1965 Fender Duo-Sonic II

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Very cool aesthetic, all‑original, light weight, flexible pickup wiring, in‑vogue offset, affordable vintage, OHSC

Thumbs down: Finish condition, the shorter scale, pickups and switching may put some off, hardtail, ‘student’ reputation

Decree: Maybe the least well-known of Fender’s 1960s ‘student’ models, it provides a fantastic and off‑beat introduction to cool vintage guitars. A genuine ‘relic’

Model Description

The original ‘student’ Fender Duo-Sonic featuring dual single coil pickups and fixed bridge was introduced in 1956 alongside the single pickup Musicmaster. Early models had ¾‑sized offset bodies in a single colour (Desert Sand), an anodized aluminium scratchplate and a 3-way toggle pickup selector switch. The bolt‑on maple necks were 22½” short‑scale with maple fingerboards. The model went through a minor facelift from 1959, to include rosewood fingerboards, a (garish) sunburst finish and a plastic scratchplate. From 1964, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic were redesigned to match the aesthetics of the newly introduced top‑of‑the‑range vibrato‑equipped offset Fender Mustang. The final axe to join the line‑up was the Fender Bronco introduced in 1967. Guitars with 24” scale necks with 22 frets became the most popular option. The bodies were still slab bodied but larger, with new colours (red, white and blue – often erroneously described as Dakota Red, Olympic White and Daphne Blue). The flexible pickup switching system of two 3‑way slide switches was introduced to provide out‑of‑phase options and the volume and tone controls were moved to a separate chrome plate. The headstock was also redesigned with a distinctive larger profile and now carried a ‘II’ after the model name. The ‘student’ range was built to same standards in the same factory by the same people and using the same materials as other Fenders of the time. However, they don’t command the stratospheric vintage prices of the workhorse Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters (or Jazzmasters and Jaguars), which makes them much more accessible to enthusiasts. Fender phased out the Duo‑Sonic in 1969 while the Mustang, Musicmaster and Bronco continued in production until c.1982. The ‘budget’ Duo‑Sonic has become increasingly collectable, particularly pre‑CBS examples (up to 1965). Fender has reissued the Duo-Sonic in various non‑American incarnations since 1993.


Guitar Description

Here we have a very neat pre-CBS Fender Duo-Sonic II in faded blue, which has turned almost green in places. The discolouration is common and is caused by a yellowing of the clear nitrocellulose top coat giving the underlying colour a green-ish tinge over the years (NB. very difficult to fake). Although only called ‘blue’ on ‘student’ models, the original colour is very close to Fender’s Daphne Blue. In my view these guitars have much to commend them. This variant of the Duo‑Sonic may even be regarded as a hardtail Mustang. This guitar has the desirable pre-CBS ‘L’ serial number, although it makes no practical difference. Whether it was actually finished and shipped before Fender was sold to CBS doesn’t really matter, as it has all the hallmarks of the Leo Fender regime. This example is not pristine, with plenty of the original white undercoat visible (Fender never used grey undercoat) but is all‑original and that is what matters. Despite the discolouration to the finish, it has a a fantastic ‘lived-in’ vibe that comes from being used for what it was intended to be used for – playing music. The wear indicates that the finish is original and genuine, whereas many examples have been refinished over the years. The neck is the less common shallow ‘A’ profile, which makes it supremely easy to play – the action is low and none of the high notes ‘choke out’. It sounds just as it should with the model’s unique and underrated single‑coil pickups sounding funky, clear and crisp, whether switched in or out of phase. The shorter scale makes it a very easy instrument to pick up and play and the reduced string tension makes string bends a doddle. This Fender Duo-Sonic II is an honest and very cool example from the classic Leo Fender years. Pre‑CBS Duo‑Sonics like this one are now becoming increasingly sought after vintage instruments. Pick up, plug in and play away.


Features:

  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1965
  • Offset alder slab solid body
  • Blue finish with clear coat faded to a blue-ish/green-ish colour
  • Maple bolt-on neck with stamped ‘L’ serial number
  • Original Kluson Deluxe tuners
  • Unbound ‘lam’ rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and dot markers
  • Scale length 24”
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original white pearloid scratchplate and chrome control plate
  • Original twin covered single-coil pickups, dual pickup selector slide‑switches, pots and jack socket
  • Original chrome hardtail bridge with 3 steel saddles
  • Original Fender hard shell case

Artists:

  • Damon Albarn (Blur)
  • Walter Becker (Steely Dan)
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • David Byrne (Talking Heads)
  • Rory Gallagher
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Liz Phair
  • Patti Smith
  • Tom Verlaine (Television)
  • Joe Walsh
  • Johnny Winter

Detail Gallery:


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