For many guitarists and collectors, a 1953 “blackguard” Telecaster is considered the Holy Grail of all Teles.
In the late 1940s, Leo Fender began work on a no-nonsense solidbody electric guitar. Introduced in the fall of 1950, the result was the Broadcaster. Production continued through a name change in late 1951 (Fender’s name conflicted with Gretsch’s Broadkaster drum set) and a factory relocation in 1953.
For many guitarists and collectors, a 1953 “blackguard” Telecaster is considered the Holy Grail of all Teles. Whether it’s because more were made than in the previous years due to the new factory’s increased production capabilities, or because three years had been spent perfecting building techniques, a large number of legendary Tele artists were known to favor ’53s. Some of the most famous of these players include James Burton, Roy Buchanan, and Danny Gatton.
The well-worn 1953 Telecaster pictured here has the classic features most often associated with that year, including a one-piece, bolt-on maple neck, a round string tree on the headstock (rectangular by ’56), an ash body with see-through butterscotch blonde finish (after the mid ’50s, the blonde finish became whiter and eventually more opaque), a black Bakelite pickguard (changed to white in late ’54), the serial number on the bridge plate (moved to the neck plate by late ’54), outer brass bridge saddles that were notched on the bottom to allow for lower saddle adjustment, and a bridge pickup with flush level pole pieces (staggered by the end of ’55).
The Telecaster’s 1953 list price was $189.50. The current value for one in excellent, all-original condition is $25,000.
The amp supporting this Tele is a wide-panel Fender Deluxe from the same year. Scotty Moore used one much like it on his earliest recordings with Elvis. It is equipped with a Jensen P12R 12" speaker and powered by two 6V6GT tubes. The amp is capable of about 10 to 14 watts of output power.
In 1953, the list price for the Deluxe was $99. The amp’s current value is $2,500.
Sources for this article include The Blackguard by Nacho Banos, The Fender Telecaster by A.R. Duchossoir, Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years, by John Teagle and John Sprung, and The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps, by Tom Wheeler. If you’re interested in delving into blackguard Tele and tweed amp lore, you’ll find plenty to explore in these books.