The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars.
Most of if not all amps produced either in the past or present owe a majority of their linage to the amps first created by Leo Fender. Many people already know this but there are always new members joining the ranks of guitarists and collectors who may not. I will provide a basic time line for some of the changes that Fender amps underwent through the years. There has been a large volume of material that covers this subject and while by no means is this article meant to be all inclusive I hope to provide the basic information, the meat and potatoes if you will,so that you may at the very least be familiar with the subject.
In 1946 Leo fender starts the Fender manufacturing company and in 1947 was renamed The Fender Electric Instrument Company.By no means was this the first attempts by Leo in electronics but this is where we will begin.Leo's first amps of this era were made of wood without any outer cabinet covering and earned the name "woodies" in collectors circles. Made from leftover wood including the handles, most of these amplifiers have 2 to 3 inputs and 2 volume knobs with 1 tone knob.
The next improvements were made during 1947 when an outer covering of white material that was used to dress up the cabinets. This progressed to a yellowish covering that we now refer to as "tweed".Several variations of "tweed" were utilized at Fender. The earliest was a lighter color and is seen on the "TV panel" amplifiers and two tone covered amplifiers built by Fender and continued in production until the mid 1960's.Most of the control panels were located on the rear of these amps and subsequently moved up to the top of Fender amps.
During 1953 Fender placed upper and lower front panels on their amps with a wide tolex covered strip above and below the speaker grill cloth, these amps are commonly referred to as "wide panel " amplifiers.It was during this time period that yet another update to the outer covering of Fender amplifiers were made.Leo was never one to be completely satisfied with his products and always strived if not to reinvent them , at least redress them to keep his products fresh in the consumers eyes.During the mid 1950's he once again changed the front panels of his amplifiers . Replacing the wide upper and lower panels with a narrow panel strip thus enlarging the grill cloth areas to possibly make his amplifiers appear to be more powerful and larger .It was also during this time that Leo released a very rare version of his amplifiers referred to as the "White " amps. A rare steel guitar , amplifier line that also included the name badge "White" as opposed to the normal Fender badge.This was a line meant to pay homage to a friend of Leo Fender's.
During 1959 tweed covering on Fender amplifiers started a transition into a covering more durable and is commonly referred to as tolex.From the early days is was a light brown (almost pink) covering and transitioned into a darker brown color with a darker grill
cloth. These amplifiers are now referred to as "Blonde" and "Brownie" amps.The amps also started appearing with round control knobs and a rubber "dogbone" handle. Never satisfied Fender also started producing separate "piggyback" models where the chassis and controls were placed in a separate unit to sit on top of stand alone cabinet speaker enclosures.Controls for most amplifiers began migrating to the front panels of amplifiers from the top of the amplifiers.
During the early 1960's the plate of the control panels for most amps begin to be made with black backgrounds,black knobs and white numbers and lettering as well as changing the outer covering once again to a black tolex material.A more silver colored grill cloth is used during this time frame as well as "dogbone" handles being replaced with a flat rubber handle with silver end caps.These amps are commonly referred to as the "Blackface " Fender models.
Along this time ( 1964 ) Leo Fender sells his company to "CBS" . It is argued that the changes that occurred after this time were not as well received , but that is another story. In approximately 1966 solid state amplifiers begin to appear in the Fender lineup. Changes made to the outer cosmetics also being to appear, the most common is the change from black control faceplates to a silver faceplate control panel with blue lettering and numbers, hence the term "silverface" comes into being. Also skirted knobs and a blue and silver grill cloth is utilized to aging separate the new line of amplifiers from the older lineups.
Fast forward to the 1980's and Fender almost ceases to exist. In 1985 Fender is bought back by a group of investors led by William Schultz and employees at Fender. The move is made to Corona ,California ,red knobs appear on amp control panels,blackface amps make a comeback, solid state amplifiers resurface , albeit for the better.During the 1990's push buttons,gain channels,on board effects,push pull knobs and master volume controls in one configuration or another appear on Fender amplifiers. In the later part of the 1990's Fender revisits their own roots ,question themselves and reissues the amplifier models that made them the leader to begin with. Both as a means to reestablish their leadership role and regain control of the amplifier market that Leo and family had built to begin with.Fender comes full circle back to their roots and the beginning of a new era.
Now I know I did not include schematic changes,tube changes and other applications in this article,nor did I even begin to scratch the surface in amplifier models that were produced by Fender, this is just a basic time frame reference to initiate the beginner or reeducate the seasoned collector and other articles will follow on specifics in the future.Fender amps have evolved ,some for better some for worse, but I am truly amazed at the products that Leo has given us ,their history and heritage as well as the multitude of spin off products that they have inspired and will continue to inspire in amp builders both yesterday and tomorrow.
As always this is just my news and views .So until next time, may all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer, Greg at Greg's guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views By Greg's Guitars.
Well you have been pouring over guitars for sale ads and trying to determine what it is you're really looking at when you're reading them . This edition of The Vintage Guitar News and Views we will try to clarify what some "issues" are and what can be determined as not and "issue". We will be looking at this from the standpoint of a guitar being sold as " an original" because you can have an original 1960 era guitar ,but it could have non original or replaced parts as well as a few repairs and still retain all it's vintage vibe.Sure it should be priced lower than a 100 per cent all original model of the same make that has not ever had nor needs any repairs and these items should be disclosed or made available to you before your purchase.
First let's look at electric guitars, now I am not talking about new guitars or even custom shop or reissue guitars. What I am talking about throughout this article is guitars that are 20 or more years old. O.K. now that that has been addressed let's move right along.
In my opinion an "issue" is a major alteration or a problem that has NOT been addressed ,NOT a normal playing repair that has been addressed with the appropriate and correct solution to the problem.
You read a listing that states ...1960 so and so electric guitar for sale ,All original but...The "but " part is what you have to look at. Starting at the headstock,if the neck has been broken ,that is an issue and not a "normal" playing repair although it is not unusual for a headstock or neck to get broken it is in the eyes of the guitar world an issue. New nut ? Not an issue,this is a solid repair or needed item ,especially if the guitar is not offered as 100 per cent all original has been played and the old or original nut was slotting to deep or causing tuning problems. Sometimes the original nut slots can be filled in with bone dust and reslotted which would be more desirable than a replacement nut for sure.But not an issue or deal breaker.
Frets ? I would rather have a guitar with appropriately replaced good frets than a guitar with worn out frets,so if the frets are worn out and make the guitar play poorly that would be an issue,but as for a refretted guitar I consider that a needed repair.Any routes on the guitar in my opinion is an issue.If a pot has been replaced,well electrical components wear out or go bad ,so I would consider this a needed repair and not an issue ,unless of course all the pots were changed out especially if they have several different pots or several differently dated pots,that may be an issue. What about pickup changes ? Well replaced pickups are an issue,rewound original pickups that utilize the original plates,magnets, and bobbins are less of an issue as long as they were rewound using the correct method and gauge wire as well as hopefully reusing the lead wires as well and can probably be considered a repair.
Refinished , stripped or just plain old repainted guitar bodies (or necks) are an issue that should be disclosed as well.
How about acoustic guitars ? These are easier as far as I am concerned, again a neck or headstock break no matter how expertly repaired are issues in my opinion. Any repair that is needed and NOT addressed are issues,any repairs such as refret jobs,loose braces,lifting or reset bridge(s) or body cracks that have been correctly repaired are not issues in my book . How about replaced tuners ? Gray area here as many tuners that were replaced probably needed to be due to age or the inability to hold a guitar in tune well. It would not be an issue on acoustics or electric guitars as long as the parts were the same as the originals were,but then again most replaced tuners were different than the originals and since the 2 or 3 most widely used tuners were used on all makes of guitars at one point or another this should be addressed but not necessarily an issue,unless of course the headstock was damaged or the tuning post holes improperly enlarged in the course of the change. If a bridge has been replaced with the correct material,possibly a vintage bridge from another guitar of the same make and model ,shares the exact same footprint then I don't see an issue as long as it is disclosed,the same goes with replacing a cheaper plastic adjustable bridge with a more suitable rosewood bridge. Cracks as long as they have been addressed and properly repaired are not issues in my book. A reset neck you say ? Well I would rather have a guitar that has had an appropriate neck set myself as this is one repair that most all acoustic guitars will at some point in their life need and should be seen as more of keeping the entire guitar playable rather than a distraction from purchasing. Remember make sure any normal repair has been addressed in the appropriate manner and in the general scheme of things and have been disclosed to you and you should come out with a good purchase and a healthy guitar.Of course any items that are suspect or need to be repaired should be at the very least looked at by a professional repair person for clarification and cost(s) before you make a purchase just to be on the safe side. Most guitar dealers list an item pretty honestly and disclose what they think have been repaired as well as what may or may not be original from the factory on said guitar, but it is up to you the consumer to ask for any clarification .Most guitar dealers do ask that you give them a call,this is not a sales ploy (on my behalf anyway ) to get you on the phone but rather an attempt to be able to give you an accurate hands on description of the guitar in question and to ease any concerns and answer all of your questions honestly and not have to rely on an email that may or may not contain all the information that an actual visual real time inspection may give.
So until next time ,may all your days be memorable,all your friends stay true and may all your riffs be killer. Greg's Guitars
The Vintage Guitar News and Views ,Greg's Guitars.
Why are some guitar tops painted and some guitar tops plain? Why do some builders use polyurethane paints and some guitar builders use nitrocellulose paints? Is the reissue bug just a fad or craze ?Are older guitars really better? In the later issues of The Vintage Guitar News and Views I said to ask questions and boy have I been hammered ! It has been a phenomenal response from you the readers and I thank all of you for your questions.So as to some of the questions you the readers have asked ,let me try to give what I believe are reasonable answers.
Why are some guitar tops painted and some not ? I believe it has nothing to do with tone or sound (duh) it is about the aesthetics of color for the buying public as well as a way for builders to hide imperfections in the wood and to be able to splice several pieces of wood together to complete a top. I know ,your top should be 1 or 2 pieces of wood joined at the center seam but even as far back as the 50's companies have had to use all the wood they could for their products ,they never imagined that we would be all freaky about this sort of thing 50 years later.It just make plain good business sense to utilize all the woods available and to hide these seemingly imperfections with paint. Personally I covet the mismatched, wood grained, mineral stained, unflamed tops myself.
Now "pretty" wood such as flame, fiddleback,curly,bearclaw and the like are perceived to be more pleasant to look at and (now at least) they are not covered up with paint. At one time though some of the prettiest tops I have seen were "uncovered" during a restoration or conversion and rescued from under the painted tops that were hiding them.
But these types of tops can now command a higher price tag and are displayed behind a clear ot more transparent finish rather than hidden away never to be seen. All at the same time by creating a larger buying market and even so much as creating smaller "divisions" among the market base of clients .I will leave that subject alone for now and leave it to many a articulate or even imbibed discussion amongst yourselves.
Poly finish or Nitro? To me the best ,well one of the best smells there are is when you pop open a guitar case and the smell of nitro permeates the room. That unmistakable smell is what makes this question kinda hard, you see nitro never really cures fully and is in a constant state of evaporation from the moment it is applied to the day it returns to sawdust with that old guitar.
I like nitro on all my acoustics as I do believe it does, as time passes contribute to the opening up of the tonal qualities as many people subscribe to. On electric guitars I think the switch to a poly finish was as mentioned by others before me a decision to make the finish on the guitar harder and last longer without fade, a protectant and a cost cutting decision for the production plants as poly dries faster and more guitars can be made to sell.As far as sound qualities on the electric guitars? Well there have been a whole lot of sweet sounds and great players that played those poly coated beauties now haven't there? Some poly coats seemed to fare better than others and the reissues from overseas tend to age and pock just a little differently than their American counterparts. Why? I do not know, they just "relic" differently.
Which brings up the next topic,the relic craze. Nostalgia? The bygone days of youth when you first started playing ? From the mildly and elegantly understated aged guitars that are made by master builders and custom shops which are limited in run and will possibly retain and gain in value to the obviously overdone relics that look "cookie cutter made" all intended to stir these emotions in the consumers.
Truthfully, do some play better or sound better than others? You bet they do. Limited runs and custom reliced guitars are more hand crafted and have more attention to detail even when it comes to aging the parts and pieces that make of our lovely ladies. Where the mass produced guitars all look the same and are more budget priced, they seem to just use the standard parts and pieces, and if one plays better or sounds better ,lucky you.
Which brings us to the next subject. Are old guitars better? Hmmm ,gotta pick my words carefully here.Well some of the appointments look better, I mean I'll take cloth covered wiring and paper caps over plastic any day, but today's wiring is probably better made and the shielding is superior but then again isn't it the quirks that make guitars so lovable? Pickups are next, I mean a good pickup will make any guitar sound better and a bad pickup will make good guitar sound lousy and I am sticking to that statement.I prefer older alnico magnets to todays blends and ceramics ,nope ain't gonna do it. Appointments? well the old parts do seem to get real brittle and crumble to dust and often need replacing, personally I prefer steel tuning keys over others and multi-ply covers and guards over the older single plys ,but that is just my preference.
Which brings us to the bare bones of any guitar,the wood used. I do think older wood is better, and older guitars are made of superior wood in my opinion, not that the wood is actually better but more the process of air drying for years wood that gets cut and air dries for years more stored on racks and shelves then is made into various parts of a guitar and again sits until orders are placed or new models are designed and then the wood was hand caressed into works of art, that's what I mean by old wood. Todays guitars are being shaped as the axemen strip the branches from the trunks of the trees, green wood being forced kiln dried and mass produced to be shaped and shipped to the consumer. I cringe every time I see a "modern " guitar assembly plant in operation on tour videos, I understand the economics and the tighter tolerances touted, but it just ain't the same as far as I can tell. The marriage of certain parts and pieces seem to be another quandary to amuse all of us guitar nuts.Think about it , most of the guys we idolize play guitars that are made from several different guitar, which dispels the myth of certain era guitars being better than others now doesn't it? Take "Blackie" and Duane's Burst , parts guitars........We all know that certain points have counterpoints and in the guitar world the greatness lies in the diversity, we as guitar lovers want to spend our money on something we can hold,touch,feel,smell,play and admire for all our own reasons and that makes us all part of this huge family no matter what we think individually about certain brands,makes,parts or pieces,diversity is the key because if all guitars are eventually created equal then we would all own the same guitar and it would be like every other guitar on the planet, well except for the color..........Till next month may all your days be memorable ,all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars.
With the introduction of the solid body electric guitar by Fender ,CMI was now faced with competition not only in the archtop line of guitars with rival Epiphone but also by the solid body guitar as introduced by Leo Fender and his upstart guitar manufacturing facilities located in California and making inroads into the "new" solid body electric guitar market in the early 1950's.
I think it t can be safely said that the iconic guitars developed by both Leo Fender and CMI and Ted McCarty along with Mr. Les Paul are today still the most copied guitar designs ever produced.By just glimpsing the silhouette of the Telecaster,Stratocaster and Les Paul model these guitars can be identified by most players and collectors today which in my opinion states that they must have gotten something very right from the onset .
The Les Paul Model electric guitar although it has gone through several design changes as well as upgrades still retains in most models the same characteristics as the originally designed model(s). So lets take a peek at some of the known historical facts on these iconic American electric solid body guitars.
The Les Paul model was first introduced in 1952 with a scale length of 24 3/4 inch and still retains that scale today.It is a single cutaway body with a mahogany back and carved maple top. Interesting enough it should be noted here that the first prototype versions of CMI's design were not produced with a carved top and resembled what would eventually become the Les Paul junior with a flat faced design. CMI is noted as experimenting with many different wood combinations and grain cut construction finally deciding on a mahogany back and set mahogany neck with what CMI referred to as a carved maple veneer top, both for favorable weight as well as more sustain. CMI along with Ted McCarty approached Les Paul with the idea of placing a carved or bellied top on the guitar to keep in the Gibson tradition of producing an elegant and more sophisticated guitar ,that and Ted noted the Fender electric guitar was deemed a less sophisticated body style featuring a bolt on neck and rather plain flat faced or slab bodied guitar and that would resonate with players as a more quality instrument. The choice to retain a set neck on the Les paul was another stab at inferior quality and construction as well as keeping the image of CMI and Gibson as a more quality instrument.
The first variants of the Les Paul were produced in gold top and all gold models that were offered colors up until 1958. They had P90 soapbar single coli pickups as well as a combination bridge tailpiece or trapeze tailpiece. Earlier versions of the P90 covers saw diagonal screws on the bridge cover. The earliest versions had unbound necks and all had the crown inlays.By mid 1952 the neck was bound and the pickup cover screws were located between the pole pieces of the pickups.
By 1953 the trapeze tailpiece was replaced by the stoptail or "stud" tailpiece/bridge that Ted McCarty patented. The neck angle on these models was still slightly shallow and was not properly corrected until the early part of 1954 and this variation was produced up until 1955.
In late 1955 the stoptail piece was again replaced by the now ever present Tune O Matic bridge and stop tail which many consider the most collectible of the early Les Paul as far as vintage guitars are concerned (1955-1959).
In 1957 aided by Seth Lover the first "humbucking" equipped Les Paul guitar entered the market. Several of the guitars have been noted as being constructed with a mahogany carved top as opposed to the standard maple carved top.
1958 saw the end to the "goldtop" finish and a more traditional Gibson trademark sunburst finish was applied. Also the body and neck received a red stain. In 1960 the single cut Les Paul was discontinued as a regular production guitar and was replaced with a double cutaway redesigned body that would eventually become the SG.The Les Paul single cut would once again be produced as a reintroduced model in 1968.
Now it should be noted that the Les Paul Custom, which is the black finished single cut Les Paul model still was produced with roughly four different variations in design.
From 1954 through 1957 the Les Paul Custom had 1 alnico neck pickup and one P90 bridge pickup.
In 1957 the Les Paul Custom received three humbucking (P.A.F.) pickups.
In 1961 the Les Paul Custom also received the double cut new body design.
In 1963 the guitar was renamed the SG Custom.
In 1968 The single cut Les Paul Custom again was produced.
Again this is not a definitive all inclusive history of the iconic Les Paul solidbody electric guitar and this article has been compiled from various online and printed publications.For more in depth reading I suggest Gibson Electrics "The Classic Years" by A.R. Duchossoir as well as Gibson Guitars "Ted McCarty's Golden Era by Gil Hembree as well as many other fine publications on the history of CMI,Gibson and the Les Paul. With that being said as always Keep your riffs killer...Greg.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars
Packing that Guitar
Now most people can share the anxiety of waiting to receive that prized instrument to be delivered .I am sure we can all relate to the horror
of opening that box and discovering a damaged instrument, It may seem like overkill but trust me those boxes are not hand carried one at a
time from destination to destination so here are a few tips for the person that packs up that guitar and ships it off to it’s new home that will
help insure not only a safe arrival but if there is any damage ease in the process and alleviate headaches if a claim has to be filed for damages
incurred during the shipping process. Remember an ounce of prevention goes a long way. I am aware that most of us have shipped a guitar
before with no issues but here are the extra steps I take when doing so and hopefully for the uninitiated it will provide some helpful tips.
I always remove the endpin if it is an acoustic guitar and the end strap button on all electric guitars just in case the box is dropped I do not
want either of these to be driven up into the body of the guitar and splitting the wood. I of course loosen the string tension but not so much
to cause a floating bridge to move around and if the guitar in question has a trapeze style bridge I place a piece of foam (NOT bubble wrap)
between the bridge and the body of the guitar. Next is to insure their is no movement of the guitar in the case. To do this I place the guitar
centered in it’s case and again use strips of foam to place around the empty spaces between the guitar body and the interior of the case
then slightly pushing the tail of the guitar against the case I place a piece of foam between the end of the headstock and the case interior
,with this done it secures the guitar from movement but does not place undue pressure against any part of the guitar and the case can be
closed without any binding or extra force to secure it shut. NEVER use plastic or bubble wrap against the body of an instrument this can
cause damage and even discoloration to the guitar if used ,if you do not have or can not get any foam from your local art supply store then
use newspaper folded up to create the cushion. I also remove the switchtip if it is a screw on style (Gibson styled) ,or if it is a blade style
switch (Fender style ) I place it in either the first or last position (closet to the body) .Any part taken off the guitar should be placed in a
baggie and enclosed into the case pocket as well.
Now before I place a case into it’s shipping box (best to use a box designed for guitar shipping) I measure the case as well as measure the
interior length of the box, divide the difference by two and make a cushion of cardboard to place into the bottom of the box with an equal
piece made to place on the top before you seal the box shut after packing is complete. Now you can center the case in the shipping box and
place packing Pnuts all around the case until there is no room for any more (constantly shake and tap the box while filling with Pnuts to
insure no airspace and good settling of packing materials) or you can do like I do. I go to local furniture stores, appliance stores and rental
stores and get the Cardboard sheeting, protective corners and long pieces of Styrofoam, it’s free and is the best for adding rigidity to your
packaging. Place the case in the box and cut some large cardboard sheets (same size as widest portion of the box) and place them in front
and in the back of the box against the case equally until that small space ,usually 1 to 2 inches is full then pour some pnuts 4 or 5 inches on
either side of the case. If I am shipping an acoustic guitar I pour them up to the waist of the guitar case, if it is an electric guitars rectangular
case only 1 or 2 inches are sufficient. Then this is where the free packing material comes in handy to add strength and rigidity to my boxes. I
place corner protectors inside on each corner as well as the long rectangular or square pieces of solid styrofoam in the box on each side of
the case and pour packing pnuts to fill any voids, then I place the extra 2 inch piece of top packing material I made by cutting and taping
together the pieces of cardboard (the same size as the opening of the box) on top of the case and seal the box shut .I always tape the top and
bottom shut in both directions with a final wrap around the box covering the ends of my seals with tape as well.
Mark the box fragile, no bottom stack, no hooks and add the shipping label and ship that guitar with confidence that you did every
responsible thing you could do to insure that the guitar will make it to its final destination. You may say that’s way to over packed but that is
what I do when shipping a guitar to a client that has saved their hard earned money and chosen to make their purchase with me. I wont even
go into horror stories about some of the guitars and gear I have received over the years and the way they were packed ….That my friends is
another story, so for now may all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer .
Greg at Greg’s Guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views:
The Vintage Guitar News and Views "The One"
You know it to be the truth; you can’t even walk into the room without glancing at her. You pretend to ignore the urge that comes over you.
You try to watch a little television or read an article in the latest guitar magazine. But you finally give in and go over to her, feel her against
you …..waiting .She knows that no other can compete with her no matter how hard they try, no matter how good they look or how they feel
and she wears that like a badge of honor. I know that she has never let me down, she is always there when I need her to be, she makes me
happy when I am blue and fills me with joy when I do everything just right. I couldn’t ask any more from her than she willingly and readily
gives. Sure I know I have let her down from time to time. I readily admit that it’s my fault when things are not right and that if there is any
incompetence it lies in me, not in her. I gently hold her in my arms and caress her, the magic that she sparks draws a smile to my face
.It’s then that you understand,. The years of searching, the years of chasing, the years of dissatisfaction and the years of getting it all wrong
they were worth it. The learning the understanding and all the frustrations end with the final realization that you have found the “one” the
one that you want to stay with forever. Yes she is my number one, my go to when everything else seems to be falling apart, the one
consistent and constant thing in my life where the only disappointment is in my own abilities, she is MY guitar and she knows it. As always
“May all your friends stay true, all your days be memorable and all your riffs be killer”, she’s calling me and I have to go.
Greg at Greg’s Guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views By Greg's Guitars.©
Fender,the Guitar That changed it all.
A (very) brief history of the Fender Esquire,Broadcaster,Telecaster electric guitar
Although each of these guitars ,the Esquire,Broadcaster,Nocaster and The Telecaster were all different guitars in their own rights we can combine each of them into one grouping for historical lineage sakes.
The beginning, setting the world on its ear.
Conceived as a Spanish electric guitar the Esquire debuted at the July 1950 Namm show,even though it did not set the world on fire and was met with some resistance it is the first in the solid body electric guitar lineup from that little company from California that would eventually start a revolution. It came as a bolt on neck,flat body and 1 pickup, although a 2 pickup version of the Esquire was offered and produced in limited quantities.At first these guitars were produced without a truss rod as it has been quoted that Leo Fender did not think the guitar needed one due to the hard maple construction of the neck.This was later revisited and addressed and the following guitars would all have a truss rod installed into them.
Later in the Fall of 1950 a regular production 2 pickup version of Fender's Electric Spanish guitar was produced as a standard order item and officially named the Broadcaster, ( even though special order 2 pickup versions of the Esquire were available by special order) . These guitars differed from the original versions with a truss rod and a "skunk stripe" of wood on the back of the neck where the truss rod was placed during production, it has been noted in other publications that several of these "skunk Stripes" are of maple and blend in with the back of the neck almost invisibly.For approximately 6 months these guitars were produced under the Broadcaster name until The Gretsch Mfg. Co. requested that Fender drop the name as they (Gretsch) had a trademark on the name ,although spelled slightly differently. Fender agreed and began clipping the "Broadcaster" off the headstock stickers ,thus the "Nocaster" came into existence, although not an official designation, the term "Nocaster" has been applied to these guitars by collectors and players alike.The "no name " or "Nocasters" were produced without a name on the headstock until approximately September of 1951. From this a new model name was introduced )after a careful trademark search) and the "Telecaster" name was born and was introduced on models appearing side by side with the later "Nocasters" on the production line untill the old clipped decals finally ran out,( Leo hated waste).
As early as April 1951 ,less than a year from conception the Spanish electric guitar offered by Fender had already undergone some substantial changes.From no truss rod to a truss rod installed , from 1 pickup to 2 pickup versions ,from production ( although not many) from pine wood to the use of ash as the body wood.The earliest models had no string tree either.
At the July 1951 NAMM show the new Telecaster and it's older brother the Esquire were both displayed at the Fender booth and well The fender company never looked back.Even though the basic construction of this grandfather of electric solidbody guitar has remained almost the same throughout it's 60 year history some change have occurred,some subtle and some not so subtle.
The following is just a few of the noted changes that our beloved Telecaster has undergone through the years.
From 1950 to 1964.
These are commonly referred to as the pre CBS years or the Leo years.
Finish goes from white washed pine bodies to the more common yellow or butterscotch ash bodied guitars. These also have a black pick guard ,hence the nickname of "blackguard Tele's".
A blended circuitry gave way to a tone control in mid 1952 .The form fit case was replaced with the "poodle " case.
1954 black guards are replaced with the single ply white guard,brass saddles replaced with steel saddles.The yellow or butterscotch finish became a cremier color,the serial numbers were moved from the bridge to the neck plate and the "tweed" case was introduced.
Late in 1955 saw the staggered pole pieces in Fenders pickups introduced and about this time the switchtip was changed as well as the control knob(s) profile.
1958 saw less pronounced neck profiles.
1958 -1959 also introduced the "top load" bridge introduced although it only lasted approximately a year.
In 1959 it is generally accepted that "rosewood" fingerboards appeared on the maple neck blanks on Fender guitars. These also will undergo changes in size,shape as the year(s) progress.
Later in 1959 tweed cases gave way to brown tolex,then white in 1963 and later black in 1965.
Alder bodies appear in the "custom" in late 1959.
After Leo,1965 to 1984.
The CBS years.
The "L" series neck plates give way ti the "F' plates.
In 1967 the old circuitry was replaced ,The logo changed to the Black logo.
The Thinline models were introduced in 1967.
Poly finishes were the standard in the 1970's.3 bolt necks introduced,Larger headstocks.
Body shapes became incorrect due to "modern" production techniques.
After CBS sold it's stake in Fender changes gradually happened for the better, a more period correct ( and correct period) Telecaster was produced an continues to be produced to this day, Yes it's only been around 60 years has undergone changes ,but all in all it "The Telecaster" is still in retrospect the guitar all of us grew up with. From it's inception it's a guitar than can be changed and refined in some ways but still retains its' look ,feel and twang, many copies have been produced by various makers but to coin a phrase I once heard" It's hard to make a better guitar than the one(s) Leo Fender and company first designed". That pretty much sums it all up for me, The guitars that Leo and company put into our hands are still the yardstick in which all other guitar are measured by.
I hope you learned something with this article.It is not meant to be all inclusive by no means and is for your reading enjoyment. Many sources are available on the Telecaser and Fender guitars and include some of the facts I have mentioned ( as there can only be so many facts cited) . It is not the intention of me to give these facts as first hand knowledge but rather a culmination of facts that I have learned over the years any coincidence to any other articles is just that ,coincidence.
So may all your days be memorable,all your friends stay true and all your riffs be killer. Greg at Greg's Vintage Guitars Atlanta.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg’s Guitars
As I was recently reading through my monthly stack of periodicals (one can never be too informed) I ran across an article by Christian Wissmuller, in which he had interviewed Justin Norvell, Fender VP category management,. Fender was acknowledging the retiring of the “American Standard” series guitars and launching the new incarnation as the “American Professional” series guitars. According to the interview, Fender looked at every aspect of the guitars from pot tapering on left handed versions, to special voicing of their pickups (with conjunction with Tim Shaw), to the new neck shaping, bridge designs and a variety of colors to be offered to the guitarists. My hat is off to the Fender gang for once again following in the footsteps of the fathers of Fender but also by embracing Leo’s philosophy of continuing to improve in the evolution of design, which was paramount in not only keeping up with an ever changing market but also with the tastes of artists and leading the pack for those that follow.
This got my wheels to turning and thinking about what I feel are some of the more significant evolutionary aspects of the Stratocaster over the years. Now granted this article does not get into each and every change or model that came about, but rather highlights on what I feel is more in the vein of what Fender is presently attempting in the new line(s) with regards to what Leo and company had always done.
When Leo Fender and the gang rolled out his first electric solid body guitar in 1950, it subsequently by design (no pun intended) went through several transformations or as Leo probably would have stated, through several evolutionary steps, which by all means was the way Leo Fender operated. Always in the quest to perfect his instruments by keeping his ear to the ground and getting in the trenches with artists and placing his guitars into their hands to constantly gather their feedback to improve his design(s) (which in my opinion were already perfect). By doing so, this artistic input, as well as the input of others, and that of his loyal staff, Fender subsequently be it by design (obviously) or by trial and error came out with not only a new look for their electric guitar, but also a separate line in his stable, that has stood the test of time. This new, separate electric guitar was “The Stratocaster”. The way Leo and company constantly strived to one up themselves is, in my opinion, what has kept Fender in the front running and has kept them relevant in all these years of production. Since its debut to the public in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster drew upon an already illustrious history (be it a short one at this time). The Stratocaster was in essence a 6 string version of the already popular Precision bass and from its conception headed down the path of evolutionary change.
The pre-production models had to have the tremolo /vibrato system completely redesigned as the first version was mechanically inferior and prone to not even working, this was mere months before final production was to start. Finally in production with its six inline tuners, contoured double cutaway body, three pickups and pickup selection switch as well as the volume and tone controls on a single assembly pickguard, vibrato and recessed output jack, the Stratocaster has been basically the same all these years, or has it?
From its humble and world (music) changing appearance we can fast forward to 1979. This was the 25th anniversary of the Stratocaster and CBS, who now owned Fender, produced an anniversary “model” Stratocaster. Not really promoted as a “reissue” but more to give accolades to their past as well as their future, this model went back to the 4 bolt neck plate, as well as back to a more (read non bullet) style truss rod, and (IMO) opened maybe some creative juices for what was to come .About 1980 Fender became very aware of their iconic guitar(s) being copied the world over and the use of part of their name “strat” was being used in descriptive advertising and popular guitar vernacular They finally decided that enough was enough and introduced a brand new model with the appropriate name of “The Strat”. The Strat had new features (at least new to CBS), or changes if you will, which included a smaller (yet still incorrect to the originals shape and size) headstock design, hot X1 pickup and a rotary switch that allowed nine tonal configurations and came with brass and gold plated knobs and hardware. I do realize there were other changes in the guitar(s) (and ownership) beside these two I have mentioned, but feel these are in standing with what Leo and the original gang at Fender had done in the past. By marching ahead and setting “standards” so to speak.
Which brings me to what I consider the next evolution of change with The American Standard series guitar(s). The purchase of Fender from CBS in 1985 took the form of new blood with old roots in the likes Of Dan Smith, Bill Schultz as well as others that knew the history and heritage of Fender. They knew that change would have to drastically take place in order for Fender to survive. The American Standard series in design has been the flagship of Fender for over 25 years now, even though it was changed back and forth from “American” to “American Standard”. With its smaller headstock design, 4 bolt neck, traditional truss rod (non Bullet), redesigned 2 point floating tremolo/bridge system (replacing the 6 screw design), reverse polarity center pickup, and (IMO) a nod to “The Strat” in evolutionary speak, the “tbx” tone circuitry it employed. The “Standard” has remained in its illustrious position until the present day. Now with the introduction of The “American Professional” Series in 2017,”Change” can be a good thing.
So in parting as always may all your days be memorable, all your friends stay true, and all your riffs be killer. Until next time, thank you for reading, Greg’s Guitars “The Vintage Guitar News and Views.
* Some information is from Tom Wheeler's book "The Stratocaster Chronicles" and from MMR interview by Christian Wissmuller of FMI's Justin Norvell.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views is a trademarked and copyright protected informative newsletter /articles owned and authored by Greg's Guitars.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views ,Greg's Guitars..Martin Guitar Information.
Most guitar companies have for the most part kept records of production ,unfortunately incomplete would be the best description of these records with the exception of one small but albeit giant company,Martin guitars. Martin guitar company can trace most every guitar it has made since 1898 and well, that is pretty good record keeping by anyone's standards. How important is this ? well knowing that there are accurate records of production numbers for a given model of guitar as well as since the 1930's the serial numbers are also recorded helps to establish serious provenance of any given instrument and it also helps you in identifying almost any Martin guitar ever made and how many were manufactured as well as the years of manufacturing for that model. Pretty impressive I think, as all this can come into play when you decide to sell your Martin guitar or when you are looking to purchase a very rare or limited production model Martin.
Martin has tried to keep this system relatively simple in nature with regards to model numbers and suffix designations as example the A suffix denotes ash and the C suffix denotes a cutaway body style, MB denotes maple binding and so forth. At last count I believe that Martin has or has used 43 separate suffix designations and at least 29 different model style designations, daunting but at least consistant which is more that can be said for other guitar manufacturers.
Luckily Martin guitars have a two part model designation separated by a hyphen, the first being the size of the guitar the second being the body style of the Martin guitar, where a 00-18 would be a 00 body size and the 18 being the style of the guitar followed by the suffix designation within each separate body size,i.e. 00-18C would indicate a sized 00,style 18 and C for classical guitar.Martin guitar record keeping also includes the chronology of their production for their guitar (the year(s) a certain guitar was or was not offered) .
In general terms Martin guitars can be laced into at least 1 of 3 period production areas. Period number 1 were the Martin guitars made between 1833 and 1898, these guitars usually have light tops and are not sized larger than the OOO size guitars, they usually have no serial number no fingerboard inlays and no truss rod. The second period of Martin production were from 1898 to 1931.These guitars usually have a serial number on the guitar itself and many do not have a pick guard, they also have the C.F.Martin designation on the headstock and the "D" sized guitar were not yet into production. Last but not least the third era of Martin guitars were produced from 1932 to the present day. All of these guitars were seldom made without a pick guard, they all have serial numbers and and most importantly is the fact that they all (with few exceptions) are numbered consecutively, usually stamped inside the body or neck block for flattops and the center seam for their arch top guitars.
So in conclusion it is nice to know that my 1985 D-21-LEV is made of Indian rosewood with herringbone sound hole ring complete with tortoise binding and tortoise pick guard, it has a sweet vee neck and is one of only 75 produced for that year and I know all this because of the fact that Martin guitars excellence in record keeping.So my hat is off to Martin guitars for making things a little easier when it comes to the daunting task of guitar identification. So until next most may all your days be memorable ,all your friend stay true and all your riffs be killer.
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Fender ,The Company that almost ceased to exist By Greg's Guitars, The Vintage Guitar News and Views.
For the uninitiated , Fender guitars almost ceased to exist , at least a made in the U.S.A. Product in the mid 1980's. Yes that's right ,the guitars that started it all ,the guitars that most of us love almost became something of the past.How you may wonder? Well After the tumultuous 1970's and early 1980's at Fender the corporation that owned Fender (CBS) decided to sell the brand. Rumor has it after the Fender brand was offered on the chopping block there were no serious takers and the few takers that there were wanted to ship all production overseas. That's where William Schultz stepped up with a group of employees and investors and rescued our beloved Fender from virtual extinction.
William ( Bill ) Schultz was no newcomer to the guitar industry, He arrived at fender in early 1981 a veteran from Yamaha and immediately started the transformation at the then CBS factory to try and turn around a declining guitar market that had been flooded with overseas cheap instruments as well as turn around the declining conditions at Fender. So the Fender name machinery and inventory was secured but no plant to produce guitars was included in the deal. The hunt was on for a relocation of the factory from the Fullerton location to what would be to Corona California. During the move there were some inventory being sold from left over stock but the bulk of all of Fenders sales was from the Japan factory for late 1984 and 1985.
Rumor has it that Bill took some of the key employees to the Japan fender factory (who at that time was building rather good guitars) and stated" This is what we have to do back home to stay competitive and stay alive, now I can't verify that but it does seem plausible as the guitars coming from the factory in Japan were solid guitars and better than what were being produced t the time at CBS . So much so that it is interesting enough that as soon as production was warping up in the Corona factory the Japan factory produced guitars no longer carried "Fender" on the headstock as it was replaced with "Squire" .
So with the saving graces from Bill Schultz ,employees and select investors Fender remained not only a U.S. company but also remained on U.S. soil, which I hear was well received at the NAMM show at the time. All I can say from where I sit is that I am thankful that Bill and the boys had the gumption an fortitude to bite off more than what they could chew and not only save an iconic American company from extinction but restructure and resurrect the company into what it once was, a trendsetter and innovative guitar manufacturer that to this day still carries on the traditions that Leo started back in 1946.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views By Greg's Guitars.
When most people think of amps of any era they usually think Fender, with that said let me introduce to you a lesser but in some ways better amp, Gibson amps. Many may not know that Gibson began producing amplifiers in the 1930's 19 or so years before Fender even existed. With their line up of the "EH" amplifiers starting in 1935 Gibson produced amps ranging from 8 to 15 watts with 10 inch field coil speakers and no volume or tone controls,later in 1941 the wattage was bumped up to 15 watts with 12 inch speakers and controls for both volume as well as tone,the bass control was also added during this time.After world war II when material restrictions were lifted a new "BR" series amp was added to the Gibson lineup,these amplifiers were produced until 1954 - 1955.
Then we enter into what I like to think of as the golden age of Gibson amps ,starting in 1949 with the production of the GA series amplifiers.The Ga 18,Ga19,Ga20,Ga40 and GA 200 being personal favorites of mine from this era, These Ga Gibson series amps are often less expensive than their Fender counterparts of the era and offer tight,clear response with excellent breakup when cranked past 5 on the volume control,whereas Fender amps often remain cleaner the Gibson amp offers the growl and roar that many players seek.
The 1960's Gibson amps had names such as "Raider", "Skylark", "Lancer",and "Maestro" attached to them and even though they were not (IMO) as killer tonally as the 50 era Gibson amps they still offer great tones with minimal modifications and hold their own in the players world.
Some of the drawbacks to the Gibson line of amps are the facts that many changes occurred often within not only the same years they were produced but also within the same model lines and these changes often go unnoticed and not even promoted with Gibson literature and sales brochures.
Hundreds of Gibson amp models have been produced over the last 78 years and I have found the most extensive list of these amps on the internet located at the "Gibson Garage Amps" website. Although not all inclusive a further attempt at documenting Gibson amplifiers ha been undertaken by Wallace Mark Jr. in a recent book he has written on Gibson amps.
Gibson amps pretty much went to obscurity from the late 1960's until Gibson relaunched their "Super Goldtone" line in the mid 1990's. These Super Goldtone amps are some of the best amps(IMO) to have been produced as of late, The halfstack Super Goldtone with a head featuring a clean as well as a gain channel and a cabinet featuring 2 ten inch speakers open backed and 2 twelve inch speakers in a closed back configuration simply rock ! The combo versions have two different speaker configurations , one being 2x12 and the other 1X10 and 1X12 with the control panel on the top of the amp and the chassis layout similar to the Bassman amps are hard to beat, with the optional and very much needed 5 way control switch allowing the blending of both channels is what makes these amps open up and drip with tone(s). I have seen several combo versions where the control panel was located on the back and bottom of the amp as well as the chassis ,I do not recommend these versions , in my opinion they are inferior amps, I have also seen single speaker smaller amp versions of the Goldtone series and these also are not in my opinion desirable as far as their line goes.
Also noted is the Epiphone versions of the vintage Gibson produced amps (Gibson owned Epiphone), These amps are the same as their Gibson counterparts with just the Epi badge and some cosmetic differences and usually cost less than their Gibson counterpart and should not be overlooked when your in the market for a vintage amp .I personally favor the 1950 era Gibson amps or their cost as well as their tone and have several in my collection as well as several of the Super Goldtone amps from the 1990's. So if your looking for a vintage amplifier that is less expensive and offers great tonal variety ,look no further than the Gibson and Epiphone amps.
The Vintage Guitar News and Views by Greg's Guitars.
With a lot of inventory sitting on dealers shelves this may just be the time of year especially with our current economic climate being what it is, be a good time to score a great guitar at a good price. By scouring many dealers bargain bins and sale items who knows what kind of treat may be in store for you. Not just on top shelf items that may be discounted but also on the guitars or gear that you may have overlooked when the economic situation was better.
You may want to take a look now at some refinished guitars that may be priced right, especially if you are a gigging musician looking to get more bang for your buck these days. Even as a budding collector just starting to acquire some really nice guitars or gear this may be a area you may want to explore. Why refinished guitars you ask? Well in my own humble opinion as long as the guitar in question is at least 70% intact to the original components, but may have at some point been either stripped completely of it's finish or refinished in a more desirable color or the original color reapplied ,now may be the time to score that guitar at a reasonable price. Face it ,you still get that old wood but at a substantial savings.
As prices for guitars rebound with the rest of our economy you may get even more bang for your buck as the more pristine examples of vintage guitars increase in price and become more and more scarce to the buyers market. As this happens I seem to think that the refinished guitars of the same eras will also increase in price as supply will be outstripped by demand.
Now as far as some of the repaired guitar go, I personally shy away from those that have had questionable repairs done to cracks, splits or headstock repairs. It is also a good thing to ask in this area if the luthier that did the repairs is able to field some questions on the particular piece in question or if some before and after photos exist.As for the really bad repairs I tend to stay away from them as it usually costs more to repair a bad repair that to purchase a repairable guitar and have the work done correctly the first time.Sometime these guitars do deserve a second look , especially if the price is right and you are more interested in playing the guitar than retaining it for an investment.
Then there are what I call top shelf second tier guitars. These are the guitar that are offered by one of the guitar manufactures other than the big three. Most players and collectors alike tend to look at specific name brand guitars but if you say look at guitars made by builders such as Gretsch and Guild in the hollow body and semi hollow bodied guitars you may be pleasantly surprised at the price difference within the same era produced guitar. Respectable vintage pieces at a fraction of the price as opposed to the better known and more sought after guitars on the market.With a multitude to choose from available from guitar dealers worldwide.
As far as solid body styled guitars go ,their are alternatives to the major players but we mainly see strat,tele and LP styled guitars in this area.Again a refinished guitar should in most cases be a lot cheaper than its pristine counterpart and this is where I would look for bargains to surface.Even the third and fourth tier guitar in all ares seem to have had a price increase as demand is created(think catalog and department store guitars) and I have seen those heavier guitars that were produced in the less than stellar years of manufacturing form guitar makers creep upward as the years go by.
It all boils down to how much you can live with giving up to get what you desire guitar and gear wise. Refinished?stripped ?routed? and even the more worn models of particular guitars all cost less than the pristine examples. Yes their are bargains to be had and treats to be found ,all that is required is for you to look. These are after all is just my own news and views. So until next most ,may all your days be memorable ,all your friends stay true and may all your riffs be killer. Greg's Vintage Guitar sales Atlanta. " We sell keepers".