Updated: Nov 4
I bought this guitar in 2011 for $500 from my good friend Jerry Chambers. Jerry and I had adjoining teaching studios for decades.
Jerry was in the '70s era band Morningstar. He also has his own entry in the Who's Who of Rock-N-Roll.
He couldn't tell me much about the guitar other than it was a '72. He bought it from one of his students and used it mainly for teaching.
Several friends who know more than me said it was early '70s but didn't think it was the original neck, or that the neck was original but the body wasn't.
I thought the body was more likely to be non-original because it looked stripped and refinished. Also, I was not aware of 70’s-era Telecasters being body-contoured like this one is.
The neck pick-up didn't work. One of my guitar tech buddies (Don Glaza, RIP) had a Seymour Duncan laying around and installed that when he set it up for me.
The pick-guard was cracked and a couple of screw-holes were stripped out. I spent some time looking for a paisley pick-guard (to match my shirts!) but there's a fine line with paisley - there's beautiful paisley and there's ugly paisley, and ugly paisley is really ugly! I couldn't find anything I liked so I just left it with no pick-guard; I think that gives it character.
I've never been much of a Fender guy; I've favored Gibson-type guitars most of my life - I'm used to double-coil pickups, separate volume controls for each pickup and so on - so there were several factors in play that caused me, at first, to have a negative opinion about the guitar.
The main thing I didn’t like was having a master volume. I felt like it limited my tone choices. I've never used tone controls much; I usually keep the tone knobs wide-open all the time. I’ve always manipulated tone by having two pickups on at once and adjusting the volume controls relative to each other. This gives me a very finely graded continuum of tonal variation to work with. That technique goes out the window with a master volume knob.
I was about ready to get rid of the guitar and said as much on a gig one night. The lead singer, who was the bandleader, said,
”Noooo! That guitar sounds better than any other guitar you’ve got! It looks cool as hell too! Don’t let it go!”
Now, I get a ton of work, either with or because of this guy, so I think to myself that maybe it’s worth me being a little frustrated with the guitar in order to keep him happy. So I decided to keep it.
I'm glad he said what he did, otherwise I wouldn't have kept it and therefore played it enough to figure out some things.
One thing I figured out was that when I changed the volume knob the tone changed. I realized that when I turned the volume down it took away bass - the tone got brighter.
"Ok" I thought, "That means if I'm on the neck pickup and need it to be just a little brighter, but the bridge pickup is too bright, I can turn the volume knob down just a little to brighten it up, and use a volume pedal to keep the volume consistent."
Conversely, if I'm on the bridge pickup and it's just a hair too bright, but the neck pickup is too dark, I can flip to the neck pickup and back-off the volume to brighten it up.
It seemed like a convoluted, counterintuitive thought process and it took a while for me get to the point that I didn't have to think it through every time, but I eventually got there.
I said something to one of my Fender-guy friends about how changing the volume changed the tone and he said, "Oh yeah man, everybody knows that!"
And I'm like, "I've been playing for 50 years and I didn't know it! I'm just now learning this?!?"
Another thing I figured out was that I was uncomfortable with the neck because of the skinny frets.
I told the luthier I use that I wanted what was on my Gibson 175 and Paul Reed Smith. He said,
When I got the guitar back it was like, "Ahhhh, I'm home now!" It felt great!
When all was said and done, I had another $500 in the guitar. So $1,000 total.
After the recent debacle with the batch of off-gassing Fender picks in which I used the Telecaster as a testing ground and goobered up a couple of frets, I took the guitar to a friend of mine, Quinn Harvey, who is a guitar tech as well as a wonderful player himself and a Telecaster aficionado (we've also done a gig or two together) to clean it up.
I asked him to take it apart and see if he could find a date stamp on the heel of the neck &/or on the pots. He came up with this: 3 APR 72.
So there you go. The neck, at least, is from a '72 Telecaster.
When I picked up the guitar from Quinn he informed me that the body is pine.
It's a very light guitar, which is another reason I like it; my back is pretty messed up from hunching over a guitar for 50 years and weight is an important factor.
Telecasters are usually associated with Country music. If the bridge pickup is engaged you can get what I call the “Tele Skank.” Country players love the skank!
However, people don't realize that a Telecaster can be very versatile. This guitar has become my main R&B/Rock instrument of choice. I've also used it on a jazz gig here and there.
A Telecaster? For Jazz?
Sure. Listen to Ed Bickert, one of my favorite straight-ahead jazz guitarists.
My Tele has a sound, and a lot of character.
Check out the Telecaster's sound in a Smooth Jazz context; I have a tremolo effect on the rhythm part. On the solo it's straight in with a little delay and reverb, but mainly it’s just the tone of the guitar.
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