Fender’s Summer of Love

As many of you know, the origin of the Fender Telecaster dates back to 1951. Leo Fender revolutionized guitar building and music with the introduction of the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar ever. Flash forward to the summer of 1967: The Summer of Love; where the colors were bright and the styles were psychedelic. CBS-era Fender guitars were bold to begin with, but in 1968 they did the unimaginable…

After its founding in 1857, The Borden Company introduced its brand mascot, Elsie the Cow, in 1936. Elsie was an American icon, who gained mass recognition in advertising campaigns throughout the nation. While The Borden Company was predominantly known for its production of food products such as processed snacks and dairy, the company later expanded as Borden Chemicals to include some industrial products – plastics, resins, and wallpapers. They were also known for their production of Elmer’s & Krazy Glue. All the while and aside from their seemingly exponential growth, Borden Chemicals was about to be written into Fender’s musical instrument history without even knowing it.

You might think that there is no correlation between Borden and Fender, but in this case, you thought wrong. During the 1960s, the world was going through a major cultural change. The Summer of Love and the “flower power” trend was taking over the pop culture scene by the later years of the decade. During this time, the political climate was dark and the music scene was rebelling, albeit peacefully. People ached for something bright and Fender was looking to put something new and exciting out on the market. It was then, in July of 1968, that Fender officially announced their newly available “Blue Flower” and “Paisley Red” Telecasters & Telecaster Basses.

Fender Blue Flower ad scan
The original 1968 flyer introducing the “Blue Flower” finish options on the Telecaster and Telecaster Bass
Fender "Red Paisley" ad scan
The original 1968 flyer introducing the “Paisley Red” finish options for the Telecaster and Telecaster Bass

The unexpected tie between these two manufacturing giants came in the form of this self-stick, decorative “Cling-Foil”. Fender applied this sparkling aluminum to the front and back of Telecasters and Telecaster Basses before finishing them with a coordinating “sunburst” color (pink for the Paisley Red and Blue for the Blue Flower). Lastly, each body was sprayed with a clear polyester lacquer. Originally, this product was advertised as being able to be used on furniture or appliances, but Fender sought out a more creative approach.

We were lucky enough to come across a new-old-stock roll of the Paisley finished Cling-Foil from an old shop in California. Seeing this material in its natural state with a true silver background just goes to show just how much these guitars age. Looking through the pictures, notice where the silver has turned to gold under the yellowing of the clear coat. 

Above: The 1968 Telecaster in Paisley Red next to the NOS roll of Cling Foil. Notice the yellowing of the clear coat.

These extraordinary prints were nothing short of unique, especially on a guitar that was so traditional and simple. These foiled patterns were only available on the Telecaster & Telecaster Bass models, as the solid planks of wood used for the bodies took to the contact paper better, due to their lack of contours. 

While some players of the time (namely James Burton) played the model, the overall success of this finish was less than Fender had hoped. The texture and thickness of the Cling-Foil unfortunately did not maintain the clear finish easily, as the material didn’t have a very stable hold on the paint. Due to these issues, the production of these pieces only lasted about a year. These instruments have become increasingly difficult to come across today, especially in pristine condition. There were only an estimated 75 of each color Telecaster made and only 25 of each Telecaster Bass made. 

We have been lucky enough over the years to procure original Paisley and Floral Telecasters. Since then, Fender has reissued the Telecaster in both Paisley Red & Blue Flower. With modern ambassadors like Brad Paisley playing these instruments regularly on tour, there was no doubt they would become a hit in today’s music scene.

Enjoy a few photos of this stunning Telecaster!

1968 Fender Telecaster in Paisley Red, with factory Bigsby
A close-up of the front of the body, showing the controls and clear acrylic pickguard
The back of the body, showing a better view of the Cling-Foil pattern and “bursted” edges
Our 1968 Telecaster’s headstock, with this new-old-stock Cling-Foil roll
Fender Red Paisley cling foil pattern detail
A close-up of Borden Chemicals’ Paisley Red Cling-Foil
Borden Chemical Red Paisley Cling Foil detail