The original company Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, was founded in Fullerton, California, by Clarence Leonidas "Leo" Fender in 1946 following his initial venture with Kauffmann: K&F.
Developed in 1949, Leo Fender came up with his first distinctive guitar the Esquire (which was named later Telecaster) by March 1950. This guitar is of very simple construction with a slab shape solid ash body featuring a single cutaway to allow easier access to the upper frets. The neck, a single piece of maple, was attached to the body with four screws. Initially the guitar had only a single pickup embedded into a metal bridge plate presenting the now famous and distinctive combination of bridge and pickup assembly, with a slanted pickup with individual pole pieces for each string, and three bridge saddles which allowed adjustment of string length in pairs and individual string height.
By June 1950, a two pickup version was produced adding a neck pickup encased in a metal shielding cover.
The guitar went through different name versions, due to legal and commercial reasons, before Fender settled on the name Telecaster for the two pickup version and Esquire for the original one pickup version.
The flat body, the single piece of wood for the neck and the modular design of the guitar were geared to mass production. In this early stage there were many technical improvements and refinements done to produce a reliable and practical instrument. Among others were added a truss rod to increase the stability of the neck and a tone control to extend the sonic range of the guitar.
Like the Ford model T for the automotive industry the Telecaster enabled that guitars were no longer built individually. Processes such as band sawing and routing the bodies could be industrialised and made it quicker and cheaper to produce a guitar. This in its turn helped to popularise the guitar and served as a major component in the development of rock and roll and many other genres of music. Associated with this guitar are musicians like Roy Buchanan, Buck Owens, Danny Gatton, Arlen Roth, Keith Richards, Albert Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Andy Summers, John 5, …
The Fender Esquire was the first solid body Spanish style electric guitar built by Fender in 1950. The guitar featured a single slanted pickup. Shortly after the introduction a two-pick-up version was launched under the name Broadcaster and renamed shortly after to Telecaster.
Although the Esquire was first put on the market today the Esquire is generally regarded as a variant of the Telecaster.
This white blonde Esquire guitar dates from 1955 and was one of Rich Robinson's guitars used in many concerts. The guitar is featured among others on the DVD: Chris & Rich Robinson: Brothers of a Feather - Live at the Roxy (2007).
It also appears in Vintage Guitar Magazine, June 2007 issue. In this interview Back on the Wing by Ward Meeker he speaks about this guitar:
“Have you (Rich Robinson) ever had any ’50s Teles?
I have a ’54 Esquire – its either a ’54 or ’55, I can’t remember. I originally had a ’61 and it was stolen in either Chicago or Grand Rapids. So there was a guitar shop in Hoboken – and it might have been Hoboken Guitars – but they had this ’55. After I got mine stolen, I found this one and it was just f***in’ great, has a baseball bat for a neck, and sounds amazing.”
See the guitar in action: