1950 – The birth of the Fender Electric solidbody guitar

When Leo Fender presented the new “Fender Solidbody” guitar at the 1950 summer NAMM show, many people laughed at his product, which featured a black painted body with a contrasting white “Plastic” pickguard, and a solid maple neck. Some competitors apparently labeled the new Fender Guitar as per a “WC with a guitar neck installed”. Little they knew how much they were wrong. In a few months just after that NAMM show, Leo worked hard to refine his new guitar, determined to create something absolutely revolutionary for its time.

So what he did was selecting attractively grained, solid ash for the body wood (instead of the prototypes made of sandwiched pine used in the summer) and a see-through “Blonde”, pale yellow, finish, paired to a contrasting “Blackguard” bakelite, black pickguard.

But he didn’t just elaborate the look of the “Fender Solidbody”, he also worked on a number of very important features, from the truss rod (that apparently he was not convinced it would have been needed at all) to the revolutionary switching system for a single pickup version or a double pickup version, that offered to the player a variety of tones which was really amazing for the time.

Leo has earned a lot of experience with his “lap Steel” guitars, and basically the “champion” Lap Steel 6-strings pickup made in late 1948, early 1949 was the “grandfather” of the “Esquire” pickup developed in 1950, with the main visible exception being the metal steel plate soldered to the pickup ground lead at the base of the pickup itself.

The other significant design refinement that differentiates the “Fender Solidbody” from the “Lap Steel” is the peghead, which surely has been inspired by the works of Paul Bigsby, in particular Leo must have taken the idea of a “single line” of tuners, placed on just one side of the headstock, directly from Paul’s guitars made for famous artists.

But not many people know that the first official “name” to the Fender “solidbody” guitar, was the “Esquire”. Yes, the first model was the “Esquire”, offered with a single or double pickup configuration. In the early days we can see Esquire decals made either with a Silver or Golden metallic colored Fender logo, most likely to differentiate the single or double pickup version of the model, but Shortly after that though, it appears that they decided to rename the “double pickup” model, to the “Broadcaster” name, choosing a Silver logo for it. This is very interesting since there are no “Golden logo” Broadcaster out there, while we do see Golden logo Esquire made in the early Blackguard years.

Today, on our Vintage Vault bench, we’ve two very special guitars, that help us understanding some of the unique features of these early instruments.

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