||This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2009)|
|Neck joint||Bolt-on neck|
|Body||Ash, Alder, or Poplar|
|Fretboard||Maple or Rosewood|
|Pickup(s)||3 Single-coil, 2 Single-coil, 2 Humbucker, 3 Humbucker, or 1 Single-coil and 1 Humbucker|
|Butterscotch Blonde (shown above); other colors are available|
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 1950, it was the first guitar of its kind 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. The Fender Telecaster has been mostly used in music genres such as country and rock, but is also sometimes used in blues and jazz.
The Fender Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in Fullerton, California in 1950. In the period roughly between 1932 and 1949, several craftsmen and companies experimented with solid-body electric guitars, but none 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, Clayton Orr "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 anonymous 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,' also offered a solid Bakelite-bodied electric Spanish guitar in 1935 that seemed to presage details of 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 as a stablemate to the Telecaster. This was later released as the Fender Telecaster Bass when Fender updated the Precision Bass to more closely resemble the Stratocaster.
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 bandsawn 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 slid directly into the side of 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 by taking off the pickguard after removing the strings (in a design popularized by Fender's own later guitar model, the Stratocaster).
In its classic form, the guitar is 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), the neck pickup with its natural tone in the second position with no tone, and in the third switch position both pickups together with the neck pickup blended into the bridge, 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.
In 1952 the pickup selection circuit was modified by Fender to incorporate a real tone control. Between 1953 and 1967 the neck could be selected alone with a pre-set bassy sound and no tone control, in the middle switch the neck could be selected alone with the tone control and finally the bridge could be selected with the tone control. Although this provided the player with a proper tone control, this assembly did away with any sort of pickup combination. Eventually from late 1967 Fender again modified the circuit for the final time to give the Telecaster a more traditional twin pickup switching system: neck pickup alone with tone control in the first position, both pickups together with the tone control in the middle position and in the third position the bridge pickup alone with the tone control.
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 that featured a "TBX" guitar expander and an MDX midrange booster with 12 dB 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, production ceased on the Elite Telecaster and other Elite models. Fender Japan made its own version of the Elite Telecaster in late 1984, which featured a 22-fret neck with medium-jumbo fretwire and a modern 9.5 inch fingerboard radius. Notable Elite Telecaster players include Johnny Hallyday and Dave Davies of The Kinks. Michael Houser w/ Widespread Panic and Andy Summers of The Police.
The Telecaster sound
The Telecaster is known for its ability to produce both bright, rich, cutting tone (the typical telecaster twang) 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 higher output, which compensates for a lower amplitude of vibration of the strings at bridge position. At the same time, a capacitor between the slider of the volume control and the output, allows treble sounds to bleed through while damping mid and lower ranges. 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. These characteristics make the Telecaster a versatile guitar, usable for most styles of music including country, blues, rock, and jazz.
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 reissues of both designs are currently offered.
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. In 2011, Fender released the Modern Player Telecaster Thinline as a part of the Modern Player series. The guitar features two MP-90 pickups, similar to the Gibson P-90. The Fender Custom Shop has a production model referred to as the "50's Telecaster Thinline", designed by master builder, Chris Fleming. Given that the first Thinlines appeared in the late 1960s, this name may seem inappropriate. However, the Custom Shop model, with its ash body and maple neck/fingerboard, as well as Nocaster pickups, shares enough DNA with the 50's versions of the Telecaster to make the name a good fit.
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.
The first edition of the Telecaster Custom was produced between 1959-1968, and featured a double-bound body. While the guitar was known as the Telecaster Custom, the decal on the headstock read "Custom Telecaster". Later editions of the Tele Custom were popularized by Rolling Stones' guitarist and composer Keith Richards, 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.
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 1995 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. In 2011 Fender released the Modern Player Telecaster Plus as a part of the Modern Player series. The guitar has a humbucker in the bridge, a Strat pickup in the middle, and a Tele pickup in the neck positions.
The Fender Tele Jr. is a variant of the Fender Telecaster electric guitar that the Fender Custom Shop produced in a limited run of 100 units in the early 1990s. It uses a Telecaster body shape, scale length, and electronics controls (albeit, with a reversed control plate). However, many of its construction and electronic features—for example its set-in neck and P-90-style pickups—are similar to those of a Gibson Les Paul Junior (hence the name) and Gibson Les Paul Special electric guitars.
J5 Triple Tele Deluxe
The Triple Tele Deluxe is Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist John5's signature model. It is similar to the regular Telecaster Deluxe, but it features three Fender "Enforcer" humbuckers and a chrome pickguard.
Modern Player Telecaster
The Modern Player Telecaster is a very special Tele, it has a common telecaster-pickup in the neck position, a single-coil strat-pickup in the middle position and a humbucker in the bridge position. It's equiped with a 5-way-selector switch, a volume control, tone control and a switch to split the humbucker coils.
In keeping with other models Fender distinguishes product lines manufactured in different locations.
- The moderately-priced Standard, Classic and Deluxe Telecaster models are manufactured in Mexico, Japan and Korea. Each of these instruments has a feature set that makes them more affordable.
- The American Standard, American Vintage, American Deluxe, Special Edition and Highway One model lines are manufactured in the United States.
The American Deluxe Telecaster (introduced in 1998; upgraded in 2004, 2008, and 2010) 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, Fender/Fishman Powerbridge piezo system 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). As of March 23, 2010, Fender updated the American Deluxe Telecaster with a compound radius maple neck, N3 Noiseless Tele pickups and a reconfigured S-1 switching system for wider sonic possibilities. The new model now sports staggered, locking tuning machines, which provide better break angle over the nut for increased sustain and improved tuning stability.
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.
In 2003 Fender offered Telecasters with a humbucking/single coil pickup arrangement or two humbucking pickups featuring Enforcer humbucking pickups, and S-1 switching. These models were discontinued in 2007. As of 2008, all American Standard Telecasters came with a redesigned Tele bridge with vintage-style bent steel saddles. In March 2012 the American Standard Telecaster was been updated with Custom Shop pickups (Broadcaster in the bridge, Twisted in the neck); the body is now contoured for reduced weight and more comfort.
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 Telecaster series models. The 2011 version of the Custom Shop "Custom Deluxe" Telecaster featured a lightweight Ash body with contoured heel, Birdseye maple neck, and a pickup set that included a Twisted Tele neck pickup and a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop BG-1400 stacked humbucker in the bridge position.
The Highway One Telecaster (introduced in 2003) features a pair of distortion-friendly Alnico III single-coils, super-sized frets, Greasebucket circuit and 1970s styling (since 2006). The Texas Telecaster sports a 1-piece maple neck/fretboard with a modern 12” radius and 22 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 1970s logo, the American Special also includes some upgrades such as a glossy urethane finish, compensated brass 3-saddle bridge and Texas Special pickups.
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.
In September 2010, Fender introduced the Mexican-made Black Top Telecaster HH, featuring dual hot vintage alnico humbucking pickups, a one-piece maple neck with rosewood or maple fretboard and 22 medium-jumbo frets. Other features include a solid contoured alder body, a reversed control assembly and black skirted amp control knobs.
In 2011, Fender released the Modern Player series, which featured the Modern Player Telecaster Thinline and the Modern Player Telecaster Plus.
Squier model Telecasters are sold by Squier, a Fender-owned import brand. These can bear the Telecaster name, since Squier is owned by Fender. Squier guitars, especially the Telecasters, have gained popularity and a good reputation amongst guitar players,since it has expanded its production of guitar models.For example a 1989 Korean Squier Telecaster made in the Samick factory could be considered tonally superior to a modern American produced guitar besides necks being more comfortable in general.Template:Citation neede Squier has a wide range of different Telecaster type guitars available, from the entry-level Affinity Series to the better quality Standard and Classic Vibe Series. However, Standards are often used by beginners. Also available are the Artist Series and Vintage Modified Series. Among other famous musicians, Sheryl Crow has occasionally used a Squier Telecaster for recordings and live performances.[dead link]
The Telecaster was important in the evolution of country, electric blues, funk, rock and roll, and other forms of popular music. Its solid construction let guitarists play loudly as a lead instrument, with long sustain if desired. It produced less of the uncontrolled, whistling, 'hard' feedback ('microphonic feedback') that hollowbodied instruments tend to produce at volume (different from the controllable feedback later explored by Pete Townshend and countless other players). Even though the Telecaster is more than half a century old, and more sophisticated designs have appeared since the early 1950s (including Fender's own Stratocaster), the Telecaster remains in 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
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2010)|
Over the years, many 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 The King of the Tele Roy Buchanan, Buck Owens, Guthrie Thomas, Waylon Jennings, James Burton who played with Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard (a Signature Telecaster model player himself). Burton's favorite guitar was his Pink Paisley (or Paisley Red) model Telecaster. Later, Danny Gatton blended diverse musical styles (including blues, rockabilly and bebop) and 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 Tele with Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and countless other soul and blues acts.
One of the most important Telecaster players was Clarence White, who, during his short career, contributed more to country electric guitar than almost anyone else, along with being a phenomenal bluegrass flatpicking guitarist and a pioneer of the country rock genre. He played with the Byrds, and Nashville West along with the bluegrass bands the Kentucky Colonels and Muleskinner. He enlisted the help of Gene Parsons and invented the StringBender, a device inside the body of the guitar that raises a string's (either the B- or G-string most of the time) pitch when pressure is applied to the strap. His Telecaster is one of the most recognizable and is now owned by Marty Stuart.
Additionally, George Harrison used a custom-built rosewood Telecaster during the recording sessions for The Beatles' Let It Be album (including the rooftop concert), played through a Leslie speaker; Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows guitarist Pete Special frequently had reissue of Harrison's Tele onstage in the mid-1980s, but rarely played it. Pearl Jam singer and guitarist Eddie Vedder has been known to use a custom black Telecaster with a white pickguard containing a black arrow decal pointing towards a target design under the strings. Guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins, known for the variety of acoustic and electric guitars that he used, occasionally played a Telecaster in his duets with Jerry Reed.
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. 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-colored 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, who had also been using the Telecaster with The Yardbirds. Bruce Springsteen used a custom Telecaster (with an Esquire neck) off and on throughout his career, both solo and with the E Street Band. David Knopfler, rhythm guitarist from Dire Straits played a sunburst custom Fender Telecaster with white ribboning when with the band.
Albert Lee's extensive use of the Telecaster earned him the nickname of "Mr. Telecaster". His acolyte Ronnie Earl (then still Ronnie Earl Horvath) favored a Telecaster during his tenure with Roomful of Blues. Both John Tichy and Bill Kirchen of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen wielded Teles, as did Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers has used Telecasters throughout his career. 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 honor 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. Tom Morello of "Rage Against The Machine" plays a black American Telecaster called "Sendero Luminoso" (Shining Path) for songs in drop-D tuning. Jim Root from Slipknot had a signature Telecaster released in 2009. Prince plays a Telecaster in the opening scene of his film, Purple Rain. Singer and Songwriter Jeff Buckley (Son of musician Tim Buckley) played an American Telecaster throughout his career. Lynval Golding, one of the guitarists for 2-Tone band The Specials, used a yellow telecaster throughout his time as a Special. Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist of Radiohead uses a Telecaster Plus model with lace sensor pickups as his main guitar. British singer and guitar player Anna Calvi exclusively plays a Telecaster through a Vox AC30. Danny Jones, of McFly, uses a Telecaster Vintage '52. Deryck Whibley (frontman and guitarist of the band Sum 41) uses his own signature Telecaster Deluxe, issued in 2005. It features one knob for volume and tone, a single humbucker pickup near the synchronized six-saddle bridge and without the traditional pickup selector switch.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Telecaster|
- Ten Terrific Telecaster Guitars - Descriptions, including the prototype (Archived version accessed 18 October 2006).