Fender Telecaster History
Back in 1951, the Telecaster was a first-of-its-kind electric produced by Leo Fender and his fledgling company, beginning their journey to guitar ascendancy. While its younger brother, the Stratocaster, is slightly more familiar to most, even some seasoned guitarists are unaware that the Telecaster is the electric guitar that started it all for Fender.
The Telecaster was initially mocked by some for its odd, blocky body, with many naysayers' thinking it was unlikely to succeed by any measure. Yet, like all great innovations, the unique design outperformed expectations and showed its critics how boundless it could be. A smooth playing, versatile sounding instrument that could be easily repaired was a novelty in those days—and it was not overlooked. The new Fender instrument began slowly rising in popularity, from a small niche of swing and country guitarists, towards formidable blues players like Muddy Waters, and beyond.
While the Telecaster featured a simple design and great functionality out of the gate, the first iteration of the "Tele"— as it became affectionately known, needed some slight revision in the electronics department. By the late '60s, Fender had finally landed on the Telecaster controls that we still enjoy today—and going forward, the Telecaster would be found in the hands of young legends-to-be like Jimmy Page.
The Tele's twangy, high-treble tone, humming bass, and easy-to-play design, have carried it through the decades since its debut. It found a home in all styles of music, from the obvious country, to blues, to metal. Through it all, the Telecaster has maintained its character and style, making it beloved by major artists and beginning guitarists alike.
Fender Telecaster Features
Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the Telecaster is its characteristic "T" body shape. Basically a large, thick block of wood with a cutaway on the bottom, the Telecaster is nonetheless surprisingly comfortable.
Most Telecasters have two single-coil pickups, like the original design. The electronics are commonly comprised of two knobs—a master volume and tone, with a three-way pickup selector switch. Later iterations wielded two humbuckers, with some models sporting a humbucker at the neck with a single-coil at the bridge. With the more common "single-coil-at-the-bridge" design, Telecasters usually sport an ashtray style bridge, which surrounds the bridge pickup. Additionally, many players will recognize the Tele's large pickguard, which covers most of the upper bout of the guitar and essentially splits the body in half.
A Telecaster for Any Player and Any Budget
Telecasters today come in a huge variety, from the entry-level Squier Telecasters, to the collectable models in our Guitars of Distinction collection. To really get into detail, we have helpful articles including our Fender Telecaster Buyer’s Guide and our guide to choosing between the Telecaster and Stratocaster.
For new players seeking a very affordable instrument, the Squier Telecasters are where it's at. Though constructed in Asia, they are made to Fender’s specifications and still have all the traditional Telecaster features, including great playability and classic Tele sound. Squier's Tele line also includes Classic Vibe Series Telecasters, which have cool vintage features based off of models from the glory days of Fender guitars.
For a more moderately priced model with some additional quality, there are a number of great options crafted just over the border in Fender's Mexico factory. The constant traffic of personnel and materials between the two factories assures that these models have real Fender quality at value prices.
- The standard Player Tele includes all the great Tele specs you want, with no-frills, at an excellent price. It comes in the standard two single-coil configuration or as a dual humbucker (HH) model.
- The Classic Series Tele faithfully recreates vintage models with period-correct design. There are Custom and Deluxe models from 1972, Classic Player Baja models, and Telecaster builds replicating the models of the '50s and '60s.
- The Deluxe Teles are perhaps the rarest of the Mexican made models and tend to include some unique variations.
All Fender Telecasters are great quality guitars, but for the best materials, electronics, and workmanship, you'll want the American Telecasters made in Corona, California. Sam Ash offers all the top-of-the-line USA made American Telecasters, for guitarists who are looking for the best Tele money can buy.
- The American Performer Series Telecaster is the most affordable of the American line. It marries classic Tele build with modern materials, giving you American craftsmanship at a great price. This Series comes with Yosemite pickups, a Greasebucket tone circuit, and ClassicGear tuners. This series offers the option of a standard two single-coil Tele or a Tele Hum model, which features a Doubletap humbucker at the neck, controlled with a push/pull tone knob.
- The American Professional Telecaster features Tim Shaw designed pickups, a Deep "C" neck profile, and a Treble Bleed circuit. The American Professional Tele sports V-Mod single-coil pickups, while the American Professional Deluxe Tele Shawbucker has two humbuckers and individual volume and tone knobs for both pickups.
- The American Original Telecaster takes the best aspects of vintage designs and brings them into today's world. Outfitted with period-accurate pickups, era-specific neck profiles, and nitrocellulose lacquer finishes, these Telecasters will feel like you went back in time and bought one the first day it was available. The American Original Telecaster is available in '50s and '60s models, showcasing the best design features from each of those decades.
- At the top of the American Fender line is the American Elite Telecaster. It boasts Noiseless single-coil Telecaster pickups, locking short-post tuning machines, and a compound neck profile. It's even got a truss rod adjustment wheel. This model is called "elite" for a reason—this is the pinnacle of Fender Telecaster production.
In addition to these series, we have one-of-a-kind Custom Shop Telecasters and signature models from top artists who continue to use the Tele to push the bounds of music.
Famous Tele Players
There are so many infamous Telecaster players it's hard to narrow it down. Many famous artists began their careers with a Tele and still dabble with them today, and Fender has many a signature model for those that always feel at home with the Telecaster.
John 5 is a guitarist who has spanned genres to play with many of the biggest artists of all time. He has performed with Marilyn Manson, K.D. Lang, and everyone in between. At what is likely the pinnacle of Telecaster fanaticism, John owns over 100 Tele's and has his own signature model. Brad Paisley, one of country's brightest stars, is also a huge Tele fan and has a signature Telecaster of his own. On the other side of the spectrum, Jim Root has a powerfully-designed signature Telecaster, which achieves all the killer metal tone Slipknot needs live and in the studio.
Why a Fender Telecaster?
With a Fender Telecaster, you’re continuing a proud tradition of high quality music innovation. Best of all, the Tele is extremely versatile, so you’ll get a sound and feel that’s hard to beat, regardless of your genre.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been playing–or collecting–for years, there’s a Fender Telecaster that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. For more information, check out our Fender Telecaster Buyer's Guide.