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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.