May 21, 2013 in Historic Fenders

Historic Fenders: Bruce Springsteen’s Fender Esquire

borntorunBruce Springsteen is an iconic figure, known worldwide for his great contributions to the world of rock and roll. He has countless trademarks, but his Fender Esquire is one of the best known. Ever since it was featured on the cover of his revolutionary Born To Run album, the guitar has become a symbol for everything Springsteen represents.

The Fender Esquire is legendary in its own right, having been one of the most featured guitars in history, as well as being labeled ‘number one’ by Springsteen himself.

The Fender Esquire’s History

The Fender Esquire has been around for a long time, but it remains to be one of the most mysterious guitars ever, in a sense that, no one is really sure of the exact date it was made. Fender started manufacturing Esquires in the 1950’s and Springsteen’s technicians later reported that it was probably a 1953 or ‘54 model. The serial number found on the body also had an asterisk-meaning the guitar was originally a reject.

Bruce Springsteen also didn’t get his hands on the Esquire until the early 1970’s. The earliest records show that in the 1960’s, the guitar was owned by a recording company in New York and was sold some time later at a liquidation sale, where it was bought by New Jersey-based luthier Phil Petillo. 

It was from Petillo that Bruce Springsteen got the Esquire, and by that time the guitar had already been modified to some extent. Petillo stated that it took him a while to get the guitar running again after being worn down at the studio, and that he sold it to Springsteen for $180 dollars.

The Esquire then became Springsteen’s main guitar. He used it in numerous songs and would play it in both studio recordings and live performances. It also made the cover on several of his albums like Human Touch, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-85, Greatest Hits and the iconic Born To Run album. Springsteen stated that the Esquire was the best guitar he ever played, and it remained at his side throughout his rise to fame.

The Fender Esquire was later put on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio from 2009 to 2011 as part of the exhibit called “From Asbury Park to The Promised land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.” It has long served as an inspirational guitar for music and non-music lovers alike.

Fender Esquire Specs

springsteenThrough the years, Springsteen’s Esquire has been constantly modified to fit his tastes in playing music. The Esquire that Fender originally released in the 1950’s had a body made from Ash, and a Maple neck. Its frets were originally installed directly into the neck (no separate fingerboard) and it only had one single-coil bridge pickup. 

The Esquire that Petillo had bought in the 1960’s was already modified-the wood beneath the pickguard was already routed to hold four extra pickups, and a second input jack was also installed. After purchasing it, Springsteen continued to bring the guitar exclusively to Petillo for modifications. Petillo installed hot-wound custom pickups, added custom string-trees on the headstock, and had the guitar re-fretted with patented Petillo Precision Fret wires several times. He also upgraded the three-saddle bridge with steel base plate into a titanium six-saddle bridge. 

Indeed, the love of music can fuel success, and the Fender Esquire’s amazing transformation through the years only goes to prove that Springsteen continuously labored to produce unique sounding music. It is because of this that the Fender Esquire became known-worldwide, as the guitar played by one of the world’s legendary artists. 

Here is a video of Springsteen playing Born To Run on his Fender Esquire:

Get the 30th Ann. Remastered Release of “Born To Run” — CD or MP3 Download

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