Brad's Gear

This appeared on Brad Davis' website

Brad Davis' 1951 Fender Telecaster

When Brad first got the job playing with Marty Stuart he had a 1969 Telecaster with a Bigsby on it. Brad said, "It was an okay guitar. When I first joined Marty it was a whirlwind. We hit the road running and were gone over 200 days that year." After things on the road settled down and the band was getting ready to record, Marty told Brad, "If you are going to play with me in the studio, you are going to need an early 50s model Tele." Marty's producer at the time, Tony Brown, was partial to the Telecasters of that era. Marty knew that Tony would not be satisfied with anything else. Brad said, "Records were costing 250 to 300 thousand dollars and there was a lot of pressure on the producers to do a good job. So they really wanted you to have the best equipment and do your best with it. Marty was right. When I got into the studio the first time with Tony Brown he said, 'Davis what kind of guitar do you have.' I told him that it was a '51 Telecaster and he was happy with that."

When Brad started looking for the vintage Telecaster in 1991 Marty said, "You need to get you a good one." Marty gave Brad his American Express card and told him to look in Vintage Guitar Magazine and find at least 10 different early 50s Telecasters to look at and try out. Brad called various dealers and explained that he was with Marty Stuart and that he was interested in looking at the guitars they had and would be happy to pay for shipping. If he bought it, he'd pay for it and keep it, if he didn't buy it he'd pay to ship it back. Since Marty was a pretty big star, all of the dealers agreed to the deal.

Marty and Brad spent about a month playing the various Telecasters that were sent. Brad said, "We'd play this one and then that one and we had a guitar tech up there changing out the amps. We finally found an amp to stay with and used that as our main amp. This particular guitar had the same course kind of vibe as the guitar Marty plays (a Telecaster formerly owned by Clarence White). It is a hard thing to describe, but the way the pickups are wound, the thing vibrates. It is a weird thing that gives a course kind of effect. Marty's Tele also has that vibration in the midrange. We wanted a guitar that we could stick a Bigsby on [the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece] and this one had been refinished, so that we figured it would be OK to add the Bigsby to it. The guitar had one previous owner. It was an old lady whose husband had died and she wanted to have the guitar restored to the way it was when it was new, so Mark Kendrick at Fender refinished it. They should have left it alone, but they did a good job with it." Marty fronted Brad the money to buy the guitar and then took a little bit out of Brad's check each week until he was paid back.

To get the Bigsby Marty called Danny Shea, a dealer in New York who supplies many famous rock and country stars, and said, "We need a vintage Bigsby, can you find us one." Brad said, "He found us one that was still in the package, unopened, from 1969 and shipped it to us. It is a great guitar!" Brad still plays that guitar today whenever he gets the call from Earl Scruggs to go out on the road with his electric guitar.

Here is a bit of Fender Telecaster Chronology leading up to the 1951 model (clipped from

The first Fender solidbody model, the Esquire, lasted (in name only) from April 1950 to October 1950. This model name was replaced by the "Broadcaster", which lasted (in name only) from the October 1950 to January 1951. The majority of Broadcasters are dated November 1950. All Broadcasters have truss rods, where all 1950 Esquires have no truss rod. In 1937 Gretsch had trademarked the name "BroadKaster" for a line of drums. After advertising the Broadcaster in music trade papers in February1951, Gretsch took notice and sent Fender a telegram asking them to change their name. Therefore Fender was forced to drop the name Broadcaster. Starting in February 1951, Fender cut the word "Broadcaster" off of their headstock decals. These models (February 1951 to summer 1951) are known as "NoCasters". Starting in the summer of 1951, Fender adopted the name "Telecaster" for this model, and started using new decals after all the old clipped decals were used.

Note that the above dates are accurate. But be aware that Fender was a month or two ahead in making body parts. Therefore, you can find NoCasters with December 1950 neck dates, even though they didn't clip the decals and do final assembly till February 1951 (decal application was the last assembly step were always applied over the finish). Making the body and neck (and dating them) was the first assembly step, and hence these dates can be a couple months before the instrument was finalized and shipped.

All Telecasters basically have the same features: single cutaway slab body, 2 chrome knobs, 3 position toggle switch, 3 paired adjustable bridge saddles, strings anchor thru body (except in late 1958 to 1959).

October 1950 Fender Broadcaster:
Ash body with Butterscotch Blond finish.
Maple one piece neck, all with truss rods.
Round button string tree (1st month models don't have one).
Flat pole pickup in treble position.
Chrome covered pickup in neck position.
Black fiber pickguard, clear coated with lacquer.
Serial number on bridge plate.
Round switch tip.
Steel bridge saddles till November 1950, then brass with flat bottoms.
Body date in neck pocket.
All screws have slot heads.

February 1951 "NoCaster":
Fender decal with "Broadcaster" cut off.

Summer 1951 Telecaster:
After all cut "NoCaster" decals used, "Telecaster" decals appear.
Gradual use of phillips head screws replaces slot head screws (this change was not complete till 1953).

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