Early Guitar Plastics

Throughout the 20th-century guitar-building golden age, manufacturers continually pushed the envelope with their instruments’ craftsmanship, playability, and use of emerging materials, namely their plastics. At present, it’s outlandish to think plastic goods were once considered rare. However, it wasn’t until World War II that plastic was brought to the forefront of manufacturing materials. Before plastic, natural materials such as bone, ivory, and tortoise shell were used for various purposes, such as pickguards, inlays, and binding. Along with wartime complications, companies had long faced shortages and high prices due to overhunting and government regulation. This disrupted the means of production and supply chain and forced companies to modify the materials used in fabrication.

One of the first viable commercial “plastics” used was celluloid. This compound was commonly used in combs, small boxes, and other small household items towards the end of the 19th Century and was later utilized in film for cameras. Celluloid is synthesized by first “nitrating” cellulose, combining it with sulfuric and nitric acid that is then rinsed, drained, and dried. This leaves the chemist with nitrocellulose. Next, the nitrocellulose is then kneaded with fillers, dyes, and other chemicals, such as Camphor, to create a gel. This gel can then be pressed into a finished sheet and cut into squares of celluloid. This is obviously a very brief simplification of the full chemical process, so for anyone interested in the exact science, we recommend the journal linked at the bottom of this blog post in our works consulted.

Celluloid became the go-to material for components like binding and guitar picks. This material also became the standard for pickguards, especially in an imitation tortoise pattern commonly seen on guitars of the era. “Green” pickguards seen from Fender in 1959-1964 also use this celluloid material.

Aside from their flammability, one drawback to these early plastics is that they are prone to shrinking, warping, and “off-gassing.” Off-gassing can occur randomly when the plastic and trapped chemicals inside the object break down. You will often see fogging or an oily appearance on the surface, and the fumes commonly corrode metal components surrounding the plastic. 

The next giant leap in manufacturing came with injection molding, which allowed manufacturers to easily create 3D molded objects, like knobs and pickup covers. Essentially, liquid plastic is pumped into metal forms, leaving some of the mold’s marks and seams visible. Fender used this technology extensively, especially on the Stratocaster. We’ve written about this type of plastic specifically on our earliest Stratocasters in our blog post here. As discussed in our previous blog post, this well-known “Bakelite” plastic is actually polystyrene, infamous for being as fragile as porcelain. In some cases, you can see the swirling of poorly mixed plastics as they were injected into the mold. This flaw is easiest to see on pickup covers.

Early 1954 Stratocasters, both with “bakelite” Polystyrene plastics

As Fender sought a more robust material to improve this fragility, they found their answer in 1957 with the newly invented ABS plastic. Still widely used today, ABS is a mixture of various compounds and chemicals forming a reliable plastic that can easily be used for injection molding. This also explains why plastics on Fenders of this era can have a yellow tint, as this plastic tends to yellow with time. 

To bring this full circle into the modern day, new plastic materials such as Delrin, PVC, and Nylon are currently used, in addition to ABS. There’s still something magical about those early plastics, and even more so in the way they age, whether it be the subtle warping of a celluloid pickguard, the smokiness of an ABS pickup cover, or even the fragility of a polystyrene tone knob. Each example harkens back to a time when the industry was just in its infancy! 

Works Consulted

Calvosa, Antonio. “Stratocaster Knobs and Pickup Covers.” FUZZFACED, www.fuzzfaced.net/stratocaster-knobs.html. Accessed 7 July 2023. 

Kelly, Martin, et al. Fender: The Golden Age. Cassell Illustrated, 2011. 

Reilly, Julia A. “Celluloid Objects: Their Chemistry and Preservation.” JAIC Online, 1991, cool.culturalheritage.org/jaic/articles/jaic30-02-003_3.html.

Smith, Richard R., et al. Fender: The Sound Heard ’round the World. Hal Leonard, 2009. 

Wheeler, Tom. The Stratocaster Chronicles: Fender: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat. H. Leonard, 2004.

Early Stratocasters with Tremolo Cover Serial Numbers

Following the 1950 release of their wildly popular “Blackguards,” Leo Fender wanted to design a new guitar that he hoped would soon eclipse anything else on the market. As local musicians often dropped by the Fullerton factory to show off their homemade modifications to their Fender guitars, a new iconic guitar emerged out of these suggestions.

One of Leo’s favorite “guinea pigs” to field test these new modifications was legendary Western swing guitarist Bill Carson. We have Mr. Carson to thank for the highly comfortable contours on the Stratocaster after he stunned Leo with the rounded forearm contour and hack-sawed tummy contour he added to his Telecaster. Fender borrowed the initial body shape design from the Precision Bass, further refined by Freddie Tavares, and combined it with Mr. Carson’s contouring to create an exceedingly comfortable and ergonomic body shape. The necks on this new model were identical in construction to that of the Telecaster and Esquire, made wholly of maple with a walnut “skunk stripe” in the channel for the truss rod. The significant deviation from Fender’s previous neck design was with the headstock. It still featured six in-line tuners on one side of the headstock but had a much more exaggerated shape than the Telecaster’s headstock. After perfecting the new Tremolo design and working out the pickups, Leo was ready to present the new guitar. All it needed was a name, and thanks to Don Randall, this model was dubbed: The Stratocaster.

#0102 and #0103

To spread the word of the new model before Fender’s official announcement in April of 1954, roughly 200 Stratocasters were made and given to salespeople to take with them across the country. Fender hoped to dazzle dealers with the revolutionary model, prompting them to order store stock. One unique feature of these sales samples was that their serial numbers were stamped right into the plastic rectangular plate that covered the spring cavity, commonly known as the tremolo cover/plate. This serial series started at 0100 and terminated at around 0300. After this, any mainline Stratocaster received the standard neck plate serial number, this time starting over at 0001.

We’re incredibly fortunate at Well Strung Guitars to have multiple Trem cover serialized Stratocasters for sale in the showroom. It’s fascinating to see them compared to each other and later 1954 Stratocasters from the regular serial series! Since these Tremolo plate Strats were some of the first made, it was only natural that Fender would make changes and improvements as more feedback trickled back to the factory.

One of the most pronounced visual differences between the Tremolo plate Stratocasters and those made after is the absence of an amber tint to the natural wood of the Sunburst. Instead, the center of the burst is merely the coloring of the ash underneath, and only the last few of the Tremolo plate serial number Strats saw amber applied.

The next most notable difference is the shape and composition of the plastic components. More often than not, the plastic components on these early Strats are said to be Bakelite, but according to Tom Wheeler in The Stratocaster Chronicles:

“The single-layer pickguard, knobs, and pickup covers [and switch tip] were made of a brittle plastic similar to Bakelite; in fact, it is often mislabeled Bakelite”

Close-up of Bakelite appointments on a neck plate serialized Strat

In actuality, this material was a polystyrene thermoplastic; an early but very fragile medium for injection molding plastics at the time. All the plastic parts, except the pickguard and tremolo plate, were injection molded, while the pickguard and tremolo plate were stamped out of a different plastic formula. Even then, these Styrene plastics were brittle, and they definitely still are today! The specific shape of the knobs and switch tips were also unique to these early examples. The knobs were a bit more square, with no taper and a smaller space for the numbers, known as the “Short Skirt” knob. The switch tip had a “football” style shape. In age and time, the Styrene knobs and pickup covers can develop a type of translucency, where you can even see the flow of the injection molding process. 

Another trait all of our Tremolo Cover Stratocasters share is a chunky neck. They are quite consistent among the few examples we have. There’s a slight variance in the first fret neck depth, ranging from .93”-.97”, and a twelfth fret neck depth across the board at 1”. The weights of each are also more or less consistent, with them all being about 8 lbs. Like some Telecasters at the time, all of these early Stratocasters came in brown “Poodle” form fit cases made by Bulwin. Fender’s famous Tweed case didn’t appear until late 1954. Initial orders were slow, as Telecaster sales remained strong.

Some research suggest that less than 300 Stratocasters were shipped by the end of the year! As described in Fender: The Sound Heard’ Round The World:

“The Telecaster was still so new. Even when we came out with the Stratocaster, that newness hadn’t really worn off.”

Year after year, sales of the Stratocaster would increase, thanks to the likes of famous artists like Buddy Holly, who were seen performing with the Stratocaster throughout the 1950s. The rest, as they say, is history!

From left to right: 0102, 0103, 0108, 0168, 0189, 0194
From left to right: 0102, 0103, 0108, 0168, 0189, 0194

Works Cited

Calvosa, Antonio. “Serial Numbers: Strats Made in USA.” FUZZFACED, www.fuzzfaced.net/stratocaster-serial-numbers.html. Accessed 18 May 2023. 

Kelly, Martin, et al. Fender: The Golden Age. Cassell Illustrated, 2011. 

Smith, Richard R., et al. Fender: The Sound Heard ’round the World. Hal Leonard, 2009. 

Wheeler, Tom. The Stratocaster Chronicles: Fender: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat. H. Leonard, 2004. 

Gear Breakdown: Led Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall

At the end of 1969, one of the most eventful years in modern music history, no one could prepare for the sound that would emerge to define the new decade: Led Zeppelin’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall on January 9th, 1970. The concert meant a great deal to the band, as Jimmy Page describes: 

“The Albert Hall was a massive gig for us, and we really wanted to do the best we could. It was a magic venue. It was built in Victorian times, and you’re in there thinking about all the musical history that has preceded you. On top of that, it was something of a homecoming for John Paul Jones and I, because we had both grown up around there. So we were all really paying attention to what we were doing.”

This concert still stands as one of the best performances of all time because of the controversy around its professional filming. After the show, the footage was quickly abandoned due to technical filming errors and overall poor video quality. However, as with many other Led Zeppelin performances, concert-goers created bootlegs widely viewed for decades until the band eventually released the footage in 2003. 

Regardless of the medium – bootleg or official release – anyone who watches the performance cannot deny the musical power unleashed by the band. As a result, the gear they used throughout the show will forever remain in our collective memory. For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the instruments used by John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.

John Paul Jones (left) playing his 1962 Fender Jazz Bass in Sunburst

Starting with the band’s low-end thump, we can see John Paul Jones with his trusty 1962 Fender Jazz Bass in Sunburst, purchased new in 1963. Jones wields the bass throughout the show, and it continued as his primary workhorse during the Zeppelin years until he retired it in 1975. Like many musicians of the era, Jones has admitted to modifying and reworking some of his instruments, including this bass. However, at the time of the Royal Albert Hall gig, it appears all original, albeit missing the bridge cover and mutes, leaving four small holes under the strings. It seems the Fender headstock decal is also missing by this time, which could’ve easily worn off from the rigors of touring. We have a 1961 Fender Jazz Bass in Sunburst just like it, with removed mutes too! Although ours is the rarer “Stack Knob” iteration, whereas Jones’ has a three knob layout.

Moving on to the three guitars used by the legend himself, Jimmy Page. He used his famous “Number 1” Gibson Les Paul in Sunburst for the first three tracks. Since the back of the neck was sanded down and refinished, and the serial number went with it, there is a debate as to which year Jimmy’s guitar was made. Jimmy famously purchased this Les Paul in 1969, after strong insistence from Joe Walsh, and it’s remained with Jimmy ever since as his primary instrument. At this point, the guitar already had gold Grover tuners installed, and the bridge pickup cover was removed, showing off a double white PAF. He plays this Les Paul for most of the show and uses every aspect of the guitar significantly. As a comparison, below is our 1959 Les Paul in Sunburst, also without pickup covers, sporting a double white PAF at the bridge pickup and a zebra at the neck.

Plant (Left) wailing while Page plays his Burst. Notice the double white bridge PAF!

The next guitar Jimmy uses is his trusty 1961 Danelectro U2 in Black for “White Summer/Black Mountain Side.” This economically made instrument features a poplar core with a masonite top and back, vinyl sides, and two single-coil lipstick pickups. We have a similar, one-pickup model in the shop with a nice bit of wear and patina! Jimmy always used this guitar for “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” and any other song that required slide or alternate tuning, like “Kashmir” later in the decade.

Page’s 1961 Danelectro U2 in Black

Lastly, we have Jimmy using his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Black with a Bigsby for both encores, “C’mon Everybody/Somethin’ Else” and “Bring It On Home.” By the time of the Royal Albert Hall show, Jimmy had removed both pickup covers from the bridge and neck position, with a double black PAF in the bridge and a zebra PAF in the neck position. Later in 1970, Jimmy added two more toggle switches on either side of the factory switch for more tonal options and capabilities. Infamously, this guitar was stolen at the end of the 1970 US tour, and it would not resurface until nearly 50 years later. Our example is a clean 1959 Custom without a Bigsby. 

Page and his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom, with Bigsby

Below is a link to the entire performance, which we highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it before!! On the other hand, if you have seen it, join us in awe as we watch it again.

Works Cited





Gretsch’s Flightless Birds: A Quest for Solid-bodied Success

Throughout the Great Guitar Boom of the early 1950s, many companies like Fender and Gibson began gearing production towards solid-bodied electric guitars. The legendary rivalry between Fender and Gibson is one for the ages, however these two guitar giants we not the only ones on the cutting edge of this new field. Often overlooked, there was another major player experimenting at this time: Gretsch. 

Located not too far from the Williamsburg Bridge at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, NY, was Gretsch’s main facility. Gretsch had been manufacturing acoustic guitars since the 1930s and archtop style guitars since late 1949, kicking off their archtop offerings with the Electromatic Spanish Model, a semi-acoustic guitar that featured a lone DeArmond pickup. 

The following year, Fender released the market’s first mass-produced, solid-body guitar, the Broadcaster. Coincidentally, this was a copyrighted Gretsch name as their “Broadkaster” drum and acoustic line. Following a telegram, Fender eventually renamed their model to the Telecaster by 1952. Almost simultaneously, Gibson released their iteration of a solid-bodied electric guitar: the Les Paul. The success of the Telecaster and the Les Paul models and their respective companies was too much for Gretsch to miss out on. So, in 1953, Gretsch released their Model 6128: the Duo-Jet.

The Duo-Jet was crafted with a mahogany body, routed to make space for the electronics, and topped with a sheet of maple to create a more “solid” feel. Sales for this model were nothing to write home about, but that all changed in 1954 with the arrival of Gretsch’s own “Les Paul”; Chet Atkins. Atkins’ signature models, the hollow-bodied 6120 and to a much lesser degree its solid-bodied companion the 6121, brought Gretsch some much-needed success and recognition. Following this boom, it wasn’t long until Gretsch unveiled their top-of-the-line models: the White Falcon and White Penguin. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus primarily on both iterations of the White Penguin. 

First released alongside the White Falcon in 1956, the Penguin (Model 6134) was finished in white with multi-laminate binding. The outermost gold layer of the binding was actually repurposed Gretsch drum wraps. This ebony fretboard features neo-classical inlays on our single-cut model and the same on our double-cut. The headstock is finished off with gold-plated Grover Imperials. In fact all of the hardware on this model is gold plated, a careful touch that ties in with the gold in the binding. Electronically, this model is rich with two gold-plated Filter’tron pickups and accompanying volume and tone controls. The volume and tone knobs were inlaid with pearl, and Gretsch even went as far to include a “ruby” as a position indicator! Unlike many of these guitars, our single cut White Penguin is wired mono with two individual volume controls, a master volume, and a tone switch instead of the traditional potentiometer style knob. 

To summarize just how special, and just how rare these beautiful instruments are, our very own David Davidson sat down with Rod Brakes of Guitarist Magazine:

“I’ve had two straight single-cuts and one double-cut in my life, but I’ve seen several that had numerous problems, including broken headstocks, and/or strange appointments that I would hesitate to authenticate.

“I’ve seen two ’58 White Penguins. But I wasn’t convinced the other one was 100 percent real. Not a lot of people know this, but if you magnify the original gold sparkle binding, each little sparkle should appear octagonal-shaped. When you look at reissues or others where the binding has been replaced, that isn’t the case because nobody makes that binding any more. You can’t get it anywhere. And because the celluloid binding on so many of these guitars shrinks and rots and breaks away, it’s very common to see Falcons and Penguins with pieces of binding missing. Most Gretsch guitars from this period are starting to develop problems, although these two are very much intact.

“So, I’m very happy to have them in the store. They really are the Holy Grail of Gretsch collectors.”

Works Cited




Swiden’s Stunning Sparkles: Fender’s Sparkle Finishes

Some of the guitars we’re very fortunate to have in our collection are an array of extremely rare, original 50s and 60s Sparkle Fenders! These finishes feature large metallic “flecks” that give each guitar a glitzy effect. This style of painting was and is extremely popular in the automotive industry, from its invention to this very day. To understand the popularity and creation of the Sparkle guitar, one must look at the cultural landscape of California in the late 50s and early 60s. “Hot Rod” Car Culture and Surf music was all the rage at this time in Southern California, and musicians were keen to incorporate this culture into their instruments.

Our very own David Davidson spoke about Sparkle Guitars in Guitarist Magazine: “[Fender was] in Fullerton, California, and all that stuff was happening around them. So naturally, the idea of painting your guitar to look like a hot rod was a cool thing.”

The metallic fleck used in custom sparkle finishes differs from standard colors like Candy Apple Red or Lake Placid Blue, as the metallic particles in the former are much larger. With the chunkier fleck, you can see the texture underneath the clear, and almost feel it on some instruments. While these sparkles were still factory original guitars, Fender’s paint guns were not equipped to spray these rare finishes in-house until 1966. As a result, Fender built the bodies and then outsourced the finishes to the one place they knew could perfect them: auto body shops. Once the bodies were finished, Fender took them back into the factory to complete the electronics. Various shops were tasked with this important job and one artist, Dennis Swiden, is known to have painted a number of Sparkle finishes for Surf players, including Dick Dale and Eddie Bertrand. Dennis worked out of his parent’s furniture store and was close with many of the artists. Many one-off examples of Sparkle guitars were made for these popular artists, and we’re very lucky to have a few in our collection. One example we have even features crushed glass rather than glitter as the “fleck” to really add another dimension to the sparkle and texture.

Authenticating a sparkle finish as an original is no easy task, as no two are alike. We’re lucky enough as a store to possess multiple confirmed originals, allowing us to compare. However, each requires research, history, and even senses to authenticate. It can be anything from texture, smell, what we can see under the paint, and what we don’t. Because of this, and the amount of non-original pieces, authenticating Sparkles is one of the hardest tasks. Even so, here at Well Strung Guitars, we’ve done our homework so you can take one home with peace of mind! Give us a call today to add one of these jewels to your collection! 516-221-0563

Photos Courtesy of Facebook Group, “Dennis Swiden in Memory Of” and OriginalFuzz.com

Welcome to Our New Website!

Welcome to the newly redesigned Well Strung Guitars website! We implemented a slew of design changes to make browsing and enjoying our selection easier than ever before! We wanted to take this opportunity to walk you through some of those changes. 

Firstly, we’ve listed an additional 50 or so guitars we’ve never had on our website, and we plan on keeping the new listings coming, so check back every week! Be sure to let us know if you have any questions using our contact form, and at the bottom of that page add your email to our newsletter to get alerts when new guitars are uploaded. Each guitar now features a comprehensive Specifications summary, which makes finding important details such as weight, nut width, and pickup readings as easy as possible. 

What to Expect on Each Listing

Diving into the “Spec” summary a little further, you can see we have added a categorical “Condition” rating to the finish and hardware sections, and a numerical “Overall Condition” rating at the end of each listing. Some might be very familiar with the Mint, Excellent, Very Good, etc. metric that many selling platforms use, and some might be used to a simple 1-10 scale. We have adapted both styles to fit our inventory of 30+ year old vintage guitars, and provide easy references for both new and old school. Of course, condition is always subjective, but we use our years of experience dealing with hundreds of instruments to describe each piece to the best of our ability.

Let’s look at the “Finish Details” section of our listings. Some elements of age are hard to avoid, such as finish checking or yellowing of the clear, and this is taken into account when assigning a condition to an instrument. In that same vein, we also have a new “Hardware” section. One word we throw out quite a bit is “patina”. This is a thin layer of oxidation that can occur on metal components due to hand oils or even the air. We’ll note the presence of patina in this section, and if there’s any patina bordering on corrosion. Below we have provided a quick cheat sheet about the way we interpret our condition ratings for the utmost clarity.

MintEssentially new, like it just came out of the factory!
Near MintAlmost brand new, Could have very light swirling, very light weather checking, or a couple of small marks
ExcellentVery clean, Could have a few areas of light wear, light weather checking, or a few marks
GreatThe standard amount we expect a our vintage inventory to age, Could have some finish wear, some weather checking, a handful of marks, some patina, or just general play wear
GoodPlayed in look and feel, Could have fading/yellowing throughout, wear spots throughout finish (such as very visible buckle rash), weather checking throughout, marks throughout, or patina throughout
FairHeavily played in look and feel, Could have wear across the entire instrument, heavy fading/yellowing, areas of finish worn to bare wood, heavy weather checking, heavy marks, or heavy patina

Another area we’d like to expand on is the neck profile section. We got our hands on each guitar and assigned a neck profile that we felt matched. We can measure any neck in the store more thoroughly, so if you’d like more information please don’t hesitate to give us a shout! 

The remaining sections of the Specifications summary (such as nut width, weight, etc.) are pretty straightforward. The last “Includes” section lists any case candy and the type of case each guitar comes in.

We truly hope you all like our website’s new look and enjoy the changes. If there’s anything we haven’t answered for you here, please don’t hesitate to let us know! 

Fender’s Electric XII

In the early 1960s, there was a clamor to capture the jangly, bright, and unique sound produced by a relatively new invention; the electric twelve-string guitar. Acoustic twelve-string guitars had been accompanying folk and blues music since the 1920s/1930s but were seen as little more than novelties. Until the early 1960s, when George Harrison put his brand new twelve-string Rickenbacker 360/12 to good use. George was given one of the first two prototypes made by Rickenbacker, and was immediately taken with the new sound he was able to achieve. He was given the guitar in February of 1964 in New York City, a day before their legendary performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Harrison’s quickly put his new guitar to use in the studio, laying out the legendary opening of “A Hard Day’s Night”.

This meteoric popularity caught Fender by surprise, and the brand quickly began planning its own design to compete with the likes of Rickenbacker and others. Using the offset designs of the Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and Mustang as a baseline, a new headstock design was needed to accommodate six extra strings. The result came to be referred to as the “hockey stick” headstock; a clunky yet unique departure from the sleek lines and curves the company was known for.

Fender Electric XII Head Stock
The Electric XII’s “hockey stick” headstock

The Electric XII featured two split single coil pickups, a single volume and tone control, and a four-way rotary switch. This switch allowed the player to use either each pickup by itself, both pickups together in phase, or both pickups together but out of phase. While this is intensely cool, where the Electric XII really stands out lies with its unique bridge design. While many other twelve-string electric guitars had just six saddles for twelve strings, Fender took a slightly different approach. As one of Leo Fender’s last designs with the company he founded, the bridge features twelve individual saddles to perfect the instrument’s intonation. The string-through body design also helped enhance the overall sound and sustain, since many others were stringed using a top-mounted tailpiece.

Fender Electric XII Print Ad
The original advertisement for Fender’s new “12-String Electric”
Fender Electric XII body detail
A close-up of the Electric XII’s revolutionary bridge design

By the summer of 1965, The Byrds were dominating the charts with their hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and were scheduled to appear on several television variety shows to promote it, thanks to their record label CBS. Coincidentally, CBS had also just purchased Fender and asked Gene Clark to play a Firemist Gold Electric XII opposite Jim McGuinn’s Rickenbacker 360/12. This was The Byrd’s second television appearance on Hullabaloo, in May of 1965. When the Fender Electric XII was released in June of 1965, the standard Sunburst finish with a white pearloid pickguard was offered for $349.50. Soon after its initial release, a faux tortoise shell pickguard replaced the white pearloid guard. Later, in the same year, white binding was added to the fretboard. Many Electric XIIs featured pearl dot inlays, except for a small amount of them that featured block markers. In an effort to boost sales during the first few years, a fair percentage of Electric XIIs were finished in an array of Fender’s custom colors in order to provide a guitar for anyone’s taste.

Fender Electric XII
A 1965 Fender Electric XII in Firemist Gold, very similar to the one Gene Clark played on Hullabaloo

The Electric XII quickly became a studio favorite, with the likes of the Beach Boys, Pete Townshend, and Bob Dylan relying on the XII. Even Elvis Presley was seen sporting a 1966 Electric XII in Lake Placid Blue. Arguably, the most famous recording of an Electric XII is featured on Led Zeppelin’s legendary epic, “Stairway to Heaven”, recorded in late 1970 and released in 1971. Jimmy Page opted to use his Sunburst 1965 Fender Electric XII in order to capture the mystical, shimmering tone featured on the track.

Fender Electric XII

Despite the popularity in the studio, musicians were not seen playing Electric XIIs much on stage, which starved the model of the star power needed to sell them. By the end of the decade, the popularity of the twelve-string and its unique sound was waning. In 1969/70, the Electric XII was scrapped from the Fender lineup entirely. After the Electric XII, the Coronado XII was the only twelve-string Fender offered until the end of 1970. Twelve strings would be unavailable from Fender until nearly 20 years later; when the Japanese-made Strat XII was introduced.

Fender Electric XII
1967 Fender Coronado XII in Cherry Red, featuring the same “hockey stick” headstock in Black

The Fender Electric XII was certainly one of the last remaining bastions of the Golden Age of Fender and endures as one of the most comfortable, ergonomic, and well-pitched twelve strings ever available on the market.

Fender Electric XII
1965 Fender Electric XII in Lake Placid Blue

Works Cited

Babiuk, Andy, et al. Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four’s Instruments from Stage to Studio. Montclair, Nj, Backbeat Books, 2015.

Kelly, Martin, et al. Fender: The Golden Age. London, Cassell Illustrated, 2011.

Owens, Jeff. “Ring True: A History of Fender 12-String Electric Guitars.” www.fender.com, www.fender.com/articles/gear/ring-true-a-history-of-fender-12-string-electric-guitars.