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Of the many solidbody guitar models produced in the last 60 years, few have enjoyed the popularity and longevity of the Fender Telecaster. Shortly after its invention, the Telecaster became a main staple of blues, country and rock musicians alike. The instrument has endured the test of time as the electric guitar of choice by players worldwide.
The first Telecaster, actually called the “Broadcaster,” and was designed by Leo Fender in California. Initially, Gretsch owned the rights to the instrument, but Fender improved his design and re-released the first Telecaster in 1951. It has been known by its nickname, the “Tele,” ever since.
As the world’s first mass-marketed solid body electric guitar, the Tele has gained so much favor with musicians because of its light weight and body-friendly contours. It is extremely easy to play and handle from a sitting or standing position. Telecasters feature two pickups, and the body is a single cutaway with an eight-screw pick guard.
In the 1970s, when Telecasters were manufactured in Mexico and Japan, the company began making them with two humbuckers. Minor cosmetic changes have come and gone over the last 60 years, but the basic Tele design remains the same as Fender’s prototype.
Fender manufactures various types of Telecasters, including the Artist series, the Vintage series, American Deluxe, American Standard, the Classic, and a few Special Issues. New Telecasters range in price from about $690 to $2,500, direct from the manufacturer. Vintage model prices can be lower or even higher.
The Telecaster sound has been described as “twangy,” hence its popularity with blues and country artists. The solid body of the Tele prevents feedback problems, and creates a clean, electrified tone.
During his 1960s stint with the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton played a Tele. Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders is also a Telecaster player. Other famous Tele aficionados include Jeff Beck, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, George Harrison, Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, Keith Richards and Pete Townshend.
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