Clarence Leonides (Leo) Fender was born in 1909 and spent his early years making and fixing radios with his uncle. Leo Fender never actually played the fender guitars he made (he played the sax), but was fascinated with electronics and in 1950 Leo and Clayton Kauffman made their very first solid body electric guitar the Fender Esquire.
It was basically the Fender Telecaster with just one pick-up.
Later he renamed the Esquire the Broadcaster and then the Fender Telecaster adding another single coil pick up. These guitars were quickly used by country guitars players because of the Telecaster “twangy” sound.
First of Its Kind – the Early Years
What’s interesting to note here (no pun intended!), is that the Fender Esquire was THE first of it’s kind. In 1950 the big band era of the late 40s was giving way to the “boogie-woogie” rhythm and blues and honky tonk and many of these venues were growing and so was the need for louder, cheaper more durable guitars.
At that time the hollow body electric guitars gave feedback the louder they got so their was a demand for more solid body electric guitars. There were a few on the market but were considered novelty items.
On top of that players also needed faster necks to play what country musicians called “take-off lead guitar”.
Fender recognized the need for an electric guitar that was easy to hold, play and tune, so came the Fender Esquire in 1950 which he renamed the Broadcaster then in 1951 came the Fender Telecaster (same guitar with 2 single coil pick-ups).
By 1953 customer feedback came in for a redesign of the telecaster, which Leo then created the famous Fender Stratocaster. It included a rounder less club like neck and a double cut away for easier access to the higher end of the fret board.
The Fender Stratocaster also came with 3 pickups for 3 different voicing and it wasn’t until much later when the 5 toggle switch was implemented later.
The Bass Guitar – Natural Progression
While the electric guitars were becoming popular Bass players were having trouble keeping up. In 1951 Leo introduced the Precision bass along with the Fender Bassman 25 watt amp. This allowed for more portability for Bass Players.
In 1954 Leo re-designed the Fender precision to accompany the Fender Stratocaster. In 1957 saw another redesign with the these Bass Guitars but little has changed since 1957.
Buddy Holly on Ed Sullivan – 1957
It wasn’t until Buddy Holly played on the Ed Sullivan show in 1957 that the Fender guitars received global acclaim. And of course in the 60s with guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Eric Clapton that really popularized the Fender Stratocaster.
The tonality’s of both the Telecaster and the Stratocaster are just incredible with the tonal switches and allows guitar players the flexibility of playing various styles.
The telecasters have been synonymous with country players since it’s inception and the stratocaster with blues guitar players. To me, it’s a just tonal difference as I have seen and heard country players play strats and blues guitar players with tele’s.
There’s no right or wrong they are just preferences.
But what makes Fender Guitars so incredible is their depth of tone and sustain and flexibility. The always sound great and couple that with great amps and guitar effects, it’s no wonder that David Gilmour had a such a blast playing different sounds with the Pink Floyd albums.
In fact, Jimmy Page used a Telecaster for many of the Led Zeppelin albums.
Who Plays the Strat and Who Plays the Tele?
Here’s a list of just few famous guitar players who are known for playing the Fender Stratocaster:
Robbie Robertson (the Band)
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Dave Murray (of Iron Maiden)
Nile Rodgers ( of David Bowie)
Jim Root (of Slipknot)
Gary Clark Jr.
Here’s a list of just few famous guitar players who are known for playing the Fender Telecaster:
Graham Coxon (of Blur)
Joe Strummer (of The Clash)
Paul Westerberg (the Replacements)
Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney)
It goes without saying that both the Fender Telecaster and the Fender Stratocaster has been in the hands of some of THE most influential guitars players for the last 60 years.
And the axe of choice is Fender. In fact here are some quotes from 2 of these iconic guitar players…
“There are very few objects that you can think of that influence an entire movement in music that if they didn’t exist could have—and probably would have—changed the course of musical history. I think the Fender Telecaster is one of those iconic objects.” — THE EDGE
“When I first saw a Stratocaster, I realized it’s a thing of sculpted beauty. It could be something flying through space to me. It’s a utilitarian thing, but it’s beautiful.” — MARK KNOPFLER
What is Your Favorite?
Whether you play jazz, blues, rock or metal, Fender guitars has something for everyone. For more information about the Fender Stratocaster you can click here.
For more information about the Fender Telecaster, you can click here.
As well, please feel free to leave some comments below, thanks!