Well, after more than 30 years the Fender Starcaster and Coronado models are finally back in production. This will make many hipsters mustaches fall off, and many kids whose parents bought them a Starcaster starter pack at Guitar Center very confused. If you have attended a Lollapalooza festival, chances are you’ve seen someone play one of these guitars. Alright thats enough of the terrible jokes. I will admit the guitar geek in me couldn’t stop from smiling when I saw that they were putting these back into production. I was especially gleaming when I took a glance at the photos that were released. To add to the joy, these guitars come at a very reasonable price. In my opinion. the Coronado and Starcaster are two of the most unique and sophisticated semi hollow guitars to ever hit the market. For anyone who has been on the quest for one of these, now is the time to get your hands on one of these while it’s easy on the good ol’ wallet.
Fender introduced the Coronado in 1966, and created by previous Rickenbacker luthier Roger Rossmeisl. It was designed to capitalise on the increased popularity for semi-acoustic electric guitars such as the Epiphone Casino, a guitar often played by a very small independent band from Liverpool. Fender produced three six string models, one twelve string, and two bass models. The Coronado was retired in 1972 due to little success. At that time Jazz purist (who made up a large portion of the market) were not attracted to the bolt on neck as well as feedbacking. However they have gained a lot of attention since being discontinued for their deep and bright tones, and natural resonance.
Several years later Fender introduced another semi-hollow electric guitar to compete with Gibson’s ES-335, the Starcaster. It was designed by luthier Gene Fields and was in production for six years, the same amount of time as its predecessor. It was designed to be a high quality semi hollow but unfortunately was manufactured during a time when Fender’s standards lowered significantly. The guitar was unsuccessful because at that time Fender was more known for as a solid body, single coil guitar company. While Gibson was more known as the Humbucker brand. Perhaps that notion is still true today. However, Fender has come a long way by adding multiple pickups and configurations as well as other semi hollow models down the road.
One of the biggest features that draws a lot of people into this guitar is the headstock design and offset body. No other guitar ever produced by Fender had that headstock shape with the bottom curve painted black. It has such a unique look and really accented the curves of the guitar. It was also unusual for a semi hollow guitar to have an asymmetrical (offset) body, a bolt on neck, maple fretboard, a control configuration consisting of volume and tone for each pickup as well as a master volume control, wide-ranged humbuckers, and six-on-a-side tuners. Nevertheless, this guitar just had that look that made people either fall in love with it, or fall down begging for one.
Vintage Starcasters are very rare, and only until recently were considered worthless in the vintage market. However, when one popular guitarist plays a unique guitar that looks and sounds great, the value of that piece skyrockets. Some very notable Starcaster players would be one Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Jamie Cook of the Arctic Monkeys, Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, and Dave Keuning of the Killers among others. Guitars that were at the beginning designed to be more or so a jazz guitar, but ended up years down the road becoming iconic in the indie rock world.
From my first glimpse at the new Modern Player models I don’t see much differences to the originals. Obviously there will be purists out there that prefer vintage over anything else. However, there is no way I’m paying over $4,000 for a guitar that was in and out of production in six years. The only noticeable differences I can see off the bat is that the bridge has been replaced on both guitars adding sustainability to the neck, and allowing them to stay in tune properly. There is no master volume control in the Starcaster, and for obvious reason change in pickups and wiring. They simply are modern versions of the classics, allowing for todays overall needs and desires.
I must say that Fender has been putting out some pretty spectacular stuff lately. With new artist models from J Mascis, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Joe Trohman, and Johnny Marr there’s not doubt Fender are on top of their game right now. Below is a pretty cool video that they put together of some artist checking out the new guitars and basses.
For more information check out the Fender Product Page for both models.