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TELE VISIONS

The Fender Telecaster was the first – and many still insist, is the deinitive – mass-produced solidbody electric guitar. Here, the people who introduced it to the world and helped turn it into an enduring musical icon tell the remarkable story of its creation…

THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE TELECASTER

Fender Broadcasters were only made between autumn 1950 and March 1951, and are the most coveted and valuable models in the Telecaster family tree
Bob Perine’s famous portrait of Leo Fender at the drawing board

This is the insider’s story of the birth of the Fender Telecaster, the first commercial solidbody electric guitar. The Telecaster was a factory product, stripped down to its essentials, built from easily assembled parts, and made at a relatively affordable price. Guitarists of every stripe have come to love the Tele for its elegant simplicity and for its dry bite and twangy punch. Back when it first appeared in the early 50s, it was, quite simply, a revolutionary instrument. This oral history about the birth of the Telecaster comes from interviews I’ve done over the years for my various books about Fender.

Leo Fender opened his Fender Radio Service store in 1938, and his first guitars were electric lap-steels, made in the mid 40s with his partner, Doc Kauffman, and using the shortlived K&F brand. Doc left, and Leo renamed his new company in 1947 as the Fender Electric Instrument Co, based in Fullerton in Orange County, California, and continuing to produce electric steels and small ampliiers into the 50s.

Fender’s new solidbody electric was at first called the Esquire, advertised in 1950 with a single pickup, which morphed into the two-pickup Broadcaster, first offered in about October of the same year. Gretsch objected to the use of the name Broadcaster, and the snipped-decal ‘Nocaster’ was sold from around February to April ‘51. Finally, around April 1951, Fender’s new guitar was given the name that we know best today, the Telecaster.

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