Tuesday, 19 June 2012

One-off Fender Weirdcaster - is it a bouzouki? a tenor guitar?

I'm not sure what to make of this weird guitar (electric bouzouki? long-scale tenor guitar?). All I know about it is what the eBay seller tells us:
Up for sale is a Hobby shop Instrument that an Employee at Fender had made in the 70's. We are selling for orig owner family member. I dont particularly know much about it. (Electric Boozuki?) ( plectrem?) I've never seen anything quite like it. Has a Mahogany Body, Bolt-On Mahogany Neck,Rosewood Fingerboard, two pairs of octive strings and a pair of single strings. Comes With Hard Case.
(Sic throughout - weird spellings, capitalisation, punctuation all courtesy of the seller).

If it IS a genuine Fender (and the hardware used would seem to suggest that it is), then the real surprise is that it doesn't resemble a Strat, Tele or Jazzmaster/Jaguar. The one thing the seller doesn't suggest is that it might be a prototype or instrument from Fender's research and development department.

G L Wilson

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  1. Whoopa! (Followed by the sound of smashing plates).
    Someone go kill a lamb, fetch the raki and light the cheese on fire.

  2. First of all it isn't called bazouki but bouzouki. Bouzouki is a greek instrument and has 3 double strings like this guitar but I can't tell if it's an attempt to make an electric bouzouki.

    1. OK, OK, I know... My Greek friend Pavlos (a.k.a. Mr Inp) is always telling me it's "BOUZOUKI", and I keep forgetting.

      Besides the Greek bouzouki (and Irish bouzouki, come to that) usually have FOUR double courses - 8 strings in total - although I know that 3 course versions do exist.

      This Fender "thing" also has four courses, but only the bass courses are doubled. Remember the Fender mandolin which did away with the idea of doubled courses and only had single strings.

  3. I'm seriously doubting this was a 'prototype'. A more radical departure from Fender's core design is hard to imagine. Retro wasn't even a concept in the 70's and this more beholden to the 60's. If someone were to claim it's from VOX's R & D, I could maybe believe it?

    The workmanship on the body is quite excellent and it's aged well. What I do find plausible is that it was common practice in that era for employers to allow workers to have pet projects as long as they did them while off the clock. Of course nowadays that would never happen.

  4. That headstock shape is similar to the one used on Fender's Coronado semis and their flat-top acoustics, although I don't think I've heard of a mahogany one. The pickups are probably from an Electric XII (or less likely a couple of Mustang Basses), and the trem is probably from a Mustang. The body shape does point towards a Bouzouki/Mandocello, but it also looks a bit like a typical lap steel. The stringing arrangement is identical to one of Rickenbacker's 1960s oddities, the 6005/6006 Banjoline (also known as the Banjitar), which, probably not coincidentally, also had a trem. My theory is that a Fender employee desperately wanted a Ricky Banjoline and decided to design and build his/her own version using Fender parts. Anyone got a better explanation?

    1. The stringing isn't actually that odd. The bass strings are paired so as to give it a bouzouki (or whatever) sound, but the two highest strings being single would make it easier for soloing and trem effects.

      Yes, I thought the pickups looked very Electric XII or Mustang Bass too.

    2. Simon,

      Makes absolute sense. Years back I bought a boat that had always been in the family. The owner explained that both his parents worked for the Uniflite Boatbuilding Company and had for years. Times were tight but the owner allowed them to use the molds and factory equipt. to complete their own little 20 footer.

      Gavin's fairly expert on the whole Lawsuit issue w/ inst. mfrs. and I'm pretty sure even then they'd want to see a drawing. When they saw no copyright issues, the looked at this and said, Go For It!

  5. Thanks for sharing! You are providing great information about the tenor guitar. But in my opinion tenor guitar or four-string guitar is a slightly smaller, four-string relative of the steel-string acoustic guitar or electric guitar.

    starland guitar

  6. I own this now. It's a Fender Banjoline, I've taken it apart and have shown it to several people. This was designed by Roger Rossmeisl. It's got the body of a '50s Rickenbacker 5002 mandolin and the German carve of a Rossmeisl designed Rickenbacker 600 and 800 Combo guitar.

    It's also got Rossmeisl's signature headstock shape that he used on the Coronado. Rossmeisl also liked gold pick guards. If you look at his Rickenbackers and at his early Coronados, they had the same gold coloration.

    The wiring is all 60s Fender cloth wires, the pots are Stackpoles from '65. The pickups are specially made 2 pole Fender XII style pickups. The tuners are very early Fender "F" style.

    The odd thing is the truss: it's not a standard Fender style. I think due to the size and width of the neck, the truss was done differently.

    I am going to try and sell this now that I've found out all the information on it. There will be detailed, high quality photos going up at http://dumb.org/fender_banjoline/ this weekend.


    1. The link is live with the current set of evidence. I'm adding to it as I find new data.

  7. I've put this up for sale. You can see all the research I did on this at http://dumb.org/instruments-and-amplifiers/banjoline/ and the item is on ebay at http://www.ebay.com/itm/380504499501?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649



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