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Vintage Vibes: Fender Blackguard Guitars at Chicago Music Exchange
Previously likened to a "plank" or "canoe paddle," the Blackguard Telecaster is now one of the most coveted guitars in history. Shelby explains why, taking us through the guitar's development, its importance as a forerunner of the electrified solid-body, its defining components, and everything else that makes our three Blackguards–the '51 Fender Telecaster, '53 Fender Esquire, and '53 Fender Telecaster–so remarkable.
Today we have a '51 Fender Telecaster, '53 Fender Esquire, and '53 Fender Telecaster. It's not very often that we get an opportunity to have three amazing instruments like this, because when we do they don't stick around for very long. Blackguards never do.
This 1951 Fender Telecaster has been refinished and aged. We've modified our 1953 Fender Esquire with Gibson P.A.F. humbucker in the neck position. And then we have our completely straight 1953 Fender Telecaster. But let’s take the opportunity to slow down and tell the story of all three of these incredible guitars at the same time.
In the early 50s, Fender, Gibson and other manufacturers were racing to find a solution for the terrible feedback problems many guitarists were experiencing, as bands were getting louder and guitars just weren’t built to keep up. The Telecaster was the first commercially viable way to solve it.
The Telecaster is incredibly versatile. We wanted to show different people playing these instruments in a range of styles so you could get a feel for what it’s truly capable of and how all three of these guitars express very different ideas. Again, it’s not often that we get an opportunity to take this much time to focus on the similarities and differences of these instruments. I think it's one of the most exciting things that we've been able to do here, and as someone who feels responsible for continuously educating people them, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Our refinished and aged ‘51 Telecaster Blackguard is the earliest iteration of this model. Originally named the Broadcaster until Gretsch sued (because of their Broadcaster drum kit), the Telecaster got its name after Leo Fender was forced to cut “Broadcaster” off a portion of the headstock.
That became known as the “No-Caster” until, because of the newfound obsession with television, they decided to call it the Telecaster. It's one of the most iconic, long-standing body shapes of any electric. You can still buy something that is representative of that original design, and that’s a testament to its perfection.
Our 1953 Fender Telecaster is in 100% original condition, so much so that the pristine headstock logo looked almost unoriginal. It includes the original poodle case and has some of the original case candy, including some photos of the original owner playing the guitar.
It’s the original 3-way positioning. The bridge pickup is first position, the neck pickup is second position, and the third position is a very dark neck pickup.
Our ‘53 Esquire was a little bit more of a project. It was, no doubt, originally an Esquire. You can see the original “Esq” tooling underneath the neck, but it had previously been hand-routed for a humbucker in the neck. So, naturally, we found a P.A.F. and we put it in. The bridge pickup is actually from a Champion lap steel.
The lap steel pickup and the Telecaster bridge pickup are electronically identical. In fact, it’s what inspired Leo to make the Telecaster bridge pickup in the first place, and it's a really interesting pairing with that humbucker in the neck. We raised it to make sure that the output was very similar and they're in a great spot. They feel like a perfect match together.