Fender, Telecaster, 1956 - Arlen Roth


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The Story Behind

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 Telecaster launched in 1950 was an immediate success due to its simple design, enabling through the single cutaway body to access the lower frets and to its sound possibilities from the two-pick-up configuration. All Telecasters basically have the same features: single cutaway slab body, 2 chrome knobs, 3 position toggle switch, 3 paired adjustable bridge saddles, strings anchor thru body.

This 1956 Telecaster guitar is an early production example of a well-aged and used Telecaster. It comes from the large collection of Arlen Roth's guitars. Arlen Roth one of the Masters of the Telecaster says about this guitar that it has an incredible sound!

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