FENDER ESQUIRE BASICS BY DIRK WACKER
I admit that the Fender Esquire is one of my favorite guitars ever, and I find
its sound and simplicity very appealing.
Most people think of it as a poor man’s
Telecaster or a forerunner to the Tele,
but this is simply wrong. Yes, the Esquire
sports only a single bridge pickup, while
the Telecaster has two pickups, but the
Esquire is not a Telecaster with a missing
neck pickup, but rather a distinct model
with its own sound. This is because of its
unique wiring and also because the lack
of a neck pickup causes less magnetic pull
on the strings. This reduced pull gives the
Esquire a more percussive attack, more
harmonic overtones, and makes it more
responsive than a Telecaster.
Some great players have chosen an
Esquire for exactly these reasons. Steve
Cropper played a ’62 Esquire on all his
early recordings, including the classic
“Green Onions.” Up until his untimely
death in 1968, Luther Perkins used an
Esquire to create his trademark “
boom-chicka-boom” sound while backing Johnny
Cash. Bruce Springsteen played a heavily
modified ’53/’ 54 Esquire that he bought in
the early ’70s and used on Born in the USA
and many more of his famous recordings.
The Esquire (or to be precise, an
Esquire prototype painted black) first
appeared in the No. 2 Fender catalog in
the spring of 1950, and was shown to the
public at the Chicago NAMM show in July
of that year. It had a list price of $139.95,
plus $39.95 for the case. The original
Esquire was built until late 1969, when
CBS dropped it from the production line,
very shortly after taking over Fender.
The Esquire was Leo Fender’s first stroke
of genius and an important step in his restless efforts to transport steel guitar tone to a
standard electric guitar. The bridge pickup
was very similar to the pickup he developed
and built for his lap steel guitar, and the
Esquire’s electronics clearly show this influence, too. As you may know, like the Tele,
the Esquire has a 3-way switch, plus a master volume and master tone configuration.
But on a single-pickup guitar, how do you
use a “pickup selector” switch? Leo’s idea
was to use the 3-way switch as a kind of
tone-shaper. Here are the specifics:
•;Position;#1. This corresponds to the
solo bridge-pickup position on a Tele.
On the Esquire, however, the pickup
is routed through the volume control
only, with the tone control bypassed
for a hotter and louder lead sound
with even more high-end.
Fig. 1 The schematic for the original 1950 Fender Esquire. Wiring diagram courtesy of Sey- mour Duncan.
In closing, Fig.;1 shows the wiring of
the original 1950 Esquire as a reference.
Next month, we’ll start modifying the
Esquire circuit, so study up on this schematic and stay tuned. I think you’ll be surprised how many different tones you can
coax from a single bridge pickup. Until
then, keep on modding!
DIRK WACKER lives in Germany and
is fascinated by anything related to old
Fender guitars and amps. He plays
country, rockabilly, and surf music in
two bands, works regularly as a session
musician for a local studio, and writes
for several guitar mags. He’s also a
hardcore guitar and amp DIY-er who runs an extensive
website— singlecoil.com—on the subject.