboard.
This guitar also sports a classy bound top
and an optional stick-on pickguard. The
1983 Fender catalog proudly boasts of the
guitar’s many advances: “Elite Series instruments
incorporate no fewer than 14 new
patent-pending inventions by Fender. This
alone lends substance to our belief that the
rest of the industry will be years in catching
up with Elite technology.”
Among its many new features, serial number E 317132 offers burly sealed tuners and redesigned
The 1983 list price for an Elite Telecaster
was $895, and its current value is $1,500.
Action shots of an Elite Tele played by Dave
Davies in full clown makeup can be seen in
the 1984 video for the Kinks “Do It Again”
single from Word of Mouth. Davies used
Elite Teles for recordings and live shows
through the rest of the ’80s.
Sources for this article include The Fender
Telecaster by A.R. Duchossoir, Six Decades of
the Fender Telecaster: The Story of the World’s
First Solidbody Electric Guitar by Tony
Bacon, and the 1983 Fender catalog.
Original price: $895 in 1983
Current estimated market value:
Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended
by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally
and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text