A brief history of the early Fender years in Fullerton, California saw the company’s founder working with a number of partners and instrument craftsmen, eventually producing the world’s first commercially viable solid body guitar – the Telecaster. The design was developed between 1940 and 1949, and in 1950 Leo Fender unveiled the initial single-pickup production model, named the Fender Esquire.
Fewer than fifty guitars were originally produced under that name, and most were replaced under warranty because of early manufacturing problems. In particular, the early Esquires no truss rod and many were replaced due to bent necks. Later in 1950, this single-pickup model was discontinued, and a two-pickup model was renamed the Broadcaster. From this point onward all Fender necks incorporated truss rods. The Esquire was reintroduced in 1951 as a single pickup Telecaster, at a lower price.
However, on February 20th, 1951, Fender received a telegram from Fred Gretsch. Gretsch notified Fender that they were in possible copyright infringement due to the trademarked Broadkaster name, which was a line of drums from Gretsch. Starting on February 22nd, Leo Fender had the assembly workers clip the Broadcaster name off the Fender decal. Thus he created one of the most sought after early Fender instruments – the “NoCaster”.
Later in 1951 the guitar was officially renamed as the Telecaster and has been known as such ever since. This period of early Esquires, Broadcasters, Nocasters and Telecasters are referred to as “Blackguards” because of their lovely black phenolic resin pick-guards which are unique to this era.
This particular Blackguard Tele dates to early 1954 and it is in spectacular original condition. Vintage instrument sellers refer to condition grades above “Very Good” as “Excellent” or “Mint” if indeed it appears to be in new condition. Clearly this guitar is not new, and while it has been lightly used, we can safely suggest this one is in “Museum” condition. That is, while it shows signs of being played over the past 65 years, but it would probably outshine any 1954 instrument in any collection that we know of.
Nut width 1 5/8 “
Scale length 25.5 “
Solid single piece ash body
Fretted maple neck with a medium D profile
21 original frets
Black dot position markers
Single round string tree
Undamaged Fender spaghetti logo in silver with “Telecaster” in black below
Individual “no-name” Kluson deluxe tuners with oval metal buttons
One plain metal-cover neck pickup with output of 6.2 k
One black bridge pickup with six flush pole pieces and an output of 6.0 k
Single-ply black Bakelite pickguard with five screws
Two controls (one volume, one tone)
Three-way selector switch with black plastic “barrel” tip
Shorter chrome knobs with more pronounced domes and heavy knurled sides.
Telecaster combined bridge/tailpiece with three flat bottomed brass bridge saddles
Original “ashtray” bridge cover present and accounted for
The potentiometers are stamped “137103” (CTS, January 1951)
Serial number “4464” on the bridge plate beneath the words “FENDER/PAT. PEND.”
The neck is stamped in pencil “TG 3-54″. So this neck was hand carved by legendary early Fender builder Tadeo Gomez in March 1954. Here’s a link to some interesting info on Tadeo Gomez – http://www.guitarhq.com/tad.html.
Inside the control cavity there is a small piece of tape signed “Gloria 3/19/54”. Gloria Fuentes was another legendary Fender assembly worker who was responsible for the final tweaks that put the magic into these early Teles.
So this fabulous piece of Fender history achieves the desirable “Tadeo / Gloria” double, in that it features the combined talents of two of the most revered Fender workers from the Blackguard era.
The neck cavity is dated 2/54
Weight is just 6.54 lbs
There are some minor impressions on the back, but not what you’d call “buckle rash” – and nothing through the finish. There are some tiny dents on the top, some surface wear on the lower edges of the body, and a small amount of playing wear on the fretboard, but far less than is usually seen on an instrument of this age.
But apart from that, this guitar is in amazing, super clean condition overall. And most importantly it is in completely untouched original condition. Nothing on this one has been changed except the strings.
It was purchased by its current owner from LA Guitar Centre in 1996, and has been very carefully looked after ever since. Even the case had its own case ! Yes, this baby has lived inside its original brown poodle case, which itself has been housed in a sturdy aluminium flight case for over 30 years, and that’s the way it was purchased.
There is barely a mark on the top, the headstock is super clean on front and back, with no sticker degradation. The lovely grain of the single piece ash body shows nicely through the original Blond nitro finish, which itself has not discoloured or darkened with age. The metal parts are untarnished, and everything works as it should.
And now, the best part – this guitar is a killer player. It is not uncommon for “trophy” collectable instruments such as this to be fine specimens of art, but they sometimes fall short in the playing department. That is not the case here. This exceptional Blackguard Beauty weighs in at only 6.54 lbs, and it is a light and lively instrument with tons of character – everything you could ask for in terms of classic 50s Tele tone.
The neck is super comfortable, and plays cleanly in all positions, with no dead spots that we can find and plenty of life left in the original frets.
The original control wiring is still in place –
Position #1 (switch lever to the right): Bridge pickup alone with tone control engaged. (This is identical to today’s modern Telecaster wiring.)
Position #2 (switch lever in the middle): Neck pickup alone with tone control engaged. (On modern Telecasters, this position engages both pickups wired in parallel.)
Position #3 (switch lever to the left): Neck pickup alone with a bassy-sounding preset and no further tone control.
A lovely bonus is that it comes with its original bill of sale from Joe Riley Music of Burbank California, when it was bought new on 9th May 1955, under a hire purchase agreement from City Thrift of Los Angeles. The price was US$169.50
Bottom line is, this is possibly the cleanest 1954 Telecaster in Australia, if not anywhere. It is in remarkably untouched original condition, and would sit comfortably within any world class collection of classic instruments – with the significant bonus that it is also a fabulous instrument to play, and one of the best sounding Telecasters we’ve ever heard.
Comes in its original Fender case in very good condition.