Electric XII, ’66
Olympic White with a matching headstock, Serial # 154372.
A 12-string guitar was never as popular as a regular 6-string. Although it was used by some folk and blues players of the 1930’s, such as Leadbelly, it was not until the “folk boom” of the late 1950s that it began to get a larger following. This folk music trend inspired Gibson and Danelectro to make electric versions of 12-string guitars by the early ‘60s. These unconventional electric guitars were ignored by tradition-rooted folk artists. It wasn’t until early 1964 when the Beatles’ lead guitarist, George Harrison received a new 360/12 from Rickenbacker, that the electric 12-string sound gained prominence. He immediately put it to use on recordings (“You Can’t Do That”, “Hard Day’s Night”, etc) and exposed the world to a chiming new sound akin to a harpsichord. The electric 12-string soon appeared on numerous other ‘60s records by the Who, the Byrds, and the Beach Boys.
Fender was motivated by the popularity of the new “jingle jangle” folk rock sound to begin work on its own 12-string model in late 1964. The Electric XII was introduced in June of 1965. While the guitar became an indispensible tool for studio recordings (used on Cream’s “Dance the Night Away” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”) it never became a popular seller. The Electric XII was dropped from the line by 1970.
The early 1966 example pictured has characteristics common to other custom color late ‘65/early ’66 Electric XIIs. These include: an offset contoured alder body, a tortoiseshell pickguard (3-ply white on other custom colors) a “hockey stick” headstock matching the body’s color, six Fender “F” tuners on each side, a 21 fret rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays (bound with block inlays by mid-’66), two split pickups, four-way rotary switch, and a master volume and tone knob. The strings are loaded through the body over a fully adjustable 12-saddle bridge.