Fender kicks off their 75th anniversary year with several commemorative models which pay tribute to the visionary thinking of founder Clarence “Leo” Fender. These models- Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazz Bass and Precision Bass instruments- encompass both the USA made guitars manufactured in Corona, CA and the equally impressive Made In Mexico versions assembled a few miles from the California border in Ensenada, Baja California.
Astute guitar historians will note that not all the aforementioned models were introduced way back in 1946. In fact, most were launched several years later. But when you hit the 75-year mark, let’s just say it’s ok to celebrate your decades of success!
For our anniversary guitar review, we opted to focus on the Telecaster, which debuted in 1951, one year after the similar-looking Broadcaster. Fender obliged by sending the 75th Anniversary Commemorative USA Telecaster and the 75th Anniversary Made In Mexico (MIM) Telecaster. The other models—Strats, Precision basses and Jazz basses—are all available in USA and MIM versions, each with similar features.
The USA Telecaster features a transparent Bourbon Burst finish over a two-piece ash body with gold hardware, compensated brass saddles and gold locking tuning machines with pearloid buttons. The MIM models come in a dazzling Diamond Anniversary gloss polyester—with matching peghead—over an alder body with six steel saddles. The USA edition includes a custom Inca Silver molded hard shell case with plush Lake Placid Blue interior, a special certificate of authenticity, a 75th anniversary ingot inlaid into the back of the headstock and an engraved anniversary neck plate.
For electronics, both the USA and MIM models feature modern Tele wiring—master volume and tone and three-way switch selecting between bridge, bridge + neck, and neck position pickups. The USA Commemorative model is loaded with Fender Custom Shop Twisted Tele pickups, while the MIM model features ‘50s style single coils. Both guitars do one of my favorite Tele tricks—a tone pot sweep on a double stop bend. It’s the classic cows-come-home sound heard on so many great records over the years.
As far as true differences, the biggest difference when stepping up to the USA model is a neck and fingerboard with rolled edges and a tinted finish. It’s a more comfortable neck to play over time and one of the more favored features from modern production line USA Fender. Some players like the sharper edges of the MIM model, but the extra details such as rolled fingerboard edges and contoured neck joint help you understand where the extra coin for this guitar has gone.
The MIM 75th Anniversary model Tele features a modern C-shape neck, while the USA Commemorative model receives the Deep C neck shape upgrade. The Deep C shape thickens ever so slightly as you work up the fretboard, giving a little extra neck to hang onto when playing in the higher register—highly beneficial for playing solos. Both necks are outfitted with Medium Jumbo frets, which give the player plenty of room for clear and precise string bending and double stops without grabbing into the wood of the fingerboard.
The USA model’s tweaks aside, both necks offer great playability—and the 22nd fret on both models is definitely a plus. Although this is an anniversary Fender guitar, it’s good to see the modern touch of 22 frets here. You might not think you need that extra fret until that one solo that needs that big note!
Both the USA and MIM Telecasters we reviewed are awesome playing guitars with a very solid feel and are completely reliable in a live setting. The hardware on the non-USA model feels just as solid as its higher-level model, which can be a difficult feature to find on some stock electric guitars under $999.
As for sound, the MIM model seems to have more of a pronounced midrange spank while the USA 75th Anniversary Tele has more of an evenly balanced range. Keep in mind these are two different Teles with different voices. As always with two great guitars from a legacy brand, the best thing to do is play them both and decide for yourself which one you like. (Or take home both, that’s cool too!) Personally, I would love to see a combination of the two. I would love to see the Diamond Anniversary finish with matching headcap over ash with the American locking pearloid tuners and brass saddles.
Fender’s first 75 years have paved the way for guitar innovation and classic American cool sensation. It’s a history that a couple of guitars could not possibly sum up, although these two models come loaded with features and style that carry vintage vibe with a modern interpretation. Leo Fender strove to push forward in his designs, and the current Fender team follows that philosophy. That explains why you also see new Fender innovations such as the Acoustasonic and Parallel Universe line. Expect more from Fender as they head towards the century mark celebration.
Fender Corona Made 75th Platinum Anniversary Series range from $1949.99 – $2049.99
Fender Ensenada Made Diamond Anniversary Series: $849.99 (feature photo)