June 1965 and the opening notes of Mr Tambourine Man ring out from AM radios all over America, the clarion call of the 12 string guitar at the dawn of the counterculture, the signifier of a change about to come. In Fullerton, Leo Fender has just debuted his latest creation (his last for the company that bore his name), the Fender Electric XII.
Admittedly late to the 12 string party (you can’t be at the vanguard of every innovation!), Rickenbaker having secured their place in Rock & Roll history in the hands of George Harrison and Roger McGuinn, Leo designed his 12 string guitar from the ground up. He incorporated the offset look and shape of the flagship Jazzmaster and Jaguar and took some characteristicly brilliant design decsions (even if the hockey-stick headstock isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!).
Often manufacturers looking to include a 12 string guitar in their stable chose to simply add 6 more strings without factoring in the intonation challenges that this method presents. Leo’s bridge design incorporated 12 individually moveable saddles that could be intonated seperatly and adjusted (within reason) to make best use of all 12 strings. Add this to a comfortable C Profile neck, low action, string-through constuction and a pair of split coil pickups and you have yourself a guitar that came to define the 12 string sound of the 70’s. Think Stairway, Tommy, Dylan, Petty the list goes on!
Never the belle of the ball, the Electric XII was discontinued in 1969 though it remained a studio favourite and has a cult status amongst collectors.
We here at ATB have been privileged to sell a few of these wonderful instruments. They are always easy to play, producing such a wide a variety of tones via the 4 way switching, that we are never surprised when they are snapped up. The pictures you see here are of our 1965 Firemist Gold example. This, along with our Black Fender Electric XII are featured in this weeks YouTube video on our channel. Get yours, you won’t be disappointed.