The Fender Telecaster is an iconic guitar that has played an integral role in the history of music. From country to metal, to jazz, the telecaster has crossed genre and time over its 70 year history.
Designed in 1950, the Fender Telecaster was the first solid-body electric guitar to be mass-produced. The simplicity of its design made it a popular choice among musicians who were looking for an instrument that would deliver a clean, bright tone, without the feedback problems posed by popular hollowbody, and semi hollow models of the time. The telecaster quickly gained a reputation for its reliability and versatility, making it a favourite among players of all genres.
Leo Fender's initial designs for a solid body guitar were called "the plank" by critics, and by the standards of the time, they had a point. Leo's 1950 design for the Esquire was little more than a piece of wood, a neck, and a single Hawaiian slide guitar pickup.
The thing is, it worked. the simple design was a perfect match for the amplifiers Leo was making at the same time. For the next run, he added a second pickup closer to the neck to offer a wider range of sound options, and renamed the guitar the Broadcaster.
Gretsch sued Fender over the name, which they were using for a popular drumset at the time. Broadcasters that had already been made had the model name sanded off the headstock. Collectors often call these models Nocasters for this reason.
Fender had the last laugh when they purchased exclusive rights to the Gretsch name in 2002.
Over the years, the telecaster has changed with popular tastes and technological advancements. The guitar's single-coil pickups were replaced with humbuckers in the 1970s, when Fender were haemorrhaging market share to rival brand, Gibson. The original design was eventually reintroduced due to popular demand
The telecaster's unique sound and design have made it a staple in several genres of music. It has been used by legendary musicians such as Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and James Burton. Its bright, twangy sound has become synonymous with country music, while its versatility has made it a popular choice for rock and blues players.
Jazz and metal guitarists have also rallied behind the telecaster for it's ability to handle complex tones like heavy distortion and ring modulation. Mike Stern is probably Jazz's best known Telecaster advocate, but Ted Greene, Bill Frisell and James Muller are all tele-heads too; at least some of the time. In the Metal and hard rock world, John 5 and Jim Root play signature telecasters, while Jimmy Page has said in interviews the solo in Stairway was played on a telecaster.
In addition to its unique sound, the telecaster's design has also become iconic. Its simple, yet elegant shape has inspired countless imitations and variations. The guitar's signature single-cutaway and sleek body have become synonymous with the Fender brand.
The Fender Telecaster is a perfect example of an instrument that has stood the test of time. Sometimes the simplest Ideas are the best; the Telecaster's simplicity is likely what has made it one of our best selling models since we started carrying the Fender Brand almost 20 years ago.