It’s probably the most famous guitar in country music: Marty Stuart’s 1955 Telecaster, previously owned by Clarence White of The Byrds. And while the stickers and other visual accoutrements push it into folk art territory, it’s what’s going on under the hood that makes this guitar a piece of history: the prototype of what became known as the B-bender.
Simply put, there’s a makeshift spring-loaded mechanism inside the guitar that attaches to the strap. When the player pushes down on the guitar, the B string is pulled a whole step sharp, resulting in a pretty convincing pedal steel effect. It’s a breathtaking feat of hillbilly ingenuity, crafted mostly from barely-machined pieces of metal and John Deere tractor parts.
Modern benders (like the McVay used by Brad Paisley) are precision made, and hid deep within the guitar’s body. This one…isn’t. While it might not be pretty, it works.