AXOLOGY: Fender Introduces Elvis Costello Signature Jazzmaster

ender has announced it will introduce the Elvis Costello Signature Jazzmaster guitar, honoring the British musician and songwriter as one of the most recognized Jazzmaster players in music history.

The iconic electric guitar, produced in Fender’s manufacturing headquarters in Corona, California, is a detailed replica of Costello’s original instrument, a guitar that has continually accompanied the famed British singer/songwriter over an extraordinarily versatile and prolific career that spans four decades. This signature release comes during the 50-year anniversary of Fender’s introduction of the Jazzmaster guitar model, in 1958.

Costello launched his professional music career in the mid Seventies with hits that included “Watching the Detectives,” on which his Fender Jazzmaster is prominently featured. At the time, the Jazzmaster had largely fallen from fashion, but Costello’s success seemed to lift it to new and previously unknown heights of appreciation. In the years that followed, players of new wave, alt-rock and indie rock prized the resurgent Jazzmaster for its versatile tone and subversive cool.

“This is a brutal-sounding guitar,” Costello says of his Jazzmaster. “It suits the way I play. But this guitar—it’s had a funny life. And I’ve just always stuck with it; I always come back to it. I’ve done all sorts of different music, but whenever it’s involved electric guitar, I don’t think there’s one record I’ve made on which the Jazzmaster doesn’t feature somewhere.”

Costello’s original instrument has undergone many changes in the past 30 years, and Fender’s new Elvis Costello Signature Jazzmaster replicates the guitar as it existed at the time that he recorded his acclaimed 1977 debut album, My Aim Is True. Uniquely Costello inspired features include a post-'68 neck design, a walnut stain finish and a tremolo with easier and greater travel, essential for that “Watching the Detectives” tone, or what Costello calls that “spy movie” sound.

“The original guitar this model is based upon has been refinished, rebuilt, and has a new neck with Elvis’ name inlaid into the fingerboard, so we had to reference a lot of Seventies-era photography, as well as Elvis’ personal anecdotes, to get it right,” says Justin Norvell, Fender marketing manager for electric guitars. “Elvis dialed in the finer details—the points that photos can’t tell you, like the feel and setup and the exact hue and luster of the finish... Things only he would know.”

The new Elvis Costello Signature Jazzmaster guitar will be available through authorized Fender dealers beginning May 2008 with a list price of $2,149.99.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.