The telecaster

by David Lewis

just a few random thoughts on that marvellous guitar, the telecaster. 

Essentially  developed by Leo Fender in around 1949, the telecaster is one of those inventions that get it exactly right. A solid block of wood, carved in the rough shape of an acoustic guitar with a single cutaway, 21 or 22 frets, two knobs: one for volume, one for tone. Pickups: initially one, when it was the Esquire. Two  for a Tele. Most teles have single coil pickups.  The stratocaster brings in the third one, and the Nashville has that. Unlike most guitars, the strings go through the body, giving a very different tone. The body gives the strings a particular resonance.    
That sound: the snap. The twang. Despite its seeming limitations, the telecaster is the most versatile guitar there is. Comfortable in country, blues, rock, jazz, metal, fusion, folk, et centra et cetera. A greater tonal range than the les Paul or the stratocaster, the telecaster fits and enhances. 
For years I played a Yamaha. I chose it over a telecaster! I’m still not sure why, but there was a sense in which I thought I wasn’t ready. Now, I love the Yamaha. But three years ago, I finally bought a 2012 fender Nashville   deluxe telecaster.  It has an extra stratocaster pickup. I got it modified so it switches to the vital bridge neck sound, and I’ve put a wilkinson tempered three saddle bridge on it. The bridge improved tone and sustain. 
So, why a telecaster? Why not a strat? Or a Paul? Or a 335? Basically, teles change your sound. They change your style. The cliches are true – you can’t hide on a telecaster. Yes, I use all types of pedals. But, as Sam Bush States in the John Hiatt song: ‘I like country music, I like mandolins, but what I need right now is a telecaster through a vibrolux turned to 10’. 
The best history is Duchoissoir’s, which is full of details. Tony Bacon does some good work. There’s also the telecaster manual.  Great discussion can be found at This site
My deluxe. Albeit with the original six saddle bridge. 

Danny Gatton signature telecaster. The most expensive signature model made to that point. 

The telecaster thin line. Perhaps the only great thing of the CBS years. This is a 1972 reissue: note the humbuckers. The 1969 version had single coils. The chambers are a brilliant innovation. Used by players like don rich, it can still snap and twang, but it has a warmer range. 
Keith Richards micawber. 

Love the silver sparkle of don rich

Jimmy Bryant was the first major player of the telecaster. His jazz inflected country leads were fast, flashy, skilled and lay the template for later players. 

Steve the colonel Cropper. Unusually,he preferred the neck pickup. 
To be continued.