The story of the 1950s Fender “Payola” Telecasters, which featured one of the wildest guitar mods of all time

Fender 1951 Telecaster Payola
(Image credit: Reverb)

From wringing out extra tone through weird and wonderful electrical wiring to blasphemous body botch jobs that convert single-cuts to double-cuts, guitar owners usually mod their electric guitars for two reasons: to boost their tonal palette and to improve their playability. The unusual aesthetic outcomes are just an added bonus.

Yet Fender Payola guitars – which flashed arguably one of the wildest guitar mods of the era and beyond – were less worried about tone and playability, and more concerned with output and economics: they were devised to allow one guitar to record through three or four amps at once.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Owen
Senior Staff Writer,

Matt is a Senior Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.