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Fender Telecaster
FenderTelecaster.jpg
Manufacturer Fender
Period 1949–present
Construction
Body type Solid
Neck joint Bolt-on neck
Scale 25.5" (24.75" on some models)
Woods
Body Ash, Alder, or Poplar
Neck Maple
Fretboard Maple or Rosewood
Hardware
Bridge Fixed
Pickup(s) 3 Single-coil, 2 Single-coil, 2 Humbucker or 1 Single-coil and 1 Humbucker
Colors available
Originally blonde (shown above); other colors are available

The Fender Telecaster, colloquially known as the Tele (pronounced /ˈtɛli/), is typically a dual-pickup, solid-body electric guitar made by Fender. Its simple yet effective design and revolutionary sound broke ground and set trends in electric guitar manufacturing and popular music. Introduced for national distribution as the Broadcaster in the autumn of 1949, it was the first guitar of its kind to be produced on a substantial scale. Its commercial production can be traced as far back as March 1950, when the single- and dual-pickup Esquire models were first sold. The Telecaster has been in continuous production in one form or another since its first incarnation, making it the world's oldest solid-body electric guitar.[1]

Contents

Origins

The Fender Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in Fullerton, California in 1949. Prior to its creation, the solid-body electric guitar had been created independently by several craftsman and companies, in the period roughly between 1932–1949, but none of these guitars had made a significant impact on the market. Leo Fender's Telecaster was the design that finally put the solid-body guitar on the map.

Fender had an electronics repair shop called Fender's Radio Service where he first repaired, then designed, amplifiers and electromagnetic pickups for musicians—chiefly players of electric semi-acoustic guitars, electric Hawaiian (lap steel) guitars, and mandolins. Players had been 'wiring up' their instruments in search of greater volume and projection since the late 1920s, and electric semi-acoustics (such as the Gibson ES-150) had long been widely available. Tone had never, until then, been the primary reason for a guitarist to go electric, but in 1943, when Fender and his partner, Doc Kauffman, built a crude wooden guitar as a pickup test rig, local country players started asking to borrow it for gigs. It sounded shiny and sustaining. Fender got curious, and in 1949, when it was long-understood that solid construction offered great advantages in electric instruments, but before any commercial solidbody Spanish guitars had caught on (the small Audiovox company apparently offered a modern, solidbody electric guitar as early as the mid-1930s), he built a better prototype.

That hand-built prototype, an anomalous white guitar, had most of the features of what would become the Telecaster. It was designed in the spirit of the solid-body Hawaiian guitars manufactured by Rickenbacker -- small, simple units made of Bakelite and aluminum with the parts bolted together—but with wooden construction. (Rickenbacker, then spelled 'Rickenbacher,' had also offered a solid Bakelite-bodied electric Spanish guitar in 1935, many details of which seem echoed in Fender's design.)

The initial single pickup production model appeared in 1950, and was called the Esquire. Fewer than fifty guitars were originally produced under that name, and most were replaced under warranty because of early manufacturing problems. In particular, the Esquire necks had no truss rod and many were replaced due to bent necks. Later in 1950, this single-pickup model was discontinued, and a two-pickup model was renamed the Broadcaster. From this point onwards all Fender necks incorporated truss rods. The Gretsch company, itself a manufacturer of hollowbody electric guitars (and now owned by Fender), claimed that "Broadcaster" violated the trademark for its Broadkaster line of drums, and as a newcomer to the industry, Fender decided to bend and changed the name to Telecaster, after the newly popular medium of television. (The guitars manufactured in the interim bore no name, and are now popularly called 'Nocasters.') The Esquire was reintroduced as a one-pickup Telecaster, at a lower price.

In 1951, Fender also released the Precision Bass which was a stablemate to the Telecaster. This was later released as the Fender Telecaster Bass when the P-Bass line was updated to more closely resemble the Stratocaster.

Construction

Leo Fender's simple and modular design was geared to mass production, and made servicing broken guitars easier. Guitars were not constructed individually, as in traditional luthiery. Rather, components were produced quickly and inexpensively in quantity and assembled into a guitar on an assembly line. The bodies were band-sawed and routed from slabs, rather than hand-carved individually, as with other guitars made at the time, such as Gibsons. Fender did not use the traditional glued-in neck, but rather a bolt-on. This not only made production easier, but allowed the neck to be quickly removed and serviced, or replaced entirely. In addition, the classic Telecaster neck was fashioned from a single piece of maple without a separate fingerboard, and the frets were pressed directly into the maple surface—a highly unorthodox approach in its day (guitars traditionally featured rosewood or ebony fingerboards glued onto mahogany necks). The electronics were easily accessed for repair or replacement through a removable control plate, a great advantage over typical construction, in which the electronics could only be accessed through the soundholes in the case of hollow-body instruments, or later by taking off the pickguard after removing the strings (as in Fender's own later design, the Stratocaster).

In its classic form, the guitar is extremely simply constructed, with the neck and fingerboard comprising a single piece of maple, bolted to an ash or alder body inexpensively jigged with flat surfaces on the front and back. The hardware includes two single coil pickups controlled by a three-way selector switch, and one each of volume and tone controls. The pickguard was first Bakelite, soon thereafter it was Celluloid (later plastic), screwed directly onto the body with five (later eight) screws. The bridge has three adjustable saddles, with strings doubled up on each. The guitar quickly gained a following, and soon other, more established guitar companies (such as Gibson, whose Les Paul model was introduced in 1952; and later Gretsch, Rickenbacker, and others) began working on wooden solid-body production models of their own. A large chromed cover, often called the "ashtray", was fitted over the bridge for improved shielding, but this is rarely seen as most players find it impedes their style.

The original switch configuration used from 1950 to 1952 allowed selection of neck pickup with treble tone cut in the first position (for a bassier sound), and neck pickup with normal tone in the second position. The third switch position selected the bridge pickup with neck pickup blended in, depending on the position of the second "tone" knob. The first knob functioned normally as a master volume control. This configuration did not have a true tone control knob.[2]

Typical modern Telecasters (such as the American Standard version) incorporate several details different from the classic form. They typically feature 22 frets (rather than 21) and truss rod adjustment is made at the headstock end, rather than the body end, which had required removal of the neck on the original (the Custom Shop Bajo Sexto Baritone Tele was the only Telecaster featuring a two-octave 24-fret neck). The 3-saddle bridge of the original has been replaced with a 6-saddle version, allowing independent length and height adjustment for each string. The long saddle bridge screws allow a wide range of saddle bridge positions for intonation tuning. The stamped metal bridge plate has been replaced with a plain, flat plate, and the bridge grounding cover (which, while helping with the shielding, impedes players who like to mute strings at the bridge with the side of the palm, and makes it impossible to pick near the saddles to produce the characteristic Telecaster 'twang') has been discontinued for most models. Also different from the original is the wiring: The 3-way toggle switch selects neck pickup only in the first position, neck and bridge pickups together in the second position, and bridge pickup only in the third position. The first knob adjusts the master volume; the second is a master tone control affecting all the pickups.

During the CBS era in the 1970s, the Telecaster body style was changed to a new "notchless" shape, having a less pronounced notch in the crook where the upper bout meets the neck. The notchless body style was discontinued in 1982.

The short-lived Elite Telecaster of 1983 incorporated two specially designed humbucking pickups powered by an active circuitry featuring a TBX guitar expander and a MDX midrange booster with 12dB of gain. Other features included a Freeflyte hardtail bridge and die-cast tuning machines with pearloid buttons. This guitar was among the latest CBS-era Fenders to feature a BiFlex truss-rod system, low-friction EasyGlider string trees and active electronics. After CBS sold Fender to a group of employees led by Bill C. Schultz in 1985, the Elite Telecaster, as well as the other Elite models, has no longer been produced. Fender Japan made its own version of the Elite Telecaster in late 1984, featuring a 22-fret neck with medium-jumbo fretwire and a modern 9.5" radius. Notable Elite Telecaster players include Johnny Hallyday and Dave Davies of The Kinks.

Higher-end models such as the American Deluxe and Plus Series Telecasters usually come with a Stratocaster-like contoured body for playing comfort.

The Telecaster sound

The Telecaster is known for its ability to produce both bright, rich, cutting tone or mellow, warm, bluesy tone depending on the selected pickup, respectively "bridge" pickup or "neck" pickup. The bridge pickup has more windings than the neck pickup hence producing much higher output, which compensates for a lower amplitude of vibration of the strings at bridge position. At the same time, a capacitor is fitted between the slider of the volume control and the output, allowing treble sounds to bleed through while the mid and lower ranges are damped.[3] A slanted bridge pickup enhances the guitar's treble tone. The solid body allows the guitar to deliver a clean amplified version of the strings' tone. This was an improvement on previous electric guitar designs, whose hollow bodies made them prone to unwanted feedback. These design elements allowed musicians to emulate steel guitar sounds, making it particularly useful in country music. Such emulation can be enhanced by use of a B-Bender (B-string bending device invented by Gene Parsons of The Byrds and pioneered by country guitarist Clarence White), enabling a smooth, precise change of pitch for a single string within a chord (White's original Telecaster fitted with the B-Bender device is now in the possession of country guitarist Marty Stuart who uses the guitar as his main onstage instrument). These characteristics makes the Telecaster a versatile guitar, usable for most styles of music from Country, Blues, Rock to Jazz.

Variants

The Telecaster has also been a long-time favorite guitar for hot-rod customizing. Several variants of the guitar appeared throughout the years with a wide assortment of pickup configurations, such as a humbucker in the neck position, three single-coil pickups and even dual humbuckers with special wiring schemes. Fender offered hot-rodded Teles with such pickup configurations, the US Fat and Nashville B-Bender Telecasters around 1998. The Deluxe Blackout Tele was also equipped with 3 single-coil pickups, a "Strat-o-Tele" selector switch and a smaller headstock than a standard Telecaster. The most common variants of the standard two-pickup solid body Telecaster are the semi-hollow Thinline, the twin-humbucker Deluxe and the Custom which replaced the neck single coil-pickup with a humbucking pickup. The Custom and Deluxe were introduced during the CBS period and are offered to this day.

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Telecaster Thinline

Fender 72 Telecaster Thinline.png

A semi-hollow thinline version appeared in 1968/69, designed by German guitar maker Roger Rossmeisl. Today two versions of the Thinline are available, the '69 version has two standard Telecaster pickups and a mahogany body, while the '72 version, based on the Fender Telecaster Deluxe, yields two Fender Wide Range pickups and a solid natural swamp ash body

Telecaster Deluxe

This model includes two Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups and was originally produced from 1972 to 1981 and have since then been reissued. The Tele Deluxe sported a large headstock similar to the Stratocaster maple neck and a contoured body, as well as a tremolo bridge option on models manufactured after 1973/74.

Telecaster Custom

TeleCustom 76 horiz.jpg

The Tele Custom was popularized by Rolling Stones' guitarist and composer Keith Richards since its introduction in the early 1970s, featuring a Fender Wide Range humbucker in the neck position and a single-coil pickup in the bridge. The market generally refers to the guitar as the "1972 Custom", indicating the year this model was originally released.

Telecaster Plus

Teleplusdeluxe.jpg

Designed to restore Fender's reputation after a group of employees led by William C. Schultz took over ownership from CBS in the early 1980s. The pickups used in early models were dual humbucking Red Lace Sensors in the bridge position and a single Blue Lace Sensor in the neck position. Later models (post 1994 or so) used three Gold Lace Sensors or a Red/Silver/Blue set in a Strat-like configuration, as well as low-friction roller nuts, locking synchronized vibrato bridge and tuners and a bound contoured alder body with ash veneers. These instruments were discontinued in 1998 with the advent of the American Deluxe series; there have been no reissues.

Tele Jr.

Tele jr.jpg

The Fender Tele Jr. is a variant of the Fender Telecaster electric guitar, produced in a limited run of 100 units by the Fender Custom Shop in the early 1990s. While its body shape and scale length are those of the Telecaster, many of its construction and electronic features, for example its set-in neck are more similar to those of a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

J5 Triple Deluxe Telecaster

The Triple Deluxe tele is Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist John5's signature model. It is similar to the regular Deluxe Tele, but it features three Fender "Enforcer" humbuckers and a chrome pickguard.

Models

In keeping with other models Fender distinguishes product lines manufactured in different locations. Standard and Classic models are manufactured outside of the United States while model lines manufactured in the United States are named American as well as Special edition and Highway One models.

The top-of-the-line American Deluxe Telecaster (introduced in 1998 and upgraded in 2004) features a pair of Samarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups and the S-1 switching system. Models made prior to 2004 featured two Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele single-coils and 4-bolt neck fixing. Other refinements include a bound contoured alder or ash body and an abalone dot-inlaid maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets, rolled fingerboard edges, and highly detailed nut and fret work. The HH model sported an ebony fingerboard, quilted or flamed maple top and a pair of Enforcer humbuckers with S-1 switching (discontinued as of 2008). A Fishman Powerbridge was briefly offered on the American Deluxe Telecasters made from 2000 to 2001. Fender currently offers the Fishman bridge on the Mexican-made Deluxe Series Nashville Tele guitar.

The American Series model uses two single-coil pickups with DeltaTone system (featuring a high output bridge pickup and a reverse-wound neck pickup). Other features include a parchment pickguard, non-veneered alder or ash bodies and rolled fingerboard edges. There were also HS and HH guitars with Enforcer humbucking pickups and S-1 switching which debuted in 2003; they have been discontinued in 2007. As of 2008, all American Standard Telecasters came with a redesigned Tele bridge with vintage-style bent steel saddles.

The American Nashville B-Bender guitar is modeled after the personally customized instruments of some of Nashville's top players, featuring a Fender/Parsons/Green B-Bender system, two American Tele single-coils (neck, bridge), a Texas Special Strat single-coil (middle) and five-way "Strat-O-Tele" pickup switching. Ideal for country bends and steel guitar glisses, this Tele is available only with a maple fingerboard.

The American Series Ash Telecaster is based on the '52 vintage reissue. It features an ash body, one-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 22 frets and two Modern Vintage Tele single-coil pickups. Fender discontinued this guitar in 2006.

The Custom Classic Telecaster was the Custom Shop version of the American Series Tele, featuring a pair of Classic and Twisted single-coils in the bridge and neck positions, as well as a reverse control plate. Earlier versions made before 2003 featured an American Tele single-coil paired with two Texas Special Strat pickups and 5-way switching. Discontinued in 2009 and replaced by the Custom Deluxe series models.

The Highway One Telecaster (introduced in 2003) features a pair of distortion-friendly Alnico III single-coils, super-sized frets, Greasebucket circuit and '70s styling (since 2006). The Texas Telecaster sports a 1-piece maple neck/fretboard with a modern 12” radius and 21 jumbo frets, solid ash body and a pair of Hot Vintage pickups.

In 2010, the American Special Telecaster was introduced. While retaining such features from the Highway One as jumbo frets, Greasebucket tone circuit and 70s logo, The American Special also includes some upgrades such as a glossy urethane finish, compensated brass 3-saddle bridge and Texas Special pickups.

The moderately-priced Standard, Classic and Deluxe Tele guitars are made in Mexico, Japan and Korea. Each of these instruments has a feature set which makes them more affordable.

Artist Series Telecasters have features favored by world-famous Fender endorsees James Burton, John 5, Muddy Waters, Jim Root, G. E. Smith, Joe Strummer and Jim Adkins. Custom Artist models are made at the Fender Custom Shop, differing slightly quality and construction-wise; their prices are much higher than the standard production versions.

Significance

The Telecaster was important in the evolution of country, electric blues, funk, rock and roll and other forms of popular music, because its solid construction allowed the guitar to be played loudly as a lead instrument, with long sustain if desired, and with less of the whistling 'hard' feedback (known in sound reinforcement circles as 'microphonic feedback') that hollowbodied instruments tend to produce at volume (a different kind from the controllable feedback later explored by Jimi Hendrix and countless other players). Even though the Telecaster is more than half a century old, and more sophisticated designs have been coming out since the early 1950s (including Fender's own Stratocaster), the Telecaster has remained in constant production. There have been numerous variations and modifications, but a model with something close to the original features has always been available.

Signature Telecaster players

Over the years, many famous guitarists have made the Telecaster their signature instrument. In the early days, country session musicians were drawn to this instrument designed for the "working musician." These included Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, James Burton, and Jerry Reed who played with such stars as Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard (a Signature Telecaster model player himself). Burton's favorite guitar was his famous Pink Paisley model Telecaster. Later, Danny Gatton blended diverse musical styles (including blues, rockabilly and bebop) with such great proficiency and clarity that he became known as the "telemaster." Eric Clapton used a Telecaster during his stint with The Yardbirds, and also played a Custom Telecaster fitted with Brownie's neck while with Blind Faith. Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins proved the Telecaster equally suited for playing the blues. Muddy Waters also consistently used the Telecaster and Mike Bloomfield also used the guitar on his earlier works. Soul sessionist Steve Cropper used a crisp, spare Tele sound with Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and countless other soul and blues acts. Additionally, George Harrison used a custom-built rosewood Telecaster during the recording sessions for The Beatles' Let It Be album (including the famous rooftop concert), on which the sound of the Telecaster was modified by being amplified through a revolving Leslie cabinet speaker.

With the development of rock, the Tele inspired and sustained yet another genre. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has composed many classic riffs on his battered "Micawber" Tele. With endurance to match that of his guitar, Bruce Springsteen has given many energetic performances with his Esquire. Iconic are also worn-off green and respectively white Telecasters of the two frontmen of Status Quo, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt. Another signature Telecaster player is Andy Summers of The Police. Jimmy Page used a psychedelic-coloured 1958 Telecaster, (painted by Page himself, and also known as the "Dragon Telecaster") on the first Led Zeppelin albums, and also for the lead solo in the 1971 song "Stairway to Heaven". The guitar had been given to Page by his friend Jeff Beck,[4] but by the time of the recording of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, on which "Stairway" appears, Page had begun using various Gibson electric guitars heavily, so the use of the Telecaster was considered unusual. Albert Lee's extensive use of the Telecaster earned him the nickname of "Mr. Telecaster." Joe Strummer (frontman of the punk band The Clash) used his worn and battered 1966 Telecaster (originally Sunburst but spray painted black) with its distinctive "Ignore Alien Orders" sticker from the beginning of his musical career until the day he died. In January 2007, Fender issued the G. E. Smith signature Telecaster in honour of Smith's reputation as a modern master of the Telecaster. G.E. Smith was the lead guitarist in the Hall & Oates band and the musical director of Saturday Night Live. Though preferring the Epiphone Sheraton and similar ES-335 Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher also uses the 60's Telecaster model when performing live and for recording albums including the recent Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul (2008).

References

  1. ^ Duchossoir, A. R. (1991). The Fender Telecaster: The detailed story of America's senior solid body electric guitar. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Co. ISBN 0-7935-0860-6.
  2. ^ Duchossoir, 1991, 15
  3. ^ The Telecaster Sound
  4. ^ 1977 Jimmy Page Interview (Audio/Text)
  • Bacon, Tony (1991). The Ultimate Guitar Book. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0-375-70090-0.
  • Bacon, Tony & Day, Paul (1998). The Fender Book: A complete history of Fender electric guitars (2nd ed.). London: Balafon Books. ISBN 0-87930-554-1.
  • Burrows, Terry (general editor) (1998). The Complete Encyclopedia of the Guitar: The definitive guide to the world's most popular instrument. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-865027-1.
  • Denyer, Ralph (1992). The Guitar Handbook. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd. ISBN 0-679-74275-1.
  • Freeth, Nick & Alexander, Charles (1999). The Electric Guitar. Philadelphia: Courage Books. ISBN 0-7624-0522-8.
  • Wheeler, Tom (et al.), edited by Trynka, Paul (1993). The Electric Guitar: An illustrated history. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-0863-7.
  • U.S. Patent No. D164227

External links


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