In 1950 Leo Fender turned the guitar sales industry upside down with the appearance of the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, the Fender Esquire. That same year its twin sister, the Broadcaster, appeared, with a similar design but with two pickups instead of one. Soon one of the biggest companies of the time, Gretsch, became aware of the appearance of a powerful rival and forbade Fender to use the name, because of a drum set they had marketed under the name of Broadkaster. However that did not stop the guitar continuing to sell very well. In 1951, they withdrew the name of the guitar - which are now known as Nocasters and are highly coveted - and, finally, in 1952 it was given the name by which we all know it nowadays, the Telecaster.
Some time ago we talked here at Guitars Exchange about several of our favorite artists who play a Telecaster but here we want to talk about those early 50's models, taking advantage of the luxury reissue that Fender has released for its 70th anniversary. So, here are a few mythical Broadcaster models that ended up in the hands of some of our favorite guitarists…
Born the same year the Broadcaster appeared, Mike Campbell is our first protagonist. The Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ guitarist got his precious model just when the band was beginning to record its first album (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 1976) and made that model central to not only that first album, but also of the second, You're Gonna Get It! This made that guitar the most important of his career, something that should not surprise us if we consider that it is the guitar with which the glorious American Girl begins, the one that embellishes Breakdown and the one that he uses for the solo of I Need To Know. As if that wasn't enough, it was also with the Broadcaster that he composed his first song with Petty, Rockin' Around (With You), the one that kicked off Petty's career. In addition Campbell has used it on numerous occasions live and has never forgotten it. It also appears on a couple of songs on his last album, Wreckless Abandon, together with his band The Dirty Knobs.
Billy Gibbons' most famous guitar may be his 'Pearly Gates', his '59 Les Paul, but the ZZ Top guitarist and singer has also made the most of the Fenders he owns. Without going any further, the best record by the band, Tres Hombres, recorded in 1973, was full of examples of Gibbons squeezing to the maximum his 50’s Fender, usually through a ’69 100 watts Marshall Super Lead. Many know that Gibbons used a Strat from ‘55 to record Le Grange, but few know that the masterful Jesus Has Left Chicago was recorded with a Broadcaster from 1950, with serial number 0096, which sounds like a real glory. Years later it was sold by Normans’ Rare Guitars, as you can see in our video selection.
Obviously one of the biggest guitar collectors in the world also has his Broadcaster copy. Specifically Joe Bonamassa has the model with serial number 0280 and says that it is one of the lightest he has ever played, as well as one of his most beloved Fenders within his huge collection. Not bad for someone who has a Nocaster 51, a 1956 Stratocaster, plus one of the very first black Fender Stratocaster in history, also from 1955, not to mention a 1966 Fender Jazzmaster in its rare original color - and so on… we could continue to almost infinity ...
The love of the former Bon Jovi guitarist for the Telecaster is well known - just think about his double neck model. That's why it's understandable that he has his 50s Broadcaster on an altar, a guitar about which he said this in one of his interviews: "Obviously, the ability to play and the sonic qualities of the different instruments change things. If I use a beautiful Les Paul, like the 59 and 60 Les Pauls I have, it will inspire me to play in a certain way and it will work better to get certain tones and attack. But if I use my '50 Broadcaster, I will take a totally different approach. The Les Paul is going to be silkier, heavier and have more depth, but the Broadcaster is going to have the whole bite.” In the video we have added here he practically loses his mind when he comes across another one at Norman Rare Guitars, while he is trying out different models with Orianthi.
Jimmy Bryant was a prolific session musician, as well as one of the most skilled guitarists in the history of country music. Trained in jazz his fingers moved at supersonic speed across the neck, which brought him praise from some eminent colleagues like Barney Kessel, who said of him that "he is the fastest and cleanest and has more technique than any other". This view was also shared by the great Chet Atkins, who said, "I could never play in his league". For all these reasons, Bryant was chosen by Leo Fender and his engineer George Fullerton to gift him one of the first models of the Broadcaster. In Fullerton's words it was like "lighting a fire in a prairie" and in a few years it would become strongly associated with both country and early rock & roll ...