Rosewood Telecaster, '71
Serial # 346098.
It is widely accepted that the quality of Fender instruments suffered a gradual decline after the CBS buyout of 1965. While this is true, the early CBS period of the mid to late 1960s was also a time of great creativity. The recipient of much of this energy was none other than Fender’s original solidbody: the Telecaster.
No fewer than four new versions of the Telecaster were added to the Fender line in the late sixties, including the Paisley and Blue Floral Teles, inspired by the psychedelic scene popular at the time. German master builder Roger Rossmeisl designed the other two Tele innovations: the Thinline Telecaster, and the Rosewood Telecaster. Rossmeisl, who had been responsible for the unique and enduring Rickenbacker electric guitar line of the late fifties, was hired away from Rickenbacker in 1962 by Leo Fender to be in charge of designing Fender’s new acoustic guitars and archtop electrics.
The first Rosewood Telecaster was a gift to Beatle George Harrison for use in the movie ‘Let It Be’. Rossmeisl and Phillip Kubicki (employed by Fender at the time) made two prototypes and chose the best for Harrison. The guitar body was made with a thin layer of maple sandwiched between a solid rosewood back and top. The rosewood neck had a separate rosewood fingerboard glued on. The whole guitar had a special satin polyurethane finish (for more info read “Beatles Gear” by Andy Babiuk).
The Rosewood Telecaster was added to the regular production line in 1969 at $375. Production models differed from George’s slightly. They were made with a one-piece rosewood neck, and had gloss polyurethane finishes. While early examples were
solid, like George’s, the guitars were eventually lightened by hollowing out the two body halves.
Large numbers of Rosewood Teles were never produced, and by 1972 it was discontinued. Fender Japan reissued the guitar in the eighties, and the Fender Custom Shop makes occasional runs today (for more info read “The Fender Telecaster” by A.R. Duchossoir).
There are a couple of DVDs available if you’d like to see and hear Rosewood Teles in action. The first is ‘Let It Be’ showing the Beatles recording and playing live. The second is ‘Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story’. ‘Respect Yourself’ includes footage of Booker T. and the MGs playing live in 1970. Steve Cropper wields a beautiful Rosewood Tele while wearing a matching brown corduroy suit.