An Ode to the Telecaster

Disclaimer: the views projected in this post are all subjective...

What if I told you that $149.50 could get you the closest thing to a perfect guitar, would you jump on it? Or that an additional $39.95 would net you an awesome deluxe hard-shell case to go with it? It’s such a great deal right?

Indeed it is. For those musicians on a budget, a quality rig at this price point is a steal in the eyes of many.

Sign me up, son!

Unfortunately, the guitar in question is a 1952 Fender Esquire, the cheaper version of an official Fender Telecaster. Adjust for inflation, and the asking price is the equivalent of around $1,800 in today’s economy. Try to purchase the same guitar today, accounting for rarity/condition; this thing is worth over $35,000 (maybe more if it’s heavily relic’d! A costly trend that is really a shame).

Wooo!

How could this be? Take one look at a Telecaster and it looks like a prototype. It’s a piece of wood with a wooden stick bolted onto it. It’s got two knobs, one switch, both of which are connected to a metal plate that you screw directly onto the bigger piece of wood. Most bridge plates still bare the marking “PAT. PEND.” sixty-some years later.

A partscaster I personally built July 2019

It’s perfectly imperfect, but, it’s ability to inspire players over generations is unmatched.

Play a Telecaster or watch someone do their thing on one and you’ll instantly know the hype is real. It’s a rock-n-roll machine with no frills. Personally, the Telecaster is my all-time favorite guitar but it’s a love/hate relationship.

I didn’t grow up with a guitar hero so I cannot say that I’d play one because someone like Jimmy Page played one. I was drawn to it like it was calling my name. My grail. I pined for the butterscotch colorway with a black pick guard, and a maple neck. When I got good enough, I bought one. Ironically, I purchased it for $189.45…if it were 1952.

Fender American Elite Telecaster – Butterscotch Blonde w/ Maple Fingerboard. Click the picture to see product page.

What I love about the Telecaster is the pure simplicity of design. Two single coil pickups, 3 settings (I like a 4-way mod). Play through a clean amp and get sounds of Funk straight out of the page of James Brown. If country twang is your bag, this thing delivers and then some. Throw some gain on it and it transforms like a Decepticon. Did I mention that it’s simplistic design gives way for customization?

If you want to judge someone’s mettle, put a Tele in their lap! It forces you to work on your sound; to tighten your tone. Contrary to other guitars, it’s not here to help you but it also teaches you how to “Git Gud”. It’s like the Dark Souls of guitars. There are no numbers on the volume or tone knob to tell you how loud you are or how trebly your tone will be. It makes you use your ears. Because of this, it’s easy to see that the Tele is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Someone once told me, if it [your playing] sounds good on acoustic, it’ll sound good on electric. Well, I’d say, if it sounds good on a Telecaster, it’ll sound good on any other electric.

Playing one is like a line from Goodfellas. It’s like a license to steal. A license to do anything. Pure poetry in motion.

What are your thoughts on the Tele? Please share in the comments below!

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