The Fender Telecaster was the first electric guitar I fell in love with, at the tender age of five. It had everything to do with the Tele-wielding duo of Parfitt and Rossi from Status Quo, whose music I greatly admired at the time. (Actually, I still think it’s great music if you want good unpretentious rock and roll. And I have to admit to still wanting a white Tele with a black pickguard.) Others my age drew horses and figure skaters, houses and cars, whereas yours truly picked up the crayon in order to trace the contours of the Fender Telecaster. I might have discovered the Stratocaster not long after that, and developed an even stronger affinity for that model, but that doesn’t change the effect that the Telecaster still has on me. There is something about it that still speaks to me almost on a visceral level, and I have devoted a lot of thought to what it might be.
One idea is that this guitar brings with it a certain sense of getting down to the root, the original source. But the answer doesn’t lie far beneath the surface. The Telecaster is the epitome of elegant simplicity. Let’s face it: it isn’t really much more than a roughly band-sawn plank of wood with a guitar neck stuck on there almost like an afterthought. But that is precisely what makes it so attractive. It is unassuming and unpretentious and as a result it is just so charming.
Leo Fender invented the Stratocaster as an improvement of the Telecaster, and it manages to be one in basically every imaginable way. Still it does not supplant it. The sisters are similar, and yet so unlike each other. It is amazing that the Tele is approaching retirement age and still manages to be relevant. How many other commercial products from the late 1940s are still going strong today?
My Telecaster is a 2008 American Standard with a maple neck and ash body, finished in 2-tone sunburst. I bought it new in Boston in May of that year. It cannot have been in the store for very long when I discovered it. Not only is the neck dated March 12, I simply cannot see how someone would walk past such a wonderfully beautiful instrument and not pick it up and bring it home. It is easily one of the most spectacular guitars I have seen, let alone owned. There is one thing in particular that I like about it, and that is the perfect combination of a vintage look and modern features. I am going to go off on that riff a bit more in my upcoming Stratocaster review, but let’s just say that my Telecaster has all the modern stuff that I like (a flatter neck with more and bigger frets). Still, it looks traditional enough that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 50s bandstand.