1969 Fender Mustang

 

By the early 20th century, most professional-grade guitars had a scale length of at least 24.5”; anything below this was typically marketed toward students or players whose small hands had difficulty with full-scale necks. Although this idea persisted through the 1960s, most of the major guitar manufacturers offered short-scale models. Guild, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Martin and Fender all sold models with necks under 24”, and in substantial numbers. Some of these were quite expensive guitars, such as the Gibson Byrdland or the top-of-the-line Fender Jaguar. They appeared in the hands of a number of famous musicians; George Barnes played his signature Guild Guitar in F, while John Lennon and John Fogerty could be seen playing a Rickenbacker 325.

Fender’s first short-scale models, the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster, appeared in 1956 with 22.5” necks; both were given optional 24” necks in 1965. They were joined in 1964 by the Mustang, which featured a number of upgrades including a vibrato tailpiece, more complex wiring and a slightly different body shape. Most had a 24” neck, though a 22.5” neck was available as an option. While it used the same pickups as other short-scale Fenders, the Mustang’s pickups were both slanted. Each pickup had its own three-way switch: on, off, and reverse-phase. This allowed both pickups to be played either in or out of phase, which gave the Mustang a wider range of sounds than the simpler two-pickup Duo-Sonic.

Although the Mustang’s pickups are similar to those in a Stratocaster, but with the magnets lowered beneath the plastic cover, the sound of this guitar is substantially different to either a Strat or a Telecaster. Between the shorter scale and the positioning of both pickups, the Mustang has retains much of the classic Fender twang but does not have the shrill high-end that plagues some longer-scale Fenders. The out-of-phase sound, while thin and odd, has a more usable sound with less of a volume drop than many other guitars with similar wiring.

This Mustang listed for $199.50 plus $35 for a case when it was built in early 1969, compared with $164.50 for a Duo-Sonic and $229.50 for a blonde Telecaster. The vibrato tailpiece was a major reason for the relatively high price; a totally different design than anything Fender had previously produced, it was not as smooth as the vibrato on a Strat but allowed for a substantial bend in pitch. The two-piece pickguard was another nod to Fender’s more expensive offsets, with the volume and tone knobs fixed to a chromed plate. By the time this guitar was made, all Mustang finishes except sunburst featured “competition” racing stripes and matching headstocks. Whether or not they made the guitars sound faster, these cosmetic features are sought by collectors today.

This particular guitar has been refretted, but otherwise it is all original. It is missing the bridge cover, a largely pointless piece of hardware which has frequently disappeared from old guitars. There is scattered finish wear, but otherwise the guitar has survived in excellent condition.

 

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