Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roy Buchanan

Here's a great Tele player that goes far to frequently uncredited. Roy Buchanan is a legend in small circles, due to his string bending and quick staccato runs. He was also a pioneer of the volume swell technique, as well as mimicking a wah-wah with his pinky on the tone control.

Buchanan's favorite axe was his 1953 Telecaster. His playing has inspired some great players, including the late Danny Gatton. Unfortunately, Buchanan's luck combined with criticism from music critics that were not receptive to Buchanan's take-no-prisoners style left him out of the spotlight.

Youtube has some great videos of Buchanan, one with him accompanied by Albert Collins, another tele-slinger.

Buchanan's life came to a tragic halt in 1988. He was arrested for causing a domestic disturbance while intoxicated and jailed. He was found dead in his jail cell, reportedly a suicide in which he hung himself from his own T-shirt. However, there is still some debate and evidence that suggests police brutality. Nevertheless, Buchanan's music lives on for those who are willing to search for it. If you like the sound of a well-played telecaster, you need to hear Buchanan.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rare Custom Shop Telecasters

Here's something drool-worthy:

Wild West Guitars carries some very interesting custom shop Telecasters. Check out the Copper Metallic colored 1952 reissue. It is one of 100 made. It is a relic, which means it has cosmetics that include the standard wear-and-tear of an instrument built in 1952. Interestingly, it has custom shop pickups different from a standard '52 reissue, as well as modern 3-position wiring (neck-bridge combo in position 2.) It also has medium-jumbo frets rather than the small vintage size, and a real bone nut.

This is the beauty of Custom Shop instruments. You get the cool features of a vintage reissue, along with the conveniences that "modern" guitar technology provides in terms of playability. It is also much easier to justify carrying a less than $3000 instrument into a club gig than its $50,000 and up original counterpart.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dating Fender Telecasters

This is a great article on how to determine what year a given telecaster was built. Using the location of the serial number and the number itself, this guide will pinpoint you to exactly what year tele you are dealing with. A must for collectors. Print this off and bring it with you when shopping. It could land you a great investment in a vintage telecaster.

Brad Paisley's gear

Check this out! A detailed description of Brad Paisley's guitar collection. You can navigate around the gear page to see amps, effects, and accessories in Brad's rig as well.

Brad is definitely one of today's hotter tele players. Listen to any of the instrumentals on his albums (he usually features at least one) to hear some very amazing, tasteful playing.

Brad uses a lot of telecasters with McVay G-benders. He also has some Glaser-equipped guitars, like his '68 pink Paisley, as well as B- and D-bender equipped tele's. He seems to prefer Lindy Fralin pickups, and has quite the collection of Crook Custom guitars.

Paisley's tone (like you haven't heard it) is great, in my opinion. A little dirty, while still retaining classic country twang. His tone also has a lot of low-end beef, which is very cool. He uses Dr. Z amps, and has replaced the pickups in nearly every one of his guitars with aftermarket ones. Paisley is definitely out for great tone, and his gear page can give you a hint into what works for him. A great resource for those looking for that fat telecaster tone.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Newly Completed Telecaster Project

I would not feel right having a blog called the "Telecaster Fanatic" without actually being one. I am, indeed a tele-fanatic. I recently finished a rather rewarding Telecaster modification project, which launched me beyond the bounds of just another Tele owner and player to a new realm of fanaticism.

The project began with a Mexican-made Fender Standard Telecaster. I have owned this guitar for several years, and considered replacing it with a Nashville B-Bender model. However, I chose to create my own concoction, and ended up spending about what a U.S. made Nashville B-Bender would cost. I'm glad I wasn't trying to save money with this project.

I began by swapping out the stock pickups for a set of Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Telecaster models, which I bought here. I wired them to Fender's 4-way Tele mod switch to achieve both series and parallel tones.

Then I sent the guitar to Charlie McVay in Pennsylvania to have a B-Bender installed. Charlie installs benders similar to those of Joe Glaser, with a strap actuated lever. Very cool unit. (See blog entry "best bender on the market" for more information and a rant from me on how great they are!)

While the guitar was being worked on by Charlie, I ordered a custom replacement neck from Warmoth. It is flamed maple, with stainless steel frets. It has Warmoth's patented compound radius, which helps keep the string action low. I had it drilled for Schaller locking tuners, and ordered them with the neck. The neck has a 1 11-16 inch nut width (identical to my favorite Strat) and plays like butter.

I had the guitar back with the bender for two days, and then I bolted the neck on, with the help of a very talented friend of mine. So now I have a Mexican telecaster body, with original volume and tone knobs. Everything else has been modified. It turned out really well. Plays great, killer tone, flawless intonation, and one-of-a-kind looks.

Oh, and I replaced the stock white pickguare with a black one, for style points. To further inspire confusion from those wondering what I am playing, I left the headstock blank. It looks fairly normal from a distance. I like that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Blackguard" Telecasters

"Blackguard" Telecasters are those produced between 1950 and 1954, named after their black pickguard. Fender began installing white pickguards on Telecasters in 1956, so any tele before that is considered a "blackguard" tele.

Blackguards had flatpole alnico 3 pickups and ash bodies, which provided a somewhat different sound from that of a modern tele. Also, at least until 1952, their pickup selector was wired differently from the modern 3-way configuration. The switch still had 3 positions, but the first two were both neck-pickup-only selections, one voiced "dark" and one normal. The third position was the bridge pickup, with the neck pickup blended in depending on the position of the tone control.

Blackguards are the most sought after tele's for collectors purposes, and are also quite pricey if you can find one. Fender does make a reissue of the 1952 model that is quite accurate, including the pickup wiring schematics, ash body, and neck shape (blackguards had really deep necks, U-shaped.)

Next time someone talks about a blackguard tele, make sure they know what they are talking about. Some use this expression to refer to any tele with a black pickguard. Now you can correct them (or not.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Warmoth Telecaster Necks

Warmoth is a great source for replacement necks for telecasters. They also sell bodies, and enough accessories to build a Telecaster exclusively through them. In fact, here are some who have done just that.

You can custom order a neck with the features that you want, or you can look through their showcase and choose one already made, either finished or unfinished. They will drill the neck for any size tuner that they sell, at no additional cost.

I bought a neck from Warmoth for my modified Telecaster project, and am very happy with it. I ordered one from their showcase, a flame-maple Vintage-Modern model with Warmoth's patented compound radius. It is the "standard thin" contour, the nut width is 1 11/16 inches, and it has stainless steel frets and a clear gloss finish. A beautiful piece of wood. The frets are well-dressed, and the neck edges are very smooth. The neck arrived well packed and in perfect condition on my doorstep, within a week. I had to sand a little finish off of the neck cavity on my Tele's body to get it to bolt up, but that was Fender's fault, not Warmoth's.

The compound radius idea is great, as it allows you to set your action much lower without buzzing. It also makes chords really easy to grip, while keeping twelfth-fret and up playing comfortable.

Definitely consider Warmoth if you are looking for a replacement guitar neck.

Roy Nichols

One of my all-time favorite country pickers is Merle Haggard's former lead guitarist, Roy Nichols. He was a pioneer in the hybrid-picking technique (playing with a pick along with picking with your middle and ring fingers) and had a string bending style all his own. Nichols was famous for pre-bending notes, sounding them, and then lowering them to their natural pitch, the opposite of what comes natural to most guitarists. He was also a Telecaster player. One of his biggest musical influences was Django Reinhardt, an early Gypsy jazz guitarist, which probably contributed to Nichols' highly improvised, stream-of-consciousness style.

To hear Nichols, check out any of Merle Haggards stuff between 1966 and 1987. Listen to his rhythm on Workin' Man Blues, or Honky Tonk Night Time Man. These are great examples of his hybrid-picking technique in a rhythm guitar context. The hybrid-picking technique is part of what gives the Telecaster it's country sound, which is where the technique got it's slang name, "chicken' pickin.' "

Roy Nichols passed away in 2001. He has an image of a Telecaster engraved on his headstone.

List of Tele Players

This is an interesting read. A list of players who have made notable use of the Telecaster. Obviously it is not a complete list, but it shows the versatility of the tele, stylistically and tonally.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Master of the Telecaster

For any of you who don't know, Danny Gatton is one of the most incredible telecaster players you will ever hear. He has been nicknamed The Master of the Telecaster, and rightfully so. Check out the album "Relentless," with jazz organ player Joey DeFrancesco, or "Redneck Jazz," which features pedal-steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons on a few tracks. There are a few Wav files on the Danny Gatton site, or you can check out any of his videos on YouTube to get your mind blown.

Danny has a banjo-roll technique (he is also a banjo player) that gives him some insane chops. He also has a signature lick in which he keeps a pedal tone going at a sixteenth note pace or faster, and plays another phrase over the top of it. It's pretty sick! His tone is a little abrasive at times, but it almost has to be to get all of those notes to come through. Once you get to know Danny's playing, you will find the tone to just be part of the experience.

Unfortunately, Danny committed suicide in 1994. However, his music lives on, and I encourage any Telecaster fan, and any fan of great guitar playing in general, to give him a listen. You won't be disappointed.

A Good Source for Guitar Pickups

Just Pickups has a good selection of Fender Tele pickups, at great prices. They also have telecaster pickups made by other manufacturers as well, and of course pickups for other models. I ordered a set of the Fender Custom Shop Texas Specials, and got them well below retail price. They arrived in perfect condition in the sealed factory packaging, and sound great.

I wired them with a 4-way switch to get parallel and series tones, and it works fabulous. If you are looking to hot-rod your guitar with aftermarket pickups, this is the place to shop.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hot Tele player, Dominates Country Radio

Brent Mason has been the most recorded session player on the country music scene in the last 10 years. Some estimate that his playing can be heard on as many as 7 out of the top 10 songs on the country music charts at any given time. His list of credits is insanely long. He has the ability to adapt his playing to nearly any country style. His chops are insane, yet he can play the simplest, tasty traditional country licks. I particularly enjoy his work on Alan Jackson's stuff.

Mason is also an accomplished jazz player. If you get a chance, check out his stuff with Mark O'Connor (the fiddle session player equivalent of Brent.) Mark O'Connor and the Nashville Cats album features all of the most recorded session players in Nashville flexing their muscles and playing some really amazing stuff, from traditional jazz to warp-speed country.

If you discovered that you like the sound of a tele within the last 10 years, it is possibly because you like Brent Mason's tone.

Fender Telecaster Lover's Modification Site

Here is a site devoted to those who love to hot-rod tele's. The Fender Telecaster Lover's Modification Site contains profiles of individuals who modify telecasters, and the guitars that they have completed. A great source of information and ideas when considering a hot-rod project. I used this site during my own project.

There is also a discussion forum, along with a well-anotated links page, linking to companies that make replacement parts and modified parts for Fender Tele's. They are quite honest with their ratings as well. They also have a tips and tricks page that has some interesting and useful info for those embarking on a project. If you have ever found yourself hovering over your Telecaster with a soldering iron, you need to check this site out.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

New Fender Vintage Hot Rod Telecaster

Check this out! Fender's new Vintage Hot Rod version of the '52 reissue. A modified version of one of the most coveted vintage teles. Fender added a mini-humbucker in the neck position, and a more modern neck shape with larger frets (vintage-style Fender frets are pretty puny if you ask me.) I understand they are also finishing it with an extremely thin finish that increases resonance. I suppose similar to that on the U.S. Highway One line.

Anyway, thought I would throw this towards you for the tele-heads that haven't heard.

Best B-Bender on the Market

For those of you who aren't familiar with string benders, they are a mechanism used to raise the pitch of a string, generally for steel guitar effects in the country music style, although they are as useful as your imagination and chops allow them to be. They are almost exclusively installed in telecasters (although there are some exceptions.)

I had a b-bender (string bender on the b string) installed in my telecaster by Charlie McVay, and I believe it is the best bender on the market. I have played Parson's as well as Glasers, and McVay's are unmatched in quality. Smooth bends, absolutely no loss in sustain or tone, and incredibly accurate. They also don't leave an ugly metal or plexi-glass plate on the back of your prized guitar like some do. Also, Charlie removes a minimal amount of wood during installation (about the mass of two 9v batteries.) He guarantees his benders for life, and the customer service is outstanding.

The bender is activated by a lever on the back of the neckplate, which you hook your strap onto via a Dunlop-style straplock. The advantage of this (rather than the Parson's which hooks on the standard strap button) is that you can bypass it if you wish. You still have your standard strap button to hook onto for non-bender playing.

I recommend anyone looking to have a bender installed to seriously consider a McVay unit. Brad Paisely would agree with me on this one. He owns a lot more of them than I do.

Project Proposal

Executive Description
For my project I will create a well annotated filter-type blog centered around the Fender Telecaster guitar. I will seek out information on guitars, guitar-related gear, players that use telecaster and videos or news surrounding them, modifications and examples of modified Telecasters, as well as history related to the development and success of one of the world's first and still widely used electric guitars.

I recently completed a project in which I modified a Fender Telecaster that I have owned for quite some time. In doing research for the project, I found that the Telecaster has an almost cult-like following in some guitar player circles. I became a member of a forum dedicated to the telecaster∞ and have enjoyed finding others with the same enthusiasm for this classic instrument. I plan on spending time researching the telecaster further (something that I enjoy doing anyway) and posting anything interesting that I find. I will begin with a focus on the subject of modification, as this is something I have researched recently and have many ideas/personal experiences to contribute. I will also post to the Telecaster discussion page forum a link to my blog, which will hopefully attract some traffic of interest, and ideally some comments. While the end result will likely be a filter, I intend to heavily comment on my findings, giving my opinions and providing overview as to what I am linking to. I expect entries to be in the 200-500 word range, with possibly multiple entries per day to begin with. I intend to create a space that Telecaster enthusiasts can learn from, contribute to (at least indirectly through comments), and just generally enjoy.My project report will likely be on the blog, as I feel it will be of interest to the reader, as well as make sense in that context. It will also give me a chance to bring closure to the blog, so that if I decide to not maintain it, the purpose and usefulness will remain in tact.

Contract for Grade
I intend to use the 3 hours per week that are usually devoted to this class to work on this project. My goal is to post at least 4 times a week, which leaves one posting per week to be done on my own time. I am contracting this for 750 points, while keeping in mind the possibility that it may extend itself further.

Monday, March 26-By this time the blog should be taking shape, with at least 20 posts. I hope to have attracted some traffic from the Telecaster Discussion Page forum, but this is obvously uncontrollable. Basically, I will have a good base forming, with at least 20 posts containing links to information, with 200-500 word annotations for each post.

Monday, April 23-At this point I will have added approximately 4 posts per week since the last checkpoint, basically doubling the content of the blog. Hope to have some traffic/discussion occuring at this point.

Monday, April 30-Final Presentation. I will have a blog of interest to a specialized community, with a fairly expansive network of information on the subject. Obviously it will contain my opinions and views on the material linked to, but will nonetheless provide a space of interest for those with a fondness towards the Fender Telecaster and the music it creates.