“I begged her to take more money – she wouldn't have it. She said, ‘I think Clarence would want you to have this – You'll take care of it, and honor it’”: Marty Stuart on the legendary Clarence White B-Bender Tele

Marty Stuart performs onstage in Indio, California on April 29, 2023
(Image credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Clarence White's 1954 Fender Telecaster may not quite have the superstar association of, say, Keith Richards' Micawber, but it's nonetheless one of the more storied Teles in rock history.

First owned by White – a member of the Byrds during their late-'60s country era and a much-in demand Nashville session player throughout that time and into the early '70s, until his tragic death in 1973 – the electric guitar is notable not only for its line of ownership, but for its famous “B-Bender” mod.

Invented by White with Gene Parsons – who also played in the Byrds for a time – the B-Bender, in short, is a mechanical device that allows players to bend their B string in such a way as to give their tone a pedal steel-like, distinctly country feel.

Marty Stuart – himself a Nashville legend – purchased the guitar from White's widow, Susie, in 1980, for the whopping price of $1,450. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” Stuart told Guitar Aficionado in a 2014 interview. “I had basically laid my checkbook on the table and said, ‘Susie, name your price.’ She could have asked for far more and I would gladly have paid.”

“I begged her to take more money, and she didn't want any more – she wouldn't have it,” the guitarist elaborated in a 2017 sit-down with Reverb. “[She said] ‘I think Clarence would want you to have this,’ I said, ‘I only met him one time,’ she said ‘You'll take care of it, and honor it.’”

Of its sound, Stuart told Guitar Aficionado, “It’s an indescribable guitar. You could put a hundred Telecasters in a row, and when you plug this guitar in it just has a voice all its own. It is absolutely one of the most magical guitars I [have] ever played.”

The B-Bender Tele can be heard on a number of cuts throughout the Byrds' country-era catalog, and Stuart would later even get the chance to use the guitar onstage with Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn.

“We couldn’t wait to finish singing what we had to sing to get Roger started, because it gave us a chance to do the Byrds,” Stuart told Guitar World in a 2017 interview

“To hear that pull-string, Roger’s Rickenbacker, and the sound of Roger’s voice, all together on one stage, and playing the true arrangements, I felt like I was 15 years old, on top of the world with rockets underneath me. It was awesome.”

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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