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Like many of the more esoteric Fender instruments of the 1960s and ’70s, Coronado guitars and the Coronado bass have enjoyed a very hip resurgence in more recent decades. So much so, in fact, that we started making new and improved Coronado guitar and bass models in 2013.

The reissues are solidly built with a center block inside the body; a sonically and structurally superior design that differs from the original 1960s Coronados, which had no center blocks and were thus true hollow-body guitars. Those original Coronados, although designed as high-end instruments, went down in history as a short-lived “nice try” on Fender’s part. They were produced from 1966 through 1972 and included the single-pickup Coronado I, the dual-pickup Coronado II, the 12-string Coronado XII, and Coronado basses in single- and dual-pickup models. Some of these instruments were also made available in exotic Wildwood and Antigua finishes before all Coronados were discontinued in the early 1970s.

Original-era Coronados always kept a low profile. They didn’t often find their way into high-profile hands during the era of their origin, and they’ve been rather more elusive since. It is possible though to see a few fleeting instances of their use back when they were new, and it’s possible with some detective work to find a discerning few in the decades since who have made Coronados — especially the dual-pickup Coronado II guitar — a distinctive element of their arsenals.

Here then are nine cool Coronado moments from before we started making them again.


If “psychedelic bubblegum” were an actual ’60s genre, “Green Tambourine” would be its “Stairway to Heaven.” They weren’t around very long, but the Lemon Pipers rank among Ohio’s groovier musical exports, right up there with Dean Martin, the Raspberries, the Greenhornes, the Black Keys and Guided by Voices, et al. Anyway, if we’re not mistaken, the bass player who isn’t getting much camera time here is Steve Walmsley, and while this glimpse is about as fleeting as most Bigfoot Super 8 footage, that’s definitely a Coronado bass, in the era of its origin.

Elvis Presley: “There Ain't Nothing Like a Song” (1968)

English words such as crown, king and coronation are directly related to the Spanish name Coronado, so this is perfect—the King himself playing a Coronado. Here’s badass middle-period Elvis swiveling his way through an energetic little production number called “There Ain’t Nothing Like a Song” from 1968 cinematic romp, Speedway. As you’ll see here, one of the hepcats on the scene hands Elvis a dual-pickup sunburst Coronado II just in time for the solo, whereupon he manages the impressive feat of playing the guitar and costar Nancy Sinatra at the same time. We realize he’s not really playing it, but it’s still a cool Coronado moment.

The Church: "Destination" (1988)

Speaking of trippy, few rock bands from south of the equator — from anywhere, really — do it better than the Church. At their U.S. commercial peak in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Australian quartet had already long established itself as a prime purveyor of smart, sparkling neo-psychedelia, but what really caught our eye (and ear) was bassist/vocalist Steve Kilbey’s Coronado bass, as seen in this live rendition of “Destination.”

The Flaming Lips: "Turn It On" (1993)

The addition of guitarist Ronald Jones and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd lent an enhanced musicality to the Lips brand of indie, psych-pop on their 1993 album, Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, and led to their first taste of fame with the left-field success of "She Don't Use Jelly." The album's opening track, "Turn It On", also became a modest hit and features singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne, Drozd and Jones all playing the semi-hollow Coronado throughout the video. "Turn it on and on and way up."

Soul Coughing: "Circles” (1998)

Leave it to Mike Doughty to find a lime green Coronado II, and then use it as the main onstage guitar for his 1990s “deep slacker jazz” with cult New York alt-rock outfit Soul Coughing. We ran across a charming 2005 blog post of his in which he talked about dusting off the guitar, aptly and affectionately nicknamed “Greeny,” for a solo gig in Texas. “She sounded just radiant — ringing, gritty and nice,” Doughty wrote. “An old friend, a happy reunion. I’d forgotten just how lovely she is.” See for yourself in this televised performance of Soul Coughing’s biggest hit, “Circles.”

Jimmie Vaughan: "Jimmy Reed Highway” (2007)

Here’s a nice change of pace from the usually Strat-wielding Mr. Vaughan — a 2007 Austin City Limits performance in which he dons his ’67 Coronado II and joins a stage full of friends for a swingin’ little jaunt down the “Jimmy Reed Highway” in honor of the great electric blues pioneer. “I’ve always liked the Coronado because you show up to a gig and no one else has one,” Vaughan told Guitar Player magazine in 2010. No arguing with that — sure enough, we don’t see another one onstage here.

Kasabian: “Underdog” (2009)

What better title for a song played on a guitar as esoteric as a Coronado? An underdog instrument for sure. Kasabian, however, is anything but, having ravaged U.K. and international charts for nearly a decade now with its spirited East Midlands neo-psychedelia. It’s ideal music for a Coronado II, and swarthy guitarist Sergio Pizzorno accordingly busts out his red one with a gold pickguard (reportedly a 1966 model) every once in a while, as seen in this electrifying performance on Brit television’s Later… With Jools Holland.

Death Cab for Cutie: "You Are a Tourist" (2011)

Take a good look, because that’s a real Coronado Antigua II, circa 1969-1970, that Ben Gibbard is sawing away on in this illuminating video for “You Are a Tourist.” Honestly, you see those even less often than you see green Coronado IIs and blue Coronado basses. The Antigua finish remains polarizing to this day, and there is no middleman where it’s concerned—nobody thinks it’s kind of cool or sort of unattractive; people seem to either despise it vehemently or think it’s the most beautiful thing Fender ever did.

Yo La Tengo: "Stupid Things" (2013)

Many have seen and heard Yo La Tengo guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan make great use of various Fender Stratocaster, Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars for about 30 years now. He too is a Coronado fan, being the proud owner of a sweet old red Coronado II that he is fond of using on occasion, as seen in this live performance of “Stupid Things” from 2013 album, Fade.

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