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Encyclopedia > Telecaster
1950s-style Telecaster with natural finish, with metal bridge cover removed.
1950s-style Telecaster with natural finish, with metal bridge cover removed.

The Fender Telecaster is a dual-pickup, solid-body electric guitar. Its simple, yet effective design and revolutionary sound broke ground and set trends in the fields of electric guitar manufacture and popular music. Introduced for national distribution as the Broadcaster in the fall of 1950, 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 the spring of 1950, when the single- and dual-pickup Esquire models were first sold. From that time to the present, the Telecaster has been in continuous production in one form or another, making it the world's senior solid-body electric guitar (Duchossoir, 1991, 11-15). File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Early-1960s-style Fender Precision Bass The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, initially named the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, was started by Leo Fender in the 1940s, and is one of the most widely recognised manufacturers of electric guitars, bass guitars and amplifiers. ... An electric guitar is a type of guitar with a solid or semi-solid body that utilizes electromagnetic pickups to convert the vibration of the steel-cored strings into electrical current. ...



The Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in Fullerton, California, in the 1940s. But like many great ideas, the solid-body electric guitar was created independently by several craftsman and companies over a similar period (roughly 1932-1949), such that any claim of a 'first' demands a great deal of qualification. Leo Fender's Telecaster was simply the right guitar at the right time, and like many other great ideas, it began as an accident. Clarence Leonidas Fender (August 10, 1909 - March 21, 1991) was an American luthier who founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, now known as Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and later founded G&L Musical Products (G&L Guitars). ...

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. Lap Steel Guitar (also called Hawaiian Guitar or simply lap steel or steel guitar) is a type of guitar, and a method of playing the instrument. ...

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 honest wooden construction. (Rickenbacker, then called 'Rickenbacher,' had also offered a solid Bakelite-bodied electric Spanish guitar in 1935, many details of which seem echoed in Fender's design.) Steve Howe playing a Rickenbacker guitar with the progressive rock band Yes in 1977 Rickenbacker is one of the oldest brand names in the manufacture of electric guitars. ... Bakelite is a brand named material based on the thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, developed in 1907-1909 by Dr. Leo Baekeland. ...

The initial 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.) Later in 1950, this single-pickup model was discontinued, and a two-pickup model was renamed the Broadcaster. The Gretsch company, itself a manufacturer of (hollowbody) electric guitars, claimed that "Broadcaster" violated the trademark for its Broadkaster line of drums, and as a newcomer to the industry, Fender decided to bend and change 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. Gretsch is a US musical instrument manufacturer. ...


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 these modular parts were assembled into a guitar in an assembly line. The bodies were band-sawed and routed from slabs, rather than being hand-carved individually, as with other guitars made at the time, such as Gibsons. Leo did not use the traditional glued-in neck, but a bolt-on neck. This not only made production easier, but allowed the neck to be quickly removed and serviced, or else replaced entirely. The electronics were easily accessed for repair or replacement through a removable scratch plate--a great advantage over typical construction, in which the electronics could only be accessed through the f-holes of carved tops.

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 that's 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 is Bakelite (later plastic), screwed directly onto the body. The bridge (shown here without detachable bridge cover) has three adjustable saddles, with strings doubled up on each. Fender couldn't play guitar, and many believe that this contributed to the instrument's appliance-like design. It was, however, a very attractive instrument with an aura of the modern upon it, and it 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 pickup device acts as a detector and captures mechanical vibrations (usually from suitably equipped stringed instruments such as the electric guitar, electric bass guitar and violin) and converts them to an electronic signal which can be amplified and recorded. ... 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (or replica) The Gibson Les Paul signature model is one of the classic solid-body electric guitar designs. ...

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 (Duchossoir, 1991, 15).

Reissue of 1972 Telecaster Thinline (a semi-hollow variant) with natural finish and humbucker pickups.
Reissue of 1972 Telecaster Thinline (a semi-hollow variant) with natural finish and humbucker pickups.

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 a rosewood fretboard. Truss rod adjustment is made at the headstock end, rather than at the body end, which had required removal of the pickguard on the original. 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 stamped metal bridge plate has been replaced with a plain, flat plate, and the bridge pickup cover (which, while attractive, impedes players who like to mute strings at the bridge with the side of their palm) has been discontinued. 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 controls volume for all pickups, and the second knob controls tone for all pickups Download high resolution version (270x800, 41 KB)fender telecaster thinline File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Download high resolution version (270x800, 41 KB)fender telecaster thinline File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... A humbucker is a type of electric guitar pickup. ...

The Tele sound

The Telecaster is known for its bright, cutting tone. One of the secrets to the Tele's sound centers on the bridge. The strings pass through the body and are anchored at the back by six ferrules, giving solidity and sustain to the guitar's sound. The original 3-saddle bridge resulted in good "coupling" between the strings and the solid body, further enhancing sustain. A slanting 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, and which sometimes suffered from a muddy, indistinct sound. 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-string bending device (see Clarence White for more on that), enabling a smooth change of pitch for a single string within a chord. Clarence White (June 7, 1944 - July 14, 1973) was a guitar player for The Byrds and the Kentucky Colonels. ...


The Telecaster was important in the evolution of country, electric blues, 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 than the controllable feedback later exploited 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. For the emotional state, see Depression (mood). ... Rock and roll (also spelled Rock n Roll, especially in its first decade), also called rock, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), electric guitars and a strong back beat; other instruments, such as the saxophone, are common in some styles. ... Popular music is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and mostly distributed commercially. ... In cybernetics and control theory, feedback is a process whereby some proportion or in general, function, of the output signal of a system is passed (fed back) to the input. ... Jimi Hendrix James Marshall Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, widely considered to be the most important electric guitarist in the history of popular music. ... A recent Squier Stratocaster with maple fingerboard, two-tone sunburst finish, and contrasting plastic parts. ...

Signature Telecaster players

Many famous guitarists have used the Tele as their main axe throughout their careers, making it their signature instrument. In the early days, country session musicians were drawn to this instrument designed for the "working musician." These included James Burton, who played with such stars as Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard. Burton's favorite guitar was his famous Red Paisley model Telecaster. Danny Gatton blended diverse musical styles (including blues, rockabilly and bebop) with such great proficiency and clarity that he became known as the "telemaster." Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins proved the Telecaster equally suited for playing the blues. Soul sessionist Steve Cropper used a crisp, spare Tele sound to perfect effect with Booker T. and the M.G.'s. James Burton (b. ... Ricky Nelson Eric Hilliard Ricky Nelson, alternately Rick Nelson (May 8, 1940 - December 31, 1985), was one of the first American teen idols. ... Elvis Presley Elvis Aron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), also known as The King of Rock and Roll or The King, was an American singer and actor. ... Merle Ronald Haggard (April 6, 1937 in Bakersfield, California) is an American country music singer and songwriter. ... Danny Gatton was a talented American guitarist who tragically committed suicide in October of 1994. ... Roy Buchanan (September 23, 1939 - August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician, and was considered a soulful master of the electric guitar. ... Albert Collins album cover Albert Collins (October 1, 1932 – November 24, 1993) was a blues guitarist, singer and musician. ... Steve Cropper (born October 21, 1941) is a guitarist, songwriter, producer, and soul musician. ... Booker T. & the M.G.s is a soul band, most prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. ...

With the development of rock, the Tele inspired and sustained yet another genre. On the psychedelic fringe, original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett produced frenetic improvisations and bizarre effects on his famous mirrored Telecaster. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has composed many classic riffs on his battered Tele. With endurance to match that of his guitar, Bruce Springsteen has given many energetic performances with his two pickup Esquire. The three guitarists of alternative rock band Radiohead have all relied on Telecasters. At the nexus of pop, rock, soul and funk, Prince has often sported a Tele slung across his back. Former Marilyn Manson guitarist John5 has two customized Telecaster models built for him by Fender. Pink Floyd circa 1971. ... Syd Barrett in concert Roger Keith Barrett (born January 6, 1946 in Cambridge, England), known as Syd Barrett, was one of the founding members of the psychedelic/progressive rock group Pink Floyd. ... Album photograph by Sante D’orazio Keith Richards (born December 18, 1943 in Dartford, Kent), is a British guitarist and songwriter, best known for his work with The Rolling Stones, the band he founded with vocalist Mick Jagger and Brian Jones in 1962. ... This article is about the rock band. ... Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. ... From left to right: Ed OBrien, Jonny Greenwood, Thom Yorke, Phil Selway and Colin Greenwood Radiohead are a British alternative rock band from Oxford. ... Princes look, circa 1983 Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a popular and influential singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. ... Marilyn Manson, Circa Holy Wood Marilyn Manson is a band based in Hollywood, California that can be described as shock rock, neo-glam rock, and arguably industrial metal. The lead singer of the band, Brian Warner, also performs under the name Marilyn Manson. ... This article contains information that has not been verified. ...

For a list of other artists who have used the Telecaster or Esquire, see Telecaster players. This is an alphabetized list of famous musicians who have used the Fender Telecaster, Broadcaster or Esquire in live performances or studio recordings. ...


  • 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.
  • Duchossoir, A. R. (1991). The Fender Telecaster: The detailed story of America's senior solid body electric guitar. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. ISBN 0-7935-0860-6.
  • 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.

See also

A typical early 70s Telecaster Deluxe The Fender Telecaster Deluxe is a solid-body electric guitar originally produced from 1972 to 1981, and since re-issued by Fender in 2004 as the 72 Telecaster Deluxe. ...

External links

  • Ten Terrific Telecaster ™ Guitars - Descriptions and pictures, including the prototype.
  • Telecaster Discussion Page Reissue - Telecaster ™ Discussion Forum.


  • A wall display (monochrome or multi-color display mounted to a wall) that displays information about all sorts of (mostly work related) information is sometimes referred to as Telecaster. One can often find them in a call center or companies that want to inform people about measurable information like work queue, number of visits, stock market etc.

  Results from FactBites:
Pete's Equipment | Fender Telecasters | Whotabs | Pete Townshend Guitar Amp (484 words)
Unlike the Ricks, with their neck-through-body construction and a hollow body that Pete likened to “balsa wood” or “cardboard,” the Telecaster, with its bolt-on neck and solid Alder slab body, could take multiple blows before breaking and be easily reconstructed for the next show.
The Telecaster likely left an impression on Pete, as he would return to the Fender Telecaster around 1980, acquiring a vintage 1952 Fender Telecaster for studio work — which he later called his favourite guitar.
And he used a 1952 Telecaster reissue on stage for the Psychoderelict shows in 1993 as well as solo shows in 1995 to the present.
  More results at FactBites »



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