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“That guitar is 73 years old and just as relevant today as it was 73 years ago”: Joe Bonamassa on why Leo Fender nailed the early Tele design

“There’s not many things that have ever been designed, not just musically, but in general, that could say that. I mean, cars don’t look the same, houses don’t look the same.”

Joe Bonamassa on stage. He is holding up a Telecaster guitar and smiling. He is wearing a red suit jacket and blacked-out sunglasses.

Image: Daniel Knighton / Getty

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Blues titan Joe Bonamassa whole-heartedly believes that Leo Fender – the original founder of the Fender brand – “got it right the first time” when it came to guitar design.

Bonamassa recently purchased a 1950s Fender Broadcaster (which went on to become the Telecaster) from Norman’s Rare Guitars in LA. The instrument was once owned by session guitar ace Al Hendrickson, who worked with the likes of Elvis Presley, Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, and more.

Speaking to Guitar World about his latest album, Blues Deluxe Vol. 2, and the recent purchase, Bonamassa shares why he feels Leo Fender’s design choices have stood the test of time.

“There’s two things about Leo Fender. He got so many things right the first time – like, a Broadcaster is essentially a Telecaster. But because of a gentleman’s agreement between Fred Gretsch and Leo Fender, they dropped the word Broadcaster.”

The avid vintage gear collector later adds, “By October of ‘51, with the television now becoming a thing, they renamed it a Telecaster. Now, the difference between an October ‘51 Telecaster and a Broadcaster, other than a very few things – like, the knobs were taller in ‘50, whatever – it’s essentially the same guitar.

“But when you see Broadcaster on the headstock, the price goes up because it is a ‘50, and it does represent the first-year DNA,” he explains. And speaking of first-year DNA, Bonamassa shares why he thinks those first years of Leo Fender’s design work became so legendary.”

He continues, “Now, that guitar is 73 years old and just as relevant today as it was 73 years ago. There’s not many things that have ever been designed, not just musically, but in general, that could say that. I mean, cars don’t look the same, houses don’t look the same, you know what I mean?

“Things have moved on. Yet, for some reason, the Telecaster, the classic-design Les Paul, which to me is a ‘57, the Stratocaster series two, gen-three P-Bass with the Strat head, the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar, all this stuff didn’t go through a lot of delineations. Leo got it right the first time.”

View all of Joe Bonamassa’s 2024 tour dates via his official website.

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