NAMM 2021 isn't taking place in the physical realm this year, but you'll find all the hottest January gear launches in our guide to the biggest guitar, amp and pedal releases of 2021 so far.
As part of its raft of 2021 guitar announcements, Fender has unveiled a trio of new signature models for Jason Isbell, the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde and Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.
Isbell and Hynde’s models are both custom-spec Road Worn Telecasters, while Gibbard’s sig is a streamlined take on the Mustang.
All three models are made in Mexico, and launch alongside two acoustic offerings: the Joe Strummer Campfire, and Dhani Harrison Ukulele.
Let's take a closer look…
Fender Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster - $1,499, available May 2021
The Americana titan certainly knows his Telecasters, and accordingly, his signature model is an absolute stunner.
A Chocolate Sunburst finish is set against cream double binding on the ’59-style Tele Custom alder body – and, of course, the whole lot is given Fender’s Road Worn aging treatment.
Isbell has made a number of custom tweaks to the format, equipping his Tele with two specially voiced Telecaster single coils, as well as a custom-modified bridge with three vintage brass barrel saddles – a modern ‘Ashtray’ bridge cover is included, too.
Other specs include a mid-’60s C-shaped maple neck, 21-fret rosewood fingerboard and vintage-style tuners.
Fender Chrissie Hynde Telecaster - $1,399, available February 2021
The Chrissie Hynde Telecaster aims to replicate the Ice Blue Metallic ’65 Tele the Pretenders leader bought in an NYC guitar store nearly 40 years ago – right down to the chrome mirror pickguard.
As such, it features an alder body finished in Road Worn lacquer, vintage-output ’50s Tele single coils voiced to match the original set, and a six-stainless steel barrel saddle bridge.
There’s also a mid-’60s C-shaped maple neck with 7.25”-radius rosewood fingerboard, while the guitar’s hardware is also given the Road Worn treatment.
Hynde has made one change to the original, however, with the addition of vintage-style locking tuners, making for speedier string swaps.
Fender Ben Gibbard Mustang - $1,099, available March 2021
The Death Cab For Cutie frontman has stripped out anything non-essential on his signature Mustang, making for a no-nonsense short-scale workhorse.
Chiefly, the guitar’s body is made of chambered ash for increased resonance and reduced weight, while the 24” scale length is present and correct, along with a C-shaped maple neck, 9.5”-radius fingerboard and 22 medium-jumbo frets.
What really makes Gibbard’s ’stang stand out is its electronics, and the way in which its two custom-voiced, vintage-inspired Mustang single coils are controlled.
Gibbard removes the tone knob and pickup slider switches on his vintage ’70s Mustangs – leaving them permanently wired to the middle position. Accordingly, the tone circuit is gone on his production-line model, but thankfully, he’s ensured there is a pickup-switching option, even if it is a little unconventional.
“I took out the phase switchers, and instead of a tone knob, the knob is a pickup switcher,” he told Total Guitar during the model’s development phase. “So there’s a rolled volume knob, but where the tone knob is, it clicks into different positions. So you still have the access of shifting amongst the positions, but it doesn’t have a Strat switcher or anything.”
The guitar also features a vintage-style Mustang tremolo – modified to be a hardtail setup – and vintage-style tuners with Fender logo, and comes in a Natural finish.
Fender Joe Strummer Campfire - $499, available March 2021
Inspired by The Clash co-founder's legendary Glastonbury Festival campfires, this small-body acoustic-electric is designed to bring people together through music, says Fender.
It features a solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides, and nods to Strummer appear in the matte black finish, nickel hardware and star inlays.
Intriguingly, the press release also notes we can expect a Joe Strummer '59 Esquire in April 2021. Looking forward to that one…
Fender Dhani Harrison Ukulele - $279, available April 2021
Dhani Harrison grew up playing the ukulele, and like his fellow Fender ukulele signature artist Billie Eilish, still uses it as a songwriting tool today.
His signature model comes in Sapphire Blue and Turquoise finishes, each with its own fretboard inlays and engraved designs on the rear of the instrument.
Designed for live performance – so, in that regard, a forward-thinking instrument – Harrison's uke is three-quarter, tenor-sized, and features a solid ovangkol top with ovangkol back and sides, as well as onboard Fender electronics.
Head over to Fender.com for more info on all the latest releases.