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Telecaster Elite, ’83

Black, Serial # E317132.

Since Fender’s purchase by CBS in 1965, there were complaints from dealers and customers about the declining quality of the instruments. New management was hired in 1981, including Dan Smith as director of marketing.  Smith came up with a five year plan to improve sales with new products of better quality. After coming up with the Vintage Reissue line of guitars and basses, which recreated the classic designs of Fender’s glory years, Smith developed the Elite series. These instruments had state of the art, technologically advanced features for modern (‘80s) playing styles. The Elite series included a Stratocaster, a Telecaster and a Precision Bass. Each Elite had a Walnut, a Gold (hardware) and a regular version. They were available with maple or rosewood board necks, and came in a wide variety of standard and custom colors. The Elites were introduced in June of 1983 and were dropped by the end of 1984 when CBS put Fender Musical Instruments up for sale.

 

The Elite Telecaster shown showcases all the radical (for the time) changes made to the traditional Tele. These include: a heavy cast six saddle top-loading bridge, noise-cancelling pickups using Alnico II magnets, TBX and MDX active tone controls allowing fat humbucking to sharp single-coil sounds (similar controls continue to be used on the current Eric Clapton Strats), knobs with a serrated rubber insert for easy gripping, a 3-way toggle switch (Gibson style), and a Bi-flex truss rod in a neck equipped with jumbo frets on a 12” radius fingerboard. This guitar also sports a classy bound top and an optional stick-on pickguard. The 1983 Fender catalog proudly boasts of the guitar’s many advances: “Elite Series instruments incorporate no fewer than 14 new patent pending inventions by Fender. This alone lends substance to our belief that the rest of the industry will be years in catching up with Elite technology.”

 

Action shots of an Elite Tele played by Dave Davies in full clown makeup can be seen in the 1984 video for the Kinks “Do It Again” single from the “Word of Mouth” album. Davies used Elite Teles for recordings and live shows through the rest of the ‘80s.

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