The world’s first, commercially successful, solid-body electric guitar. And testament to its’ popularity, is the fact that it has remained in continuous production, ever since it first appeared in 1950. They don’t come much simpler than a Tele. Slab body, bolt-on neck, and two, switchable pickups. Yet the Telecaster remains one of the most versatile electric guitars out there. Country, Rock, Punk, Reggae, Soul, Blues and Jazz. Listen to popular music, and the chances are you’re listening to a Telecaster – somewhere in the mix.
Seventy continuous years of production have seen a few different variants appear along the way – but at heart, the Telecaster is a solid work-horse for countless players, the World over. The technology, as far as it goes, was revolutionary in its’ day – but is simple enough to offer a perfect grounding in the study of Fender electrics. A Telecaster was the first Fender six-string I ever owned, and I’ve cut my teeth putting a few different Tele’s together, over time.
A first attempt, for me, at a “reliced” replica. Joe Strummer’s roadworn Telecaster is a bit of a “right of passage” for many electric guitar builders. The original guitar, now safely in the posession of Joe’s family, was an absolute on-off in terms of looks. Strummer’s own customisations, showmanship and ritual throwing of his guitar to his road man Johnny Green, (and Green’s regular inability to field the catch), gradually produced a battle-scarred and battered testament to years of honest graft on the road. The result is an absolute bona fide rock icon. A perfect subject for a tribute replica.
I wanted a suitable gift for a good friend’s Sixtieth birthday. I’d planned to try and do a replica project, and my friend just happens to be a huge Strummer fan. It all seemed to come together. I sourced some suitable parts, and found my own methods to replicate and age some of the components – to look as close to original as I could manage. But the guitar had to play properly too, I knew this wasn’t just going to just hang on a wall somewhere. The guitar was going to have to look and sound like a proper Tele.
This project allowed me to combine a few different skills. The body is an authentic reproduction of the original 1959, hand-painted, two-piece Ash Telecaster body. It was matched with a Fender, Jimmy Page Signature Custom neck, and genuine Fender components throughout. I had the pickups hand wound by the legendary Don Mare. His “Zep-O-Tone Live” set is specially wound to capture the individual tone and live sound of Page’s own guitar. I made the distinctive pickguard myself, from scratch, and incorporated a holographic foil backing to reproduce Jimmy’s original, “light throwing” plate.
After building my replica “Strummercaster”, I decided I wanted to look at another replica project – and Jimmy Page’s legendary “Dragoncaster” came immediately to mind. Page’s original guitar had been gifted to him by Jeff Beck, and Page had hand painted it’s unique, distinctive design. The guitar was used extensively during early Led Zeppelin recordings – but had been “lost” after someone decided to paint the guitar, and cover over the artwork. In 2019, Fender produced an official “Artist Series” replica, but I’d already decided to make my own version – the hard way.
This was the first ever Fender six-string electric I could properly call my own. The 1998, Mexican made Fender Nashville Deluxe has stuck around since, and got some heavy use back when I used to play in The Citizens. It’s still in good nick – despite the fact that the guitar has been subject to some of my first, tentative, experiments in customisation and modification.
The Fender Nashville Telecaster is a modified Telecaster, with an additional middle Stratocaster pickup. Essentially – the middle pickup allows for five-way switching, (similar to a Stratocaster), and this drastically increases the sonic possibilites. I have modified the guitar to replace the bridge and scratchplate – and have also reversed the control plate to keep the pickup selector away from my playing hand.
I’d recently been trying to incorporate some rhythm guitar chops into my practice and, having looked a bit at Mick Green’s playing style – I naturally ended up getting out my old Pirates vinyl from the ’70’s. Of course – it’s just a small step from there, to Dr Feelgood and, of course, Wilko Johnson. (How gratifying to discover that Wilko’s personal guitar hero just happens to be Mick Green). One thing leads to another. Inspiration is a usually a chain reaction – not a bolt from the blue. A few weeks later, I’m listening to a copy of Wilko’s latest record “Blow Your Mind” – and I suppose the germ of the idea to assemble my own “Wilkocaster”, started along the way somewhere.