The Fender Telecaster has truly earned its place in the electric guitar pantheon. As the first mass-produced solid body electric guitar, it jumpstarted a revolution in guitar making. The Tele is known for its distinctive sound, known affectionately as the “Tele twang.” Though originally designed for jazz, it was quickly adopted by country players because of its sound. Few guitars are quite as versatile musically; famous Tele players include performers as diverse as Joe Strummer (The Clash), Danny Gatton, and John 5 (Marilyn Manson).
The most sought after Teles for collectors are referred to as “blackguards.” These guitars were built between 1950 and 1954, and demonstrate the evolution of the guitar we now know as the Telecaster. The very first of these bore the name “Esquire,” and possessed only one single-coil pickup. Only 50 Esquires were made, and most of them no longer have the original neck, as it had no truss rod to prevent it from bending. There was also a dual pickup Esquire model, which was soon renamed the “Broadcaster.” Gretsch, the guitar and drum manufacturer, claimed that Fender’s Broadcaster name infringed upon its Broadkaster drums trademark, and in response Fender stopped using the name. The proto-Telecaster models produced during this time bore no name on the headstock, earning them the nickname “Nocasters.” Esquires and Broadcasters have their model names printed on their headstocks, as do most other Fender guitars following the Nocaster. Ultimately, Fender named the model “Telecaster,” capitalizing on the popularity of television. Fender and Squier have a few current models that recapture the sounds and sensations of these classics:
- Fender ’50s Esquire Electric Guitar
- Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster Reissue
- Fender Vintage Hot Rod ’50s Telecaster
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster
The Telecaster’s broad range is reflected in the variety of songs in which it features. Jeff Buckley played his haunting version of “Hallelujah” with a Telecaster and nothing more. Andy Summers recorded the riffs for many Police hits, such as “Message in a Bottle,” with his customized Tele. Brian May took a break from his homemade guitar, Red Special, to play a Tele in Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Brad Paisley favors Teles for most of his hits, including “Alcohol.” You can even hear Steve Cropper’s Tele rhythm sounds in “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs.
There’s a Telecaster model for every budget and skill level.
A Squier Telecaster is an excellent choice for the first-time electric guitar player. Squiers are built to Fender’s specifications in Asia (primarily China). It may not have all of the same fancy electronics of the Fender versions, but it’s still a high quality instrument.
These Telecasters are produced in Fender’s factory in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. They are often referred to as Mexican Telecasters. These guitars are made to Fender’s specifications with high quality parts, but at a more affordable price than the American models. Models from this factory include:
- Fender Standard Telecaster
- Fender Blacktop Telecaster
- Fender Road Worn Telecaster
- Fender Classic Series Telecasters
- Fender Classic Player Series Telecasters
Fender American Telecasters
Fender American Telecasters are manufactured in Fender’s primary factory in Corona, California, USA. These are among the highest quality Teles that Fender produces.
- American Standard Telecaster
- American Special Telecaster
- American Deluxe Telecaster
- American Deluxe Ash Telecaster
Fender Custom Shop Telecasters
These are very special Telecaster models, intended as fine additions for the guitar aficionado’s collection. They are usually limited production items, built to honor a legendary player or a specific guitar associated with one. They are handcrafted in the USA by Fender’s best craftsmen.