Paisley & Blue Floral Telecasters
During the ’50′s and early ’60′s Fender had no trouble selling Telecasters and Stratocasters in numbers that made Leo Fender happy. But in 1965 Leo became ill and he started looking for a buyer — whether because he was too distracted by his illness or worried that he was about to die and wanting to take care of his family financially the fact is that he spent much of 1964 looking for a buyer. He found one in CBS Corporation. As was the fashion in the mid ’60s the TV Broadcaster wanted to DIVERSIFY. After the purchase corporate owners made changes in Fender that led to them trying all sorts of things to improve sales and feed the corporate coffers.
During the late ’60s Country Music was in decline and ROCK AND ROLL was what every kid wanted to play after the Beatles and British Invasion swept the country. And, hence, the Telecaster fell into disfavor and was not seen as "cool" among "hippie" rock groups. In want must have seemed like a odd decision for Fender someone decided to make a "hippie" version of their guitars and basses. Taking what is always described as "wallpaper" from some stock source Fender applied a Paisley wallpaper pattern to the front and back of Telecasters in 1968 and 1968. This attempt to make a "Psychedelic Telecaster" was also expanded to Paisley Stratocasters and Fender Telecaster Basses, as well. Somewhere along the line Blue Floral Telecasters and Stratocasters were made the same way — by applying floral wallpaper to the front and back of the guitar and feathering the edge with blue paint.
These Teles were not only Paisley, but the wallpaper was feathered into the edges of the guitar with a pinkish-red color. Pretty soon, they were known as Pink Paisley Teles. I have no idea whom come up with this brilliant idea, but whomever did must have been pretty embarrassed when this didn’t sell.
Some high profile… non-hippy… players picked up the Paisley Telecaster and became known for playing that model. Most famously, James Burton the guitar player for Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, and others. But this didn’t really help. Many "he man" guitar players wouldn’t be caught dead with a Paisley guitar let alone a PINK Paisley guitar. Dealers that had taken a chance on the model found the guitars the subject of ridicule and nearly impossible to sell. Many were sold at bargain basement prices to get rid of them and we’ve heard of others that were given away for FREE to people that bought other items from the hapless guitar dealer trying to rid his shop of them. Certainly, the Blue Floral guitar had a better chance at success but it too was a failure in the stores. Guitar players, especially COUNTRY MUSIC guitar players were not going to be caught dead with anything PINK or anything FLORAL. So, the experiment was discontinued in 1969. Lessons learned, Fender wouldn’t make THAT mistake again.
Fender Japan Reissues
For years after this a ’68/’69 Paisley/Floral could be bought for cheap. I’m sure a great many were stripped and finished natural. But, as things like this often do the unique guitars and basses started becoming "cool" again in the 1980′s. So cool and in demand that Fender JAPAN started making both the Pink Paisley and Blue Floral Telecasters and Stratocaster REISSUES in late 1984. And, Fender in the last throws of being owned by CBS at this time and having seen the power of the reissue market started importing the MIJ Paisley/Floral Reissues. To everyone’s surprise these have been popular enough to remain in production in Japan every since (as this is written in 2008). Also, during the ’80 Tokai, a Japanese copy-cat guitar maker, produced a VERY accurate model of the Paisley Telecaster.
After the in-house buyout from CBS, the company, by now known as FMIC imported the MIJ Paisley (and to a lessor extent the Floral) Telecaster and Stratocaster for a number of years until Fender opened their Mexican manufacturing plant in the mid-90′s. At this time Fender decided to source nearly ALL of it’s guitars from company owned plants in the US and Mexico — rather then import Fender’s made under license by Fender Japan. This stopped importation of the Paisley Tele, but only for a short while. Fender Japan sold many Paisley Teles via the gray market channel until approximately 2003 when FMIC brought in a supply (estimated at 5,000) MIJ Paisley Tele’s and Blue Florals. After these sold out a couple of years passed before FMIC Fender decided to once again bring in a supply from Japan. As of Fall 2008 when this is written Fender is selling MIJ Paisley Reissues and MIJ Floral Reissues at stores all over the US.
Prices on Paisley’s and Florals have been on the rise since the early 90′s. What sold at a discount in 1969… usually for $100 or less is in 2008 selling on the vintage market for $25,000! And 1985 MIJ Paisley Reissues that sold originally for $400 are selling for upwards of $1,200 and brand new MIJ Paisley and Floral reissues just off the boat from Japan are selling for $999 (actual price) at guitar stores everywhere, but can be found for $870 or so on eBay and some other outlets.
Paisley Telecasters Today
One of the most asked questions is "where can I get some of that Paisley wallpaper." Unfortunately, it’s just not available. FMIC Fender found enough paper to make some Masterbuilt Paisley Teles and Strats in 2008 selling for $4,700 but in very limited numbers. Bill Crook Custom Guitars began making a custom reissue Paisley, presumably from a scan of a pristine real ’69 Paisley Telecaster in the early 2000s. Bill’s Paisley Tele’s have become the trademark guitar for country superstar Brad Paisley, whom also has a beautiful ’68 Paisley for his number one guitar. Crook Custom Guitars makes Paisley Tele’s in a great many colors now and at present has a 2 year + waiting list for one of his creations.
There are still many guitarists that wouldn’t be caught dead playing a Pink Paisley guitar, but in this day and age the exclusive finish choice is celebrated by a much wider audience than ever before. And, it seems to be a trend that shows no signs of ending.