Leo Fender and Doc Kauffman began making K& brand lap steels and amplifiers in Fullerton, California, in the fall of 1945. Kauffman left in early 1946, and Fender continued as the Fender Electric Instrument Company. Production was limited to lap steels and amplifiers until the introduction of the Esquire and Broadcaster in 1950. The Esquire was first announced in Musical Merchandise magazine in June 1950. This earliest version of the Esquire with no trussrod in the neck is so rare that I have never had one for sale.
The Broadcaster was introduced in late October or early November of 1950, and it remained in production through February 1951. Between 300 and 500 instruments were made in this period. The Broadcaster is essentially the same in appearance as the Telecaster, with the exception of the name on the peghead decal, and the fact that it doesn’t have the exposed diagonal rout for the rhythm-pickup wires under the pickguard.
The Broadcaster features an ash body, a maple neck, a round string tree on the peghead, a black Bakelite pickguard fastened with five slotted screws, three paired and adjustable brass saddles, a trussrod with slot head screw adjustment, slot head neck fastening bolts, and a serial number stamped on the bridge plate. In February 1951, the Broadcaster name was removed from the peghead due to a conflict with the Gretsch Broadkaster trademark, which that company had used continuously on drums and banjos since the 1920s. Guitars with the model name clipped off the decal are commonly known by collectors as “Nocasters.” The early Nocasters are the same as the Broadcasters, with the exception of the decal. (Although some of the later Nocasters—the model was only made for a few months—have the diagonal rout between the pickups as found on the Telecaster.)
Although only in production for a few months, the Broadcaster was the first standard solidbody guitar successfully marketed by a major manufacturer, and, as the direct ancestor of the Fender Telecaster, it’s also one of the most significant, innovative, and historic guitars ever made. Broadcasters in good condition are so scarce that it’s difficult to assess a current market rate, but it’s my opinion that an exceptionally clean, original example could easily bring as much as $50,000.
—George Gruhn, gruhn.com