History of sunburst Telecasters and Esquires

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by theprofessor, May 17, 2018.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Hi all -

    Since I don't have a vintage Telecaster but am simply discussing them (perhaps along with more modern ones), I thought it best to post here rather than in the vintage forum.

    I've recently acquired a Baja classic player (now called classic 50's version) Telecaster body in a two-tone sunburst, and I'm just about done putting a Tele together using it as the base. That got me interested in sunburst Telecasters (and Esquires) and their particular aesthetic.

    In addition to looking online, I went down to Songbirds this morning, just to take some pictures. I'm offering these here with a few comments, in hopes that others will post more and will talk about what they like or don't like about certain sunburst Teles.

    Of the ones I saw this morning, the sunburst pattern that looks most like my Baja Tele body is a '57 Esquire:
    IMG_0378.JPG


    IMG_0379.JPG

    This '57 Telecaster right behind it is very similar. Note the steel saddles.
    IMG_0380.JPG

    And here's the pattern on my Baja two-tone sunburst. It has still more contrast and is more golden than the examples above, but it's also possible that the nitro on those '57s has faded some.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  2. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    The '57s above have the one-ply, five-hole white pickguard, as one would expect.

    Note this '59 three-tone sunburst Esquire, which has the more "mint"-looking guard. You can use the Strat next to it to contrast a pure white guard (Strat) with the more mint-looking Tele guard. And of course, the '59 is also three-ply.

    IMG_0368.JPG

    This '60 three-tone sunburst double-bound Esquire also has a 3-ply "mint"-looking guard. I think this guard looks the most like a 2017 Baja three-ply eight-hole guard I have.

    IMG_0362.JPG

    Since I've started putting partscasters together just recently, I've started to pay more attention to fitment of the pickguard at the horn. Here's a close-up of the '60 Esquire horn above. I actually noticed this on several Teles, some of which are fairly assymetrical there. I don't ever recall seeing this phenomenon on Strats.

    IMG_0364.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  3. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Finally, here's a '66 three-tone double-bound sunburst Telecaster. Note that the red stands out much more than in previous iterations. I read in the Duchossoir book that it took the Fender company a while to perfect the 3-tone burst, since the red would fade quickly, resulting in something that is effectively a two-tone burst that used to be three. Personally, I much prefer the two-tone burst to the three-tone.

    Note also that the three-ply guard is much more pure white than any of the previous ones.

    IMG_0367.JPG

    And just for fun, here's a check Leo wrote at his local hardware store, Fullerton Hardware Co., on June 10 of 1967. I like the little subtraction problem he did at the top. It seems awfully easy math to have to write it out!

    IMG_0366.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    And then, of course, there are the 1955 sunburst Teles that Joe Bonamassa owns and that the Fender custom shop used as models to make replicas of. The two on the left look more typical of the era, at least from the small sample I took pictures of this morning. I'd say that the three-tone one on the right, if it is indeed from 1955, would be very rare, since it has survived as a three-tone sunburst.

    UdeeiEVmYJqPuGJRavoBx-650-80.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
    Obsessed, ifallalot and Stratohacker like this.
  5. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    I almost forgot: Here is a not-so-good picture I took a while back of a 1951 two-pickup Esquire in two-tone burst. It's one of eight two-pickup Esquires in existence. One of the others is a blonde one from 1950 in the case right next to it. I really like how much black this one has around the edges. In fact, I like this color scheme best of all of them.

    IMG_0060.JPG IMG_0061.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
    Obsessed, BWNadeau, rze99 and 5 others like this.
  6. orangeblossom

    orangeblossom Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,037
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    Renfrew county, Canada.
    Cool pic’s. I like the two tone best as well.
     
    SnidelyWhiplash and theprofessor like this.
  7. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,454
    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Location:
    Williamsville NY
    Sunburst finishes varied in the way they were sprayed and sometimes dyed. The following is from http://guitarhq.com/fender.html which is an outstanding reference. I've summarized the sunburst thing as described for Strats:

    March 1954 Fender Stratocaster introduction specs:
    Sunburst finish very crude. In fact, it's a "one color" sunburst finish. The center part of the sunburst is natural ash with no yellow - Fender only sprayed the dark brown around the edges of the body to give the sunburst look. This type of sunburst only appears on early Strats with the serial number on the rear plastic tremolo cover.

    May/June 1954 Fender Stratocaster specs:
    Two-color ("Canary yellow" to "Amber brown") sunburst finish with the center yellow color sprayed.

    Mid 1956 Fender Stratocaster specs:
    Alder body replaces Ash on sunburst finished Strats (blond Strats still use Ash). Also the body finishing procedure changes because of the change to alder - Now the yellow in the sunburst is dyed into the wood, instead of being sprayed (as was done on Ash body sunburst Strats).

    1958 Fender Stratocaster specs:
    Sunburst finish changed to three colors (red added), going yellow to red to dark brown.

    Mid 1959 Fender Statocaster specs:
    Fender used a very photo-reactive red dye in their sunburst finish, causing many 1959 Strats to fade from a 3-color sunburst to a 2-colors (the photo-reactive nature of the red caused fading from ultra-violet light). This is typically seen on the front of the body, where the back often still has the red in the sunburst. If the pickguard is lifted, the original red finish in the sunburst can still be seen.

    1961 Fender Stratocaster specs:
    Fender now using a more robust red in their sunburst finish. Hence 1961 and later Strats don't have sunburst finished with a faded out red. The dark "Amber brown" part of the sunburst finish is now changed to "black". Hence the dark part of the sunburst is more striking and does not blend as well as prior sunburst finishes. It is a subtle change.

    Mid 1964 Fender Stratocaster specs:
    The finish on the sunburst changes (especially the yellow, which is now sprayed in addition to the yellow body dye, and is far less translucent). See the Fender Colors article for more details. Sunburst finish has a more "target" look with a more dramatic change of the three colors, with less blending between colors.
     
  8. black_doug

    black_doug Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,825
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Here's my Am Standard with an ash body from 2008.


    1526586704165.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Ebidis

    Ebidis Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    53
    Posts:
    1,026
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2016
    Location:
    Alabama
    Here's my Baja '50s which I like very much.

    IMG_1769.JPG IMG_1771.JPG fullsizeoutput_197.jpeg fullsizeoutput_199.jpeg
     
  10. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Nice! It's interesting that my Baja Classic Player (which would now be called a Baja 50's) looks more like @black_doug 's American Tele than @Ebidis 's Baja 50's. At least in the light of those photos.

    Here's mine again:

    IMG_0339.JPG

    Does anyone know when a sunburst Telecaster was first issued with a black pickguard, as the Baja 50's and American Tele examples here? I've not seen a vintage one with a black guard.
     
    2blue2 likes this.
  11. trep53

    trep53 TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    57
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Location:
    Timberlake, OH; NEO
    Ahhh, those are all very nice. I enjoy sunburst guitars.
     
  12. AndrewG

    AndrewG Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    66
    Posts:
    2,168
    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Location:
    Exeter, England
    Well, seeing as it was only for the first couple of years (up to '55?), into the Telecaster that black guards were used, and from then white was the stock pickguard colour until the early 70s when black was used on the Deluxe and Custom, I would suggest that '76 would be a good place to start from. Regular Telecasters were fitted with three-ply black guards then, so I guess it's possibly the same for Esquires.
     
  13. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Age:
    68
    Posts:
    16,108
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Fort Worth,Tx.
    Here is my Fender Custom Shop 54 Tele that I got from Dave's at the Arlington Guitar Show back in 2007 or 2008.

    When I first got it home with the white PG, then after I put a black PG on about a year ago.
    It's my favorite Sunburst finish that I've ever seen.

    149576_179142668765003_2677462_n.jpg 32562820_1947459595266626_6759857569864351744_n.jpg
     
  14. Ebidis

    Ebidis Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    53
    Posts:
    1,026
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2016
    Location:
    Alabama
    Different lighting makes a HUGE difference in photographs, but yours does look more "golden" than mine does.

    Yours is gorgeous BTW. ;)
     
    theprofessor likes this.
  15. Steve_U1S

    Steve_U1S Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    1,328
    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2013
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I happen to think that the 2-tone sunburst finish is just tops as far as that style of finish goes.
    The 2-tone Hwy 1 Texas Tele I have in 2-tone is, to my eye, just stunningly lovely. A perfect amount of 'banding' for my liking.

    Here's a photo I took some time back, which honestly doesn't truly capture it as well as I might in daylight etc.

     
    Stratohacker, Nubs and theprofessor like this.
  16. Bristlehound

    Bristlehound Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Location:
    Wales
    I love 2-tone 'burst. I've got an '82 JV Strat which is a copy of a '57 Strat that's 2-tone, and it was interesting to see the history that '56 to '58 were alder bodies with the yellow dyed in the wood and the black sprayed. This looks to be exactly like my JV is.

    I'd love a matching Tele.
     
  17. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Yes, that's very, very nice!
     
    Steve_U1S likes this.
  18. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Thanks, Ebidis! Heavy for a Tele (unloaded body is 7 lbs) but gorgeous!
     
  19. Togman

    Togman Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    1,231
    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire, UK
    Here's my 68 Tele and 2009 CV50 Strat. I'm using pictures taken outside to try and show the colours correctly.

    DSCF0319.JPG

    And a closer shot of the Tele from a year earlier.
    Jul 68 Tele 08.JPG
     
  20. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    OOOOOh, thanks very much for posting! Those guitars are gorgeous. That '68 looks a bit like the '66 above, but without the binding and a bit less red. I like yours better.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.