In 1949 Leo Fender completed work on a prototype guitar, a fairly spartan affair with a simple headstock and control layout. Not long after, he began field-testing it by taking it to venues and lending it to professional guitarists. Leo listened to their criticisms, and made several changes based on their feedback. The most notable change was the addition of a truss rod, which helped to stabilize the neck, and made it possible to adjust its relief. Other changes included a more decorative headstock design, larger fret dots for better visibility, a pickguard, and a new control layout. In 1950 Leo released his design commercially. After a few name changes, it went on to become the guitar we know today as the Telecaster®.
In the decades that followed, the Tele® exploded in popularity, amassing millions of devoted fans. In their zeal to learn everything they could about the instrument they loved so much, those fans eventually discovered its prototype, dubbing it the “Snakehead” for its most distinguishing trait: the symmetrical, snake-like headstock. For collectors of vintage Telecasters®, the Snakehead prototypes are a Holy Grail; virtually unobtainable.
The few reissues and recreations of the Snakehead that have been produced have also proven to be extremely rare and expensive. However, in 2013 Warmoth released a Snakehead “replacement” neck. This neck made it possible to swap out the neck on most* modern Teles® for one with the look of the prototype. The Warmoth Snakehead replacement neck isn’t an exact copy of Leo’s prototype neck. Rather, it is a combination of the original styling and the improved construction Leo added based on his tests – most notably the addition of a truss rod for stability and adjustment.
*The Snakehead Replacement neck fits any Tele® body with a USA vintage/original 2-3/16″ neck pocket.