History of the Fender Telecaster
The Fender Telecaster was developed in 1950. It was the first solid-body electric guitar that found commercial success. The success of Leo Fender’s Telecaster design made bolt-on neck, solid body guitars viable in the global marketplace. One reason for its success was the quality of tone it was able to achieve. While previous attempts at a solid body electric guitar had focused on volume and projection, the Telecaster offered a uniquely bright and sustaining tone that was like nothing that came before it.
This guitar was originally called the “Broadcaster”, but the Gretsch company sued because they thought it was too close to the name of their “Broadkaster” line of drums. Between 1950 and 1951, the guitars were sold with no model name, so collectors started calling them “Nocasters”. These models are rare and highly sought-after. In late 1951, the guitar was renamed to “Telecaster”, the name that has stuck to this day.
Fender’s Foreign Manufacturing
In 1990, Fender started manufacturing some of their guitars in a Mexican facility only ~200 miles away from their California production facility. As you’d expect, the components used for Made-in-Mexico (MIM) guitars aren’t quite as high-quality as the USA-made guitars, but the Mexican facilities are well-run and produce quality instruments. The jump in quality is pretty minor, and MIM Telecasters are offered at a much more affordable price point. Many guitarists even switch out components of MIM Telecasters to make custom guitars that surpass even the best American Tele.
Fender also manufactures in Japan, having an entire branch of the company dedicated to Japanese manufacturing. This branch (originally called “Fender Japan”) was founded in 1982 as a way to compete with the high volume of Japanese Fender knock-offs that were being manufactured at the time. Fender guitars manufactured in Japan have either a “Made in Japan” or “Crafted in Japan” inscription on the back of the neck.
If you have a Fender guitar/bass and are unsure where or when it was made, you can use this handy tool to get all those missing details.
Fender and Squier’s Relationship
Squier was originally a string manufacturer, but Fender acquired them and started producing guitars under the Squier brand in 1982. These guitars were inexpensive variants of Fender guitars, designed to compete on the same price-point as Stratocaster knock-offs. Ironically, the knock-offs and cheaper Squire versions made the Stratocaster become more popular in the long-run, creating more interest in Fender guitars. Squier now makes low-cost versions of many Fender classics, including the Telecaster and Jazzmaster.