I did not build this one. I think it is a very cool guitar and the history behind it is significant. The prototype was designed by Leo Fender in and was likely his first serious try at an electric Spanish style solid body guitar. This prototype guitar was shopped around to musicians around California to gain feedback and knowledge for what they would want in an electric guitar. Leo Fender and George Fullerton made two prototypes — both in Leo believed that a hard rock maple neck did not require a truss rod.
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I did not build this one. I think it is a very cool guitar and the history behind it is significant. The prototype was designed by Leo Fender in and was likely his first serious try at an electric Spanish style solid body guitar. This prototype guitar was shopped around to musicians around California to gain feedback and knowledge for what they would want in an electric guitar.
Leo Fender and George Fullerton made two prototypes — both in Leo believed that a hard rock maple neck did not require a truss rod.
The guitar was painted in a white enamel paint. This was the first Fender prototype. Leo probably thought that Paul Bigsby might decide to mass produce his ornate solid body guitars that he was making by hand for a few select players like Merle Travis and Grady Martin at the time. Paul Bigsby solid body guitar built for Merle Travis dated May 25, These prototypes were super important for Fender to get things right. Notice the control panel ended up in a quite different location on the production models.
The second prototype body is said to be made from laminated ash making it chambered. Since everyone was playing hollow body guitars at the time so they likely thought it should be built this way. Apparently, Leo Fender decided it would be too time consuming to make and went with the solid body instead.
His lap steel guitars they were already making for a few years were solid wood. Country guitarist Roy Watkins played and owned prototype 2 for many years. Originally prototype 2 was finished in white enamel paint like prototype 1.
Later it was stripped of its color and had the original neck replaced. These are the only actual prototypes known to have existed. Fender prototype 2 is in the Experience Museum in Seattle.
When the first Fender Esquire was released into early production it featured maple neck with no truss rod, single pickup with now famous headstock shape and six tuners on one side that we all instantly recognize today. Fender also ditched the pine body for a slightly thicker ash body probably due to ash being a bit tougher wood that is less prone to dents. Ash also has a nice grain pattern that looks quite good under transparent nitro finishes of the day.
Likely Fender picked ash as it was also inexpensive and was readily available in the qualities they needed in a desirable weight. The solid body Fender Esquire only lasted from April to October Probably only 50 were made.
Shortly into production, Leo added the truss rod to the necks with an adjustment at the heal due to pressure from his sales team led by Don Randall and renamed the guitar the Broadcaster. All Broadcasters have truss rods, where all Esquires have no truss rod. Broadcaster also featured two pickups. Eventually the guitar was renamed the Telecaster and once the old decals were used up they started adding the new name to the headstock, not wanting to waste anything.
Funny how times change… Fred Gretsch owns Gretsch today and Fender has a deal to market and distribute the Gretsch brand.
Later years saw Fender bringing back the one pickup Esquire as a lower priced model. These Esquires were routed for two pickups. Fender offered an option to purchase a second pickup and new scratch plate for two pickups. The player could easily add the second pickup to the Esquire like the Telecaster had anytime they wanted to.
The interesting thing was that the single pickup Esquire was quite versatile and many players preferred the more simple guitar. Leo was trying to create a guitar that players liked and could be mass produced at a good price point.
The bolt-on neck was innovative and very controversial. Leo wanted a guitar that was easy to mass produce as well as repair. Since Leo Fender was not a guitar player he was not locked into any design.
He was able to think outside the box. Make no mistake, in this era the Telecaster was pretty futuristic and innovative.
A guitar that only could have been built by an innovative American company like Fender. Telecaster is probably the most copied design or all time. Fender built lap steel guitars in the late s to cater to the Hawaiian music craze. Later played by Blues and Country players as well. Fender early lap steels had same pickup, wiring and knobs. Pretty amazing that anything has been in production this long with so few changes. How many other products from the early s are still being built?
The Super and Pro amps are also introduced. Invention of the transistor at Bell Labs. Leo closes his repair shop to focus entirely on building solid body instruments. The Bassman amp debuts. After Gretsch informs Fender about their trademark the Broadcaster name is no longer used by Fender. Gradual use of phillips head screws replaces slot head screws not complete till Leo thought the Stratocaster would totally replace the Telecaster and was surprised both models co-existed successfully.
Telecaster white blond finish replaces butterscotch finish. Bridge saddles change from brass to steel smooth saddles. Serial number moved from bridge plate to the neck plate. Sunburst finish become available. First top loader appears where strings anchor at bridge instead of going thru the body this did not last too long. Fender introduces the Jazzmaster guitar.
Pickguards change to thicker single layer white one and custom color Teles offered three layer celluloid mint green pickguard. The Telecaster Custom in three color sunburst with bound body appears. The Vibrasonic and Concert amps are introduced. White tolex comes to the Twin amp and Fender Reverb Unit comes to market. Fender introduces the Jaguar guitar. Fender begins production of their acoustic guitars. Fender-Rhodes electric pianos and Electronic Echo Chamber.
White plastic three layer pickguards. Fender introduces the Mustang guitar. Golden era ends. CBS era begins. So I was looking to gather parts and found this one, already hand-built by GuitarsByDesign.
Seemed to fit what I had in mind perfectly at a very reasonable price. So I bought it. I figured I could modify anything I wanted. Guitar shipped with a white PVC pickguard and a black Bakelite lacquered one. Very much in the spirit of the original Fender prototype.
Note that GuitarsByDesign and other makers offer Snakehead necks that do have a truss rod. So if wanted I could always swap out the neck. The fret work and build is very good, especially for a guitar at this lower price point. Quality components used. The custom parts are made well.
Weights a very light 5-lbs 5-oz on my digital scale. Came strung with Regular 10g Slinkys. Pickup is pretty decent. Plays nice. Few things that are different from the Fender Custom Shop version are the bridge and the jack. This guitar uses a standard Fender style bridge plate and an electrosocket jack.
Swapping these out or changing the pickup is easy enough to do if desired. If you are looking for a snakehead guitar like this I recommend contacting GuitarsByDesign. They sell on eBay as well. Very cool! First Prototye — Snakehead model. Second Prototype — Broadcaster Model. Gretsch Broadkaster Banjo. Gretsch Brodkaster Drums.
Fender Snakehead Telecaster Tribute
The Snakehead – The Modern Telecaster’s® Earliest Ancestor
When Leo Fender first started building solid-body electric guitars in , he initially used a squared-off headstock with three tuners on each side. After building a couple of prototypes, he switched to the hockey stick headstock we all know and love, and the rest is history. Ever since, the Snakehead has remained an obscure historical curiosity among devout Fender fanatics. There have been a couple of Custom Shop reissues that paid homage to this oft-forgotten piece of history we have a particularly special used one HERE , but there have been none quite like this Masterbuilt monstrosity. While these appointments gave past Snakeheads museum-worthy vintage vibe, they didn't necessarily maximize playability.
Fender Custom Shop Snakehead Telecaster 2010 Reissue