Every guitarist I’ve ever worked with, and most of my friends, have all owned or regularly played Telecasters. I’ve never been drawn to them, they just seemed like the un-sexiest guitar on earth.. give me a supple and curvy Strat or oblique-hipped Jazzmaster any day… I’ve played a few really great Telecasters. but very rarely. They always seemed to be from the 1950s ($$$$$), with very substantial but comfortable necks, super resonant light weight bodies, and surprisingly bright and somewhat delicate sounding pickups, the kind that really make you work to develop your tone… Unfortunately the Telecasters I encountered most frequently were unexceptional: heavy 1990s era guitars with thin necks, a tone like Tupperware (rather than fine bone china), and blandly flat fingerboards finished in “satin” poly. Ugh.
I recently started jonesing for a Tele, and set out to find an exceptional one. I have a few friends who own 6 or 7 Telecasters who encouraged me to play as many as I can find.
So that’s what I did…
I played about 20 Telecasters last week… I went everywhere and played every possible new Fender 50s, 60s reissue, a few used, a few “relic” guitars, etc.. It felt like these new guitars were the victim of a game of “Chinese Telephone”, like they were mis-remembered, or influenced by someone’s nostalgia for a time that never existed.. or like a Christmas Tree ornament a friend spotted in Japan of Santa on a Crucifix…
There is also this ridiculous “modern” notion that a 7.25” radius fingerboard is a bad thing, that you will “fret out” when bending notes. Really? Why do so many armchair experts propagate this nonsense? I will state emphatically that the only reason guitarists even bend strings is because they grew up listening to people bending notes on a 7.25” radius fingerboard. “Modern” flat (oooh “fast”) fingerboards are such utter bullshit. This preference alone eliminated 90% of the new Fenders available.
I was playing the new “1964” tele reissue at Guitar Center in Times Square, ($2k!) it was pretty unexciting, not set up properly, then I saw a 74 Strat on the wall, I wanted to compare it with my own 74 strat, and when I picked it up *music* came out, really nice, super light, all straight, early 1974, so staggered magnet pickups, and good wood, etc, so much vibe, it felt like a musical instrument, but have too many Strats… left there saying “If I can find a Tele that plays as nice as my 74 Strat, I’m in”
I went to another store and found my Telecaster. It is a perfectly straight 1972 Telecaster, except that the previous (original) owner had stripped the finish and then lacquered the body. It was very light weight, with a substantial neck, original tiny Fender frets (which I love). When you hold the neck around the 12th fret and pick it up, it feels perfectly balanced and much lighter than it actually is. I plunked down my cash and took it home in the 60s era gigbag they provided (the original owner is bringing the OHSC from upstate in a few weeks).
As I walked home in the rain, I was waiting for the light to change at the corner and spied a guy in a yellow raincoat next to me - smoking - so I reflexively stepped away, suddenly that guy tapped me on the shoulder and said “What’s in the Bag?” It was Dan Courtney, the owner of Dan’s Chelsea Guitars… I’d been in his shop a lot recently (trying Teles, of course). We stepped under an awning and I showed him the guitar.. he was initially hiding behind his “dealer face” ("Why would you buy a 72 Tele?"), then I handed it to him, saying *this* is why.. as soon as he had it in his hands his face lit up “Oh my god.. what a GREAT guitar.. this one has the *best* neck,, wow.. do you know how many Teles *don’t* have this neck? Nice axe, brother..!!! What a vindication..!
I got it home, set up the action and intonation, and just played it.. it’s so amazing.. I was noodling around on the first three strings and I was hearing this “halo” effect, I discovered the lower three stings were all droning in sympathy, which should tell you how lively it is.
5 days on, this guitar has exceeded any expectation I ever had… I have been on three phone calls while I was playing it and each time the person on the other end, who were all guitarists, oddly, asked “what guitar is that”? Or, “is that a 12 string?” etc… one guy who was on a cell phone, but is a bit of a guitar collector, said “that sounds like an amazing guitar”… so far no buyers remorse..!!! 😊