Are you “Tele-Crazy?” If you own more than two Telecaster guitars, then you may have just answered Yes! This article reveals my picks for the best Telecaster players, which are truly the cream of the Tele-Master crop!
I’ll bet you have never heard of some of these wild men of the Tele, while others will be obvious, especially if you play the guitar.
If you dream of getting a Fender Broadcaster or Nocaster, this article is for you, so read on! If you don’t know what these guitars are, but you are a little curious, then you will definitely want to check out the section on the “history of the telecaster.”
It’s a fairly long article, so grab your favorite snack and beverage, make yourself comfortable, and get ready for some fun reading! You can read it from top to bottom or skip around by using the table of contents and come back to the other sections later, whatever you like.
If you are in a hurry and would like to read about some of the awesome but less well-known Tele Masters then go directly here.
Famous Telecaster Players
These are the artists that most guitarist players will usually name when sitting around talking about who represents some of the best examples of Telecaster greatness. I break them down into two groups, the devoted disciples of the Tele and the part-time Tele players.
Devoted Disciples Of The Telecaster
Here are the devoted disciples of the Telecaster. These dudes never really play a show without their trusty Tele. All it takes is a quick listen, and it’s obvious they know what this guitar can do and how to really make it sing!
Brad resurrected the Fender Paisley Telecaster and made it his namesake weapon of choice. This guy can play anything, country, rock, blues, metal; you name it!
Shame on you if you thought he is just a country super-picker. Brad personifies someone who has totally mastered the instrument, and he has the awards to prove it!
This guy has won 14 Country Music Awards, 2 American Music Awards, 14 Country Music Association Awards, and 3 Grammys. As I write this article, he has sold over 11 million albums!
He loves his Teles and Dr. Z amps, especially his Z Wreck and Z Wreck Jr.
Brad has a 1968 Fender Pink Paisley Telecaster that is probably his favorite axe, but he has many guitars built by Crook Guitars.
To check out the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire Electric Guitar with the Secret Agent Pickup, see Brad Paisley (Secret Agent Esquire Pickup) Guitar Review.
Unfortunately, he lost many of his coveted guitars, amps, and other recording equipment in the 2010 Nashville flood. However, the insurance came through, and Brad made out ok.
As we all know, it’s really the player that makes the sound, and everything else is just tools of the trade. However, if you’re like me, you know how easy it is to create a personal attachment to your guitars, no matter how many you have.
I’ll start by saying that Keith is arguably one of the best rock and roll rhythm guitarists on the planet.
He is a man of many guitars, and he has a special place in his heart for all his Teles, but one guitar rings “extra-special.” Enter Keith’s 1954 “Micawber” Tele.
This is the Tele that Eric Clapton gifted him in 1970 for his 27th birthday. He named it “Micawber,” after the clerk in Charles Dicken’s 1850 novel “David Copperfield” and used it to record the album “Exile On Main Street” in 1970.
To record the album, he tuned the guitar to “Open G” (G, D, G, B, D) and removed the low E string so that he would have G on the bottom.
Even today, the guitar has remained a 5-string instrument, which he uses to get his signature sound. If you ever saw him play songs like “Honky Tonk Woman’, then you have seen him play Micawber.
This butterscotch beauty has an ash body, a one-piece maple bolt-on neck, and a silver “spaghetti” Fender headstock logo. Unfortunately, the dot inlay at the 17th fret is missing, but I’m sure that Keith doesn’t really care about that.
It has a Fender single-coil pickup at the bridge and has been fitted with a Gibson PAF humbucking pickup in the neck position.
The bridge has been replaced with a Schecter brass bridge with 5 brass saddles. It has 6 Sperzel tuners.
Robben is an incredible player and no stranger to a Telecaster. He switches between various guitars, including his Fender Signature Series model, which was made from 1987 to 2002 and included a Custom Shop model.
On the Tele side, he prefers his vintage 1960 blond white-guard Telecaster. Listening to Robben changing between guitars is striking, and I have to say that I generally enjoy the sounds he pulls out his Tele the most.
Robben plays his Tele through a combination of a Dumble Overdrive Special and Fender amps, typically a Fender Super Reverb and Twin combo.
For more info, see Robben Ford Ohne Filter 1993 DVD Review – An Amazing Concert.
Vince is one of the quintessential country super-pickers. On a bad day, his solos are stunning! I love his double-stop riffs and the way he bends in and out of different tonal centers.
He has some great Teles, including:
- A butterscotch black-guard 1952 Fender Tele, previously owned by Larry Black
- A white black-guard 1953 Tele with a Seymour Duncan pickup in the neck position
- A two-tone sunburst 1960 Fender Tele Custom, previously owned by Will Owsley
- A brown translucent mid-1960 Fender Thinline Tele, setup “Keith Richards style,” with the low E-string removed and tuned to Open G (G, D, G, B, D)
Vince has used a wide variety of amplification but particularly prefers Little Walter VG-50 amps.
“The Boss” built his entire career on a Telecaster. Unfortunately, Bruce is generally very underestimated as a player by the non-guitar-playing public, primarily due to the commercial success he has had with the E Street Band, which does not have a musical format centered around showcasing guitar virtuosity.
He has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, won 20 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1999.
Burce has wowed audiences repeatedly with his guitar chops while playing with other special guest performers.
Check out his performances on “The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Concerts” video. He does some really amazing guitar work with Sam Moore, Tom Morello, John Fogerty, Billy Joel, and The E Street Band.
His favorite axe is a battered ’53-’54 Fender blackguard Tele with a maple Esquire neck that he played for about 40 years before it was retired from the road in about 2012.
There is no better example of an “old-school” master of the telecaster than Albert Collins!
His totally “cold” fingerpicked attack on the senses played on a 1966 clear coat Fender Telecaster Custom through a Fender Quad Reverb amp with the treble “set to kill” earned him the name “The Iceman!”
I saw Albert play at a small club back in the late 1970s, and he really blew me away! He had a very “percussive” way of fingerpicking that I’ll never forget. He used a capo on most of the songs he played that night but could still bend the strings like they were rubber bands, even with the capo above the 7th fret!
He tuned his guitar in Open F minor (low to high: F, C, F, Ab, C, F), with his capo usually placed at the 5th fret or higher.
He always had the “ashtray” bridge cover on his guitar and did all the string muting with his left hand. His guitar had a Gibson humbucking pickup in the neck position, but he seldom used it, and his trademark sound came from the single-coil pickup in the neck position.
I have a Fender Quad Reverb. It’s like a Marshall half-stack but with the Fender sound. It’s on casters for a reason. When you try to lift it, you realize why Marshall separated their amps from their speaker cabinets.
The “Quad” refers to the number of speakers this 100 Watt monster has. It is basically a Fender Twin on steroids with two extra speakers. The Quad Reverb will light up any room in your house, no matter how big. It moves a lot of air!
Albert’s 1972 Silver Face Quad Reverb had:
- Four Fender-branded Oxford 12T6 12 inch speakers (4 ohms)
- Two 12AT7 preamp tubes
- Four 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Four 6L6GC power tubes
- A solid-state rectifier, which bumps up the head-room even more
He dimed the volume, master volume, and treble, with the “bright” switch on, the get his signature sound that was just like getting “an ice pick through the forehead” if you were standing too close to the stage!
For an amusing story about Albert’s approach to string care, see Why Change Guitar Strings? – Tips To Play And Sound Awesome!
Here is a video of Albert playing “If Trouble Was Money” back in 1990. Check it out; it’s absolutely mind-blowing!
Now And Again & Once Upon A Time Tele Players
These players use a Tele for certain tunes but less frequently than the guitarists listed above. Some of them used a Tele in the distant past and moved on to another guitar to define their sound.
They are no less dangerous on a Tele than anyone else, and it’s always a thrill to hear them pick one up.
Jeff began his stint in the Yardbirds with a 1954 Fender Esquire, which he modified by grinding down the body’s lower bout to make it more comfortable to play.
He traded his Esquire for the famous “Tele-Gib” guitar that Seymour Duncan assembled from the parts of several broken guitars.
It was essentially a ’59 Telecaster with a maple neck and rewound PAF pickups from an old Lonnie Mack Flying V guitar.
Jeff used the Tele-Gib to record songs on his album “Blow By Blow.”
Beck eventually adopted the Stratocaster as his main guitar of choice because he loved what he could do with the whammy bar. However, he modified it by replacing the nut with a Wilkinson roller nut to help keep the guitar in tune and to get better harmonics.
The Fender Jeff Beck Signature guitar originally had a Wilkinson roller nut, but now they are made using a Fender LSR roller nut. I’m lucky enough to own an old Jeff Beck strat and a Todd Krause master-built model, both with the original Wilkinson nut configuration (slanted down on the E, A,& D strings).
Jeff still uses a Telecaster to play certain songs when he cannot get that Tele sound from his trusty Strat.
He is one of the best guitar players on the planet, no matter what guitar he picks up!
For more info about Jeff, see Jeff Beck’s Guitar Style – The Guitar Player’s Guitarist!
Eric Clapton is a man of many guitars. He has used a Tele at least twice that I am aware of and went through a whole range of guitars before settling on a Strat. But, let’s face it, he can nail any tune on any guitar, so it’s almost a moot point!
He used a Telecaster plugged into a Vox AC-30 amp during the time he played with The Yardbirds.
During his stint with John Mayall, he used a ’59 Les Paul Standard through a 45-watt model 1962 Marshall 2×12 combo (JTM 45), the so-called “Blues Breaker” amp.
In the band “Cream,” he used his Les Paul and then a 1964 Gibson “Les Paul SG” that was custom-painted by an artist called “The Fool.” Later in Cream, he used a Gibson Firebird and then a Cherry Red Gibson ES-335 during their “Farewell Tour.”
Clapton played a Telecaster with a Strat neck during his 1964 debut Blind Faith performance, after which he played the Firebird. Fender master-builder Todd Krause made him a Tele that is a copy of the original Blind Faith guitar.
Eric made two Strats (“Brownie” and then “Blackie”) a legend. They were both auctioned off to help financially support his “Crossroads” addiction treatment center in Antigua.
For more info, see Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019 Blu Ray Review.
Jimmy Page completed the “Holy Trinity” (Clapton, Page, & Beck) of Britain’s best guitarists and was also a member of the Yardbirds, like the other two.
Page used a 1959 Tele with a two-piece ash body and a factory standard white-blonde finish in the Yardbirds, which was given to him by Jeff Beck.
He eventually stripped the paint job and applied mirrors to it for an optical effect, after which it received the famous “dragon” design.
He used this Tele in the Yardbirds and then recorded the entire Led Zeppelin I album with it through a Supro amp. Jimmy played it in the studio and onstage until 1969, before changing to his “Number 1” ’59 Les paul that he bought from Joe Walsh for $500.
Fender designed their Signature Series Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster to honor him and the memory of Led Zeppelin.
Check out this video from Fender, where Jimmy Page explains the history of the Dragon Telecaster!
David Gilmour has long been known as the man behind Pink Floyd that made the guitar magic happen! He also made a series of solo albums under the name David Gilmour.
Although David has used a wide variety of guitars throughout his career, including Les Pauls, and Strats, he has used the following Telecasters on several albums (from Gilmourish.com).
- Early ’60s blonde “birthday telecaster” – A present from his parents on his 21st birthday. White guard with an ash body and rosewood neck. Used when he joined Pink Floyd.
- Late ’50s brown Telecaster – Used on the Ummagumma album.
- ’59 Custom Telecaster – With a Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck position. Used to record the original track “Dogs.”
- ’55 Fender Esquire – Seymour Duncan added a neck pickup before he sold the guitar to David. It has been used on several albums, including several tracks on “The Wall.”
- ’52 Fender reissue Telecaster – With a butterscotch body and a maple neck, stock from the factory. Used to play the tune “Run Like Hell” from The Wall with a Drop D tuning, among other songs.
- ’50s Fender Custom Shop Telecaster – With a blonde body and a maple neck. Used on the “On An Island” tour.
- 2014 Custom Shop “one-off” Baritone Telecaster – With a Bigby tremolo, a Vibramate String Spoiler, custom wound baritone pickups, Callaham Cryo electronics, and a 27-inch scale neck. It was used to record several songs on the final Pink Floyd album “The Endless River.”
David has always been one of my favorite guitar players, and I love how he crafts his guitar solos, which are so melodic and exceptionally well-phrased!
For more info about David, see Delicate Sound Of Thunder Blu Ray Review – Fully Remastered!
Lesser-Known But Totally Awesome Tele Players
Let’s not forget some of the other amazing practitioners of the Telecaster that are less likely to be a household word. If you’re a guitar player, you’re probably familiar with most or all of these players, especially if you play a Tele.
Roy Buchanan was someone who really understood the power of a Telecaster! He could make his guitar talk in ways that you can’t even imagine. This guy really knew how to take you on an emotional journey of musical expression with songs like “Messiah” and “Wayfaring Pilgrim.”
He became known for making his instrument sound like a steel guitar by bending a note and creating a volume swell with the volume knob.
Although Roy played a variety of Teles during the course of his career, his favorite one was a 1953 Fender Telecaster; he called “Nancy.” He eventually retired this guitar from the road sometime around 1985.
In his 1985 Rockpalast concert, Roy used a 1960’s Tele with an ash body and a rosewood fingerboard.
Roy’s last guitar was a Fritz Brothers Tele that he acquired shortly before his death in 1988.
In his honor, Fritz Brothers created a Signature Series Telecaster, The Roy Buchanan “Bluesmaster” with the following specs.
• Alder Body with Single-Ply Binding Top and Back
• Three ToneSunburst Finish
• 25.5″ Maple Neck with Ebony Fretboard and 12″ Radius
• 3 EMG Single Coil Pickups
• 7 Position Switch
• Active Midrange Boost
• Stainless Steel 5/8″ Nut and Hardware
• Sperzel Locking Tuners
• 4 Ply Mother of Pearl Pick Guard
• Angled Neck Pocket for Upper Fret Access
• 2 Way Adjustable Truss Rod
For more info on Roy, see Live At Rockpalast, 1985 – The 5 Best Roy Buchanan Songs.
What can one say about Danny Gatton? Danny’s nickname, “The Humbler,” really says it all! This Nashville session guitarist could play anything but preferred combining rock, blues, jazz, country, and rockabilly to create his own unmistakable sound and style.
Danny primarily played Teles, and his favorite one was a blonde ’53 with Joe Barden pickups. He bent the pickup switch post down to make it easier to move (AKA the “Danny Gatton Bend”) and added cubic zirconia side markers to the neck.
There is a car show plaque glued between the bridge and the control plate. The guitar was signed by Roger Miller and Willie Nelson when he played for them both.
The Tele sold at auction on October 24, 2015, for $62,500.
He also played a Gibson ES-350. His guitars were strung with Fender strings, usually Super 250L’s or Nickel Plated Steel’s, .010 to .46 gauge with a .015 G string.
He used vintage Fender amps almost exclusively. These included a ’58 Bassman, ’58 Twin, ’63 Vibrolux, 63 Super Reverb, and a ’64 Deluxe Reverb.
Check out this video, where Danny plays slide guitar with a full open beer bottle during his 1991 Austin City Limits appearance.
He drenches his guitar neck in beer and then finishes the song playing with his fingers inside a towel while he wipes off the neck! A real electrical nightmare for anyone playing through a tube amp without a wireless transmitter, yikes!
You gotta see this one!
If you’ve never heard of Greg Koch and you play guitar, then you need to check out this guitar genius before you do anything else today!
Go ahead, take a taste of Koch’s Guitar Gumbo!
Joe Bonamassa said, “I believe Greg Koch is pound for pound the best guitar player in the world today.” Greg definitely gives new meaning to the term “scary good.”
He has done several videos and clinics for Fender (Fender University), Fishman, Martin, and Reverend guitars. In addition, Greg owns an impressive collection of Fender vintage and Custom Shop Strats and Teles.
Mr. Koch has had a number of extremely inventive bands, including Greg Koch and the Tone Controls, Greg Koch and Other Bad Men, and The Koch Marshall Trio.
Reverend Guitars released their signature Greg Koch model in 2019 called the Greg Koch Signature “Gristlemaster.” It has the following specs.
- Fishman, Greg Koch GristleTone Signature noiseless pickups – Have a rechargeable active midrange “Gristle” boost
- Wilkinson Bridge – With compensated brass saddles
- Roasted Maple Neck
- Korina Chambered Body
- Pin-Lock Tuners
- Boneite Nut
- Triple Tree String – To hold down the E, B, & G strings
- Six Bolt Neck Plate – To improve neck stability and sustain
Greg has also partnered with Koch Amplification (no relation) to design his own signature amplifier, “The Greg.” Here are the specs for all you gear heads.
- Power: 50W
- 6 x 12AX7 pre-amp tubes
- 2 x EL34 power tubes
- Three channels: Clean, Overdrive, and Overdrive Boost
- Pentode (full power) / Triode (half power) switch
- Presence control & Master Volume
- Buffered Serial or Parallel effects loop
- 2x 10” Jensen Jet C10-40 speakers
Albert Lee is not just another super-picker. The man known as “Mr. Telecaster” helped set the standard for many of the hottest country licks heard around the world today!
Lee received a Grammy in 2002 for Best Country Instrumental Performance for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on the album “Earl Scruggs and Friends.” He also won Guitar Player’s “Best Country Guitarist” five consecutive times!
In 1978, Lee worked and toured with Eric Clapton for the next five years and participated in a live recording made at the Budokan in Japan.
Albert played with the Everly Brothers for more than 20 years, and in 1983, he brought them back together for a union concert, which he presided over as the musical director.
From 1987 to 2015, Albert played and toured regularly as “Albert Lee and Hogan’s Heroes,” starring Gerry Hogan.
Albert owns a very nice guitar collection of about 40 instruments.
Although Lee heavily embraces the Telecaster sound. He prefers “light” Teles because they are more comfortable and the sound is “not as hard” as the heavier ones. He owns six Fender Teles and Teles made by other manufacturers, plus various other types of guitars and mandolins. Here is a list of some of the more interesting guitars he owns.
- A ’52 blackguard Tele
- A ’53 blackguard, which is definitely his favorite Tele. The finish on the body was removed, and it is heavily autographed on the back. Next, Lee installed a phase reversal switch, which reverses the polarity on the neck pickup.
- Three Phil Kubicki Teles with a B-Bender and Seymour Duncan pickups with a humbucker in the neck position.
- A ’60s 3-pickup Les Paul Custom that Eric Clapton gave him. Eric used this guitar when he played with Delaney and Bonnie!
- A 1958 Gibson J-200 acoustic, which belonged to Don Everly and is also one of his favorites. It is a prototype of what became the Everly Brothers guitar.
- An Ernie Ball Signature Series Albert Lee Guitar, which he often plays during live performances.
Depending on the guitar, Albert strings his guitar with Ernie Ball Regular Slinky and Super Slinky string sets. In addition, he sometimes uses a lighter G string and heavier D string to even out the sound of the top and bottom three strings.
Albert has favored “Music Man” in the amp department, which he used when playing with Eric Clapton and various Fender amps, including their Tone Master Twin-Reverb and Deluxe.
This Canadian-born guitar player is considered one of the world’s great Telecaster players! Redd won a Grammy in 2008 for Best Country Instrumental Performance on “Cluster Pluck” and was nominated in 2003 for “Spaghetti Western Swing.”
He played in Nashville, Tennesee for about 11 years with the Statler Brothers and Merle Haggard’s backing band, “The Strangers” (when Roy Nichols departed). After that, Redd spent about 20 years in Austin, Texas, playing at the Continental Club with the group “Haybale.”
Redd has some interesting vintage guitars, which include the following instruments.
- A 1951 Fender Nocaster
- A 1953 Fender Telecaster
- A 1958 Fender Esquire
- A 1950s-style “Hahn” Telecaster
- An Asher 2012 Redd Volkaert Signature Model Guitar
- Several Gibson semi-hollow body guitars
He has used various vintage Fender amps and some newer amps, including a DR Z MAZ 38 for overdriven licks and a Peavey LTD for the clean country sounds.
Redd still plays gigs all over the world. So if you ever get a chance to see him perform, then run, don’t walk, to get a place in line and the best seat available!
James Burton is perhaps best known for playing guitar for “The King,” but he has worked with many famous musicians and singers. He was a member of the most elite studio musician group in history, “The Wrecking Crew!”
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007 for his work with The Wrecking Crew. For more info, see Who Were The Wrecking Crew? – America’s Top 40 Hit Machine! and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – The Killer Guitar Players!
The list of stars that Burton has played with goes on and on, but here are a few of the highlights.
- Elvis Presley
- Ricky Nelson
- Brian Setzer
- Glen Campbell
- Nancy Sinatra
- J. J. Cale
- Emmylou Harris
- Tina Turner
- Joni Mitchell
- John Denver
- Kenny Rogers
- Brad Paisley
- Elvis Costello
- Merle Haggard
I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming! A small testimonial to what an absolutely amazing guitar player James really is. He is definitely one of the pioneers that helped bring the Telecaster to the forefront of popular music in all genres!
He is best known as a Tele-Man, and his first guitar, given to him by his parents in 1952, was a blonde Tele.
His ’69 Paisley Red (also known as Pink Paisley) Tele became the inspiration for the Fender James Burton Signature Model Telecaster in 1991, which included Lace Sensor pickups and a TBX tone circuit.
In 1996, Fender created an Artist Version of his ’53 Candy Apple Red Telecaster, using two Texas Special single-coil Tele pickups and a vintage-style 6-saddle bridge.
Fender redesigned the Signature Paisley Model Tele in 2006, giving it red flame graphics over a black body, with three specially designed blade pickups attached to a no-load tone control and their S-1 switching system.
Burton has used various amplifiers in his career, including a Music Man 210-150, a ’64 Fender Deluxe, and a vintage Fender Twin.
Raymond is an English session guitar player that plays country music. He is associated with his trademark ‘‘Tele-wielding Chicken Pickin’’’ playing style, which can be heard on countless recordings of country music stars.
Ray has played with and for country music stars like:
- Ricky Skaggs
- Travis Tritt
- Marty Stuart
- Kathy Mattea
- Emmylou Harris
- Patty Loveless
- Janie Frickie
- Lacy J. Dalton
Jerry Donahue is an American guitar player who is known for his work in the Hellcasters, and British folk bands like Fairport Convention and Fotheringay.
He also played on Arlen Roth’s Telemasters recording in 2019 on the song”Promised Land.”
Fender made the Jerry Donahue Signature Telecaster, which was manufactured in Japan. There was also an American-made Custom Shop version of the guitar with a birdseye maple top and back, and Seymour Duncan Tele pickups.
He perfected his own string bending sound, which included bending several strings at once and bending strings behind the nut.
Arlen Roth is an American guitar player and instructor. He is a guitar virtuoso that is well-known for the columns he published in the Guitar Player magazine from 1982 to 1992. The material from these columns was used to create the book “Hot Guitar.”
He also made a series of instructional videotapes called “Hot Licks,” currently available on DVD.
Arlen has been played with and for many musicians and singers, including:
- Ry Cooder
- Danny Gatton
- Sony Landreth
- Roy Buchanan
- Johnny Winter
- Mike Bloomfield
- Bill Kirchen
He designed and sold a customized Telecaster that he called the Hot Licks Tele, which is currently unavailable.
History Of The Telecaster
It’s easy to recognize a “Telecaster-type” guitar, even from a distance. Its iconic body, bridge, and headstock make it a dead giveaway! This guitar went through a series of redesigns, including the Esquire, Broadcaster, Nocaster, and Telecaster.
Here is a summary of what took place and why. One thing is for sure, Leo Fender nailed the basic design right from the beginning!
The Fender Esquire
The first Fender “Esquire” guitar with single (bridge) pickup made its debut in 1950. It had an unmistakably trebly and twangy sound that made it an instant hit with the country players. Unfortunately, they were initially made without a truss rod, and many were returned for bent necks. But Leo Fender quickly remedied that by discontinuing it and reintroducing it in 1951 with a truss rod and a lower price.
The early Esquires had a three-position switch and a volume and tone control that governed the sound of the single bridge pickup.
Here is the electronics setup that made the sound of the Esquire unique.
- Position One: The pickup was wired through the volume control only, with the tone control bypassed, to create a very sharp, trebly sound that gives it that “Esquire Mojo.”
- Position Two: The pickup was wired through the volume and tone control to give it a more typical telecaster bridge pickup sound.
- Position Three: The pickup was wired through a special circuit that used a capacitor and resistor, with the tone control bypassed, to create a dark “muddy” sound for “Jazz” rhythm playing.
The Fender Broadcaster
The Fender “Broadcaster” was introduced in 1950 as a replacement for the Esquire.
It had both a neck and bridge pick. Gretsch threatened legal action against Fender for trademark infringement since they already had a drum set called the “Broadkaster.”
The Fender Nocaster
Leo had his factory workers “clip” the word broadcaster off the headstock decals of the newly manufactured two-pickup model to avoid a costly legal battle.
These guitars became known as “Nocasters.” They were only manufactured for 8-9 months in 1951 and have become highly collectible instruments.
The Fender Telecaster
In September of 1951, Leo renamed the guitar, and the “Telecaster” was born! It was simply a Nocaster with a new name.
The Telecasters produced between 1950 and 1954 became known as “Blackguards” because of their black pickguard. Afterward, the Fender factory changed the color to white, giving birth to the so-called “Whiteguard” Teles.
The Evolution Of The Telecaster
The Telecaster has continued to enjoy immense popularity among players and to evolve in both design and function. Here are some of the models that have become available over the years (from Wikipedia).
- Telecaster Thinline – Solid center with hollow wings for weight reduction
- Telecaster Custom – Added a double binding to the top and bottom of the body
- Telecaster Deluxe – With two “Wide Range” Fender humbucking pickups
- Telecaster Plus – Upgraded pickups (Lace Sensors) and a roller nut to reduce friction
- Tele Jr. – Set-in neck and P-90 pickups (similar to a Les Paul Jr. design)
- J5 Triple Tele Deluxe – 22 frets and Fender “Enforcer” humbucking pickups
- Cabronita – Fidelitron or TV Jones Classic humbucking pickups and a smaller pickguard
- Modern Player Telecaster – Available in “Plus” and “Thinline” models, both with 22 fret necks
- Tele Sub-Sonic – 22 fret expanded scale (27 inch) neck
- Telecaster XII 12-String – 6 tuners on each side of the headstock
- B Bender Telecaster – Factory-installed B-Bender
Fender Custom Shop Vintage Telecasters
The Fender Custom Shop has replicated many vintage Telecasters from the ’50s and ’60s. They are available in various degrees of “relicing” to make them appear brand new (N.O.S.) all the way to seriously played and road-worn (Heavy Relic). Here are the relicing levels.
- N.O.S. (New Old Stock) – Just like when they left the Fender factory
- Closet Classic – Bought and never really played, just kept in the closet or under the bed. They have mild age-related “checking” on the neck and body.
- Journeyman Relic – Played in bands but handled carefully, so they have checking and minimal scrapes or dings on the neck and body.
- Relic – Played often and “road-worn” with noticeable checking, scrapes, and dings on the neck and body, with some rust on the hardware.
- Heavy Relic – Heavily gigged professionally and on the road for years. They have body and neck checking with deep dings and very noticeable areas off worn-off or scraped-off paint. Maple necks fingerboards have worn-off areas (“fingermarks”) from being played all over the neck. The headstock may have cigarette burns. Screws, tunning machines, and bridge saddles are rusty.
The Fender Custom Shop Logo can be found on the rear of the headstock of each Custom Shop Tele.
If you like to see some gorgeous examples of N.O.S. Strats and Teles, check out Fender 75th Anniversary Stratocaster Review – 3 Great Looks!
Why Play A Telecaster?
The Fender Telecaster and its little brother, the Esquire, are the most popular country music guitars of choice, but they have been used in every genre of modern music. So, what makes a Tele such a go-to axe? Ask any Tele player, and you’ll probably get different answers every time.
Telecasters are sturdy “workhorses” that will take a beating on the road and keep on playing as well as the day you bought them. They stay in tune because they don’t have a tremolo system.
The original Telecaster design has a string-through-the-body bridge with heavy-duty saddles and a thick body that give the instrument lots of sustain. It is simplicity itself, with no bells and whistles
Tone versatility is another hallmark of the Telecaster. The single-coil bridge pickup is mounted on the bridge plate to give it its characteristic twangy sound while the neck pickup perfectly balances it out in the other direction.
These guitars have been used to play everything from gospel music to heavy metal.
Final Thoughts On The Best Telecaster Players
I hope you enjoyed this article on some of the best telecaster players! It is by no means complete, but I hope I introduced you to a few famous Tele players that are new to you and that you will check out their music at your earliest opportunity.
There are so many great guitars available these days, but nothing plays and sounds like a Telecaster! If you have never tried a Tele, then perhaps I enticed you to check one out. Once you play one, I think you will be hooked!
Tell Me What You Think
Please let me know what’s on your mind in the comment section or if I can help you with anything.
- Do you have a favorite Telecaster player that I did not mention?
- Who is your absolute favorite Tele player?
- Which Telecaster model do you like best?
- Are you thinking about getting a Tele guitar after reading this article on masters of the telecaster?