Here is a vintage 1955 Fender Stringmaster QuadNeck 4×8 electric lap steel guitar owned and played by Leon McAuliffe, as memorialized on his Steel Guitar Hall of Fame plaque! An absolutely incredible article of Western Swing history, this example was owned and played by steel guitar pioneer Leon McAuliffe. He is a very important historical figure in the context of modern country music, and will forever be remembered as the composer of “Steel Guitar Rag,” easily the most famous Western Swing instrumental of all time. He will live on in the famous words of Bob Wills during the intro to the steel guitar standard, whereby he exclaims, “Take it away Leon!” as painted directly onto his Fender Quad steel. Not only was Leon McAuliffe a steel guitar hero, he evolved from his tenure with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys to become a masterful bandleader in his own right. An undeniable country music icon, Leon McAuliffe’s contribution has helped build the foundation upon which modern country music stands, without which it most certainly wouldn’t be the same. A very apropos quote that indicates just how important and legendary Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were to the development of both Country music and Rock’n’Roll, was expressed by Leo Fender when asked if he ever had the chance to meet Jimi Hendrix, whereby he replied, “No, but I got to meet Bob Wills!”
Approximately 5 years ago, Leon’s widow sold a small collection of his personal instruments used on tour and in the studio, including: his ’50 Fender Broadcaster, (2) Fender Quad lap steels, a Ric D16 and his plaque given to him to commemorate his induction into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. All of the Fender instruments were given to him by Leo Fender himself, and as pictured below, McAuliffe was an official Fender endorsee.
This particular example is a mid-’50s Brown (Walnut/Mocha) finished Quad-8 with the original legas and Tweed hard case. It has the words “TAKE IT AWAY, LEON” painted on each side of the original Fender decal, and exhibits years of use. As he did with his other personal Fender lap steels, the pickup cavities have shielding tape within. He did not make any other modifications to this particular lap steel, and it actually remains in otherwise very nice original condition.
McAuliffe’s interesting biography and many more Bob Wills, Leo Fender and Country Music stories are readily available online!