Fender Telecaster (Road worn made in Mexico) Sunburst

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David Young sketch of a Telecaster

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Not much of a story here, I was always attracted to the Telecaster ever since I heard Roy Buchanan in 1974 or 75. I bought “Second Contribution” and marvelled at the tones and screams he was able to coax from his guitar. Ed Bickert was also a Tele player, though when I saw him at Concordia University while I was a student there, I noticed his guitar was not “stock” He had had a Humbucker put in. His cool tones and great phrasing and voice leading influenced me a great deal. There are dozens of others (including Robbie Robertson and Pops Staples and Bruce Springsteen, Steve Cropper and so on….) but Roy and Ed were my top two.   

I needed an electric to use with a Janis Joplin Tribute Band  that could handle the loudness and cut through, so I went and tried this baby out at Audiomanie. I bought it for $750 dollars in 2011. I immediately ordered Fender Noiseless pickups and had them installed. I love playing this instrument and she responds quite differently from my other guitars. Intonation drives me nuts though. I replaced the bridge with a Mastery Bridge (think Rolls Royce of bridges) based on some advice from friends and the endorsement from Bill Frisell. It improved it, but did not altogether fix it. I then got a full fret dressing and some shaving of the nut and the guitar is 95%. I have to be careful with the electric tuners. I tune the g string slightly differently for certain keys. It is infuriating to have an open string that is perfectly in tune and when fretted it goes sharp. The thin neck of the guitar means you can pull it out of tune easily.

The Road Worn Tele is based on a ‘50s model. The fingerboard is maple, instead of rosewood, and the body sports a sunburst finish—both of those traits really set off the worn treatment. The body exhibits a great attention to detail, such as small dents on the rear edge of the guitar and an area worn down to the white primer on the back, where belt buckles would normally rest against it.

“Once in a while, you come across a particular guitar that exemplifies a model you’ve played what seems like a few million times—one that rises above the others of its kind and truly enchants you. This Telecaster was one of those instruments. The tone was true to the Tele twang and honk, but had an impressive sting to it that was very easy on the ears. The low end was quick and tight, and the midrange was surprisingly smooth for a stock bridge pickup. The fat neck combined with the well-worn areas made it a dream to play. Even the large 6105 jumbo frets weren’t a bother, although the guitar could perhaps have been improved by sporting a smaller set that really belongs on a Telecaster. This Tele just had it all, hands down. The thing simply rocked.” (a review)

“Pre-worn guitars are highly controversial among musicians. Some love the idea of an affordable, worn replica that’s great feeling great sounding right out of the box—and one that won’t take years getting it to feel the way they want it to. Others think the whole thing is as pointless as buying a pair of distressed jeans, and are offended that anybody would think that those battle scars didn’t have to be earned. After all, that’s one of the reasons why guitarists love worn guitars in the first place. They speak to the history between instrument and player. In the end, each player has to be the one to judge, but you ought to at least play one first before deciding.

Some aspects of a well-made, worn vintage replica can be a blessing in disguise: aged pickup magnets, thin nitro finishes and extremely comfortable necks. If the look turns players away, hopefully the allure of a great sounding and feeling instrument can bring them back. In the end, that’s all that should matter anyway, whether or not it’s achieved by a player over time or by a craftsman in another part of the world.”

My Tele is one of the first guitars I think of grabbing on any given day. One reason may be that I leave it out of it’s case, lying around the house, but truly when it is in tune and co-operating she is lovely. When untunable, she is a drag, but who isn’t.

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for sensitive singer/songwriter/jazz. Photo credit Sharon Cheema
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and rocking! Photo credit Sharon Cheema

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