Sixty years ago, in the summer of 1950, a small Californian business was preparing to introduce the world to a new musical invention. The Fender Electrical Instrument Company was based in Santa Ana, 30 miles south of Los Angeles, and it had already come up with the Esquire, an electric guitar that broke with convention by being built from a solid piece of wood. Now, 41-year-old Leo Fender had radically improved on the original to produce the Telecaster.
You know one when you see it: gloriously simple, gracefully contoured, and a byword for how enduring the electric guitar has proved to be. As a sumptuous new coffee-table book titled Fender: The Golden Age 1946-70 puts it: "It is a simple, no-frills instrument, yet still regarded as one of the finest electric guitars ever produced . . . There are very few mass-produced items that can boast the same uninterrupted lifespan."
It has long been responsible for the metallic twang that runs across American country, blues, and rock'n'roll. In the hands of an Essex native named Wilko Johnson, it contributed the distorted buzz to the best records by the British R&B band Dr Feelgood.
It has been the signature guitar of Keith Richards, Chrissie Hynde, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and the Clash's Joe Strummer, Booker T and the MGs, PJ Harvey & Blur.
I remain however, a Gibson man myself.........