Fender offsets are some of the most played and loved guitars out there, but there is one that I think deserves a lot more attention: the Starcaster. Orbiting into the guitar stratosphere in 1976, the Starcaster was the first ever semi-hollow offset that graced the market. With a curvy, two-tone headstock, it didn’t initially launch into widespread popularity. (Ed.: Right, that’s enough of the space puns.)
The original guitar was equipped with wide ranging Fender humbucking pickups, an arched laminated maple top and two f-holes. Fender decided to enter the semi-hollow market, which was dominated by Gibson’s ES-335. Unlike the 335 and other similar semi-hollow guitars, the Starcaster had a bolt in neck instead of having the neck set in the body.
They didn’t do too well and the guitar was pretty unpopular at the time. Fender decided to pull the plug and Starcaster production stopped in 1982. Fender claim this was because of 2 reasons: ‘unfortunate timing and misguided intent’. Fender of the mid-to-late 1970s were garnering a bad reputation due to quality control issues. It was thought that the current releases were not nearly as good as older models produced in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Starcaster suffered accordingly.
However, this didn’t stop people from buying into the Starcaster. Notable players include Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead who recorded with the guitar on albums like ‘Kid A’ and ‘Ok Computer’. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode has also been known to play a Starcaster. More recently Evan Thomas Weiss of Chicago based band Into It. Over It. has been seen playing one live.
Fender 2013 Re-Issue
Perhaps due to the obscurity and scarcity, perhaps at the behest of a hungry public, Fender re-issued the Starcaster in 2013 in continuation of the Modern Player series that was released in 2011. At the same time, the Starcaster Bass was released alongside the guitar. Talk about esoteric! The bass is extremely rare, Fender didn’t make a lot. So if you see one in your local Cash Convertors, snap that thing up!
Currently, Fender has discontinued the 2013 reissue. However, you can still pick yourself up a Starcaster today. Squier have taken the reigns and there are a few different series you can purchase the Starcaster in. First up is the Squier Affinity Series. Super affordable, you can pick up an Affinity Series Starcaster for under £250! They come in 2 colours, either Black or Olympic White. I personally like the Olympic White the best as the body has black binding around it which really makes it pop! The Affinity guitars don’t come with the strip of matching paint on the headstock. This could be a fun DIY project for someone out there?
There are also Classic Vibe options for the Starcasters. Coming in 3-tone sunburst, Natural and Walnut. For any metalheads out there, you can also pick up a contemporary series. On the Contemporary series, Squier have put in SQR Humbucking active pickups. You don’t have to worry about screeching semi-hollow body feedback either as the Starcasters in this series are completely solid. Perfect for some high-gain chugging.
So give the Starcaster a try, you just might like it!