B-Bender and The Byrds
Clarence White, Gene Parsons, Gib Guilbeau, and Wayne Moore, were the house band at the Nashville West in El Monte in 1966. Before Gene gave Clarence his Bender equipped Telecaster he had the foresight to record their show one night. The out-of-print Nashville West CD is now considered by Guitar Player Magazine, "One of the top 20 essential country albums of all time." It is a great documentary of Clarence White's innovative guitar artistry.
Clarence and Gene joined The Byrds in 1968. With help from Eddie Tickner who was managing the Byrds, they obtained a patent on their string-bending mechanism. They brought the design to Leo Fender who arranged for Fender/CBS to license the right to manufacture the design. After the new management at Fender let the patent license expire without ever getting the B-Bender into production, Leo left Fender. Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. His Telecaster, with the prototype Bender, now belongs to Marty Stuart.
A lot of players were inspired by Clarence's B-Bender licks but, except for a few instruments made by Dave Evans, there weren't many B-Benders to be had. The first top ten hit using Bender licks was the Eagles 'Peaceful Easy Feeling' played by Bernie Leadon using an Evans guitar with a Bender.
Parsons Machine Shop
B-Benders first became readily available around 1973 when Gene started making and installing them in customers' guitars in his shop in Caspar, California. In the beginning the device was called the Parsons/White Pull-String. After a number of local folks called Gene to say, "I hear you do upholstering. Will you re-cover my couch?" Gene decided to call his invention StringBender.
Although Gene has upgraded the design for ease of manufacturing and installation the basic geometry has stayed the same. Gene says, "I experimented with smaller, less complicated mechanisms that would entail less routing. I found that in order for the StringBender to work smoothly, evenly, stay in tune, and have an extremely musical action, a large bearing surface and return spring were required."
The first 112 Benders had serial numbers. The customer list of the first 112 B-Bender owners includes some of the finest players of all time. The first B-Bender guitars from a major manufacturer were from Tokai Gakki. Tokai made a couple hundred guitars incorporating B-Benders that Gene made in his shop. Later, under different management, Tokai tried marketing, without success, a device of their own design that bent three strings at once and was available in a paisley Tele-style.
: "For almost twenty years I made StringBenders by hand in my shop, installing them for guitarists who learned about them by word of mouth. In 1989 it came time to quit or get serious. I tried quitting. But news got out that I wasn't going to make StringBenders any more (Frets magazine mentioned the end of B-Benders in their Notes section) and every guitarist who had ever intended to get a StringBender 'someday' called to ask me to make one more. Suddenly I had more orders than I could make or install myself."
"StringBenders came full circle when the Fender Custom Shop began offering B-Benders as an option. Fred Stuart, a Master Builder at Fender Custom Shop who has "Telecaster" tattooed on his arm, came up with the notion of a Clarence White Signature Telecaster incorporating a Classic B-Bender. The enthusiastic response from Telecaster players exceeded Fender and StringBenders wildest expectations. Leo Fender's original vision, to have B-Benders available on Fender Telecasters, came to pass in 1996 with the introduction of the Parsons/Green Fender B-Bender."