Fender Duo Sonic Guitar
Technically, it’s discontinued. In the true sense of the word, if you want an original Fender Duo-Sonic, you’ll have to search among the vintage Fender enthusiasts. There is always the choice of buying a Fender reissue, as well, but that would probably be a Fender Squier model or a guitar made in Mexico.
The Duo-Sonic, introduced in 1956, was manufactured for about eight years in its original configuration. The company made a long-scale version and a short-scale version that, in mint condition, might bring $600 from a collector today, states the Blue Book of Electric Guitars (S.P. Fjestad). This interesting guitar was a double-cutaway with a ¾-size body, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. This Fender guitar featured two single-coil pickups and was available in blonde, sunburst and custom finishes.
Fender Duo Sonic
The Duo-Sonic was meant to be a student guitar, and was similar in construction to the Fender Musicmaster, in that it had a slightly shorter scale length. After the first eight years, these Fender guitars were changed, with builders taking some cues from another early, less-expensive guitar, the Fender Mustang. For models from this era, look for the change in pickup switch position. Changes to the pickups made them similar in operation to the humbucker. Most knowledgeable guitar folks call these the Duo-Sonic II, though credible histories note that some did not have this new decal.
The Mexican-manufacture Duo-Sonic was built from 1994 to 1998, with a 22.7-inch scale and a few limited colors choices. The II and the Mexican version bring only about $200, according to the Blue Book of Electric Guitars (S.P. Fjestad).
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars notes that the Duo-Sonic models by Fender (also lovingly called the Fender Duo) with 24” scale were labeled the Duo-Sonic. For those who really want to pinpoint specific models, Fender serial numbers are a hot topic and one that is always open for corrections. Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars indicates that 1950-1962 guitars from this company (a ‘62 Fender may or may not be included in this) have penciled dates. From March 1962 to 1969, guitars got the stamped code with month and year.
Who would play such an inexpensive, yet desirable little guitar? How about hearing David Byrne of Talking heads playing one on early recordings? Jimi Hendrix reportedly used a Duo-Sonic when he was Jimmy James. A short list of others who made use of this Fender relic would include Johnny Winter and Patti Smith. According to some the Duo-Sonic is more desirable than the Fender Mustang guitar because the latter has the tremolo bar, while the Duo does not.
You can now buy a new Squier Classic Vibe Duo-Sonic ‘50s for about $280. This overseas (China) model attempts to recreate the interest that the Duo attracted in the 1950s, as a student guitar and as a rock axe with a slightly different sound. Retailers offer a Desert Sand color with a 24” scale, single-coil pickups and the good, old three-way pickup switch. The Vibe Series from Fender includes: Classic Vibe Stratocaster ‘50s; Classic Vibe Stratocaster ‘60s; Classic Vibe Telecaster ‘50s; Classic Vibe Duo-Sonic ‘50s.
Other notable, but discontinued Fenders include: Coronado, thought by some to be a failed attempt at hollow-body technology; Cyclone; Musicmaster; Maverick, Jag-Stang; Electric XII; Custom. Unlike some of the early, rather unsuccessful models, the original Electric XII made from 1965 to 1968 can bring $1,700 in mint condition. This double-cutaway guitar with a tortoise-shell-design pickguard came in custom colors and sunburst, according to S.P. Fjestad in the Blue Book of Electric Guitars.
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