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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Have you ever tried a vintage Fender? How did they compare?

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by soma89, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. soma89

    soma89 TDPRI Member

    Dec 21, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    So, with all these pickup and guitar builders using the classic designs as main templates, were the old axes really that great? (Pre CBS - Early CBS)

    What happened when you picked up that old tele? Did the clouds open up? Did you realize that the partscaster you have at home isnt half bad after all?

    Im interested in how they compare to the boutique, reissues, and even standard axes that are being made today.

  2. deech54

    deech54 Tele-Meister

    Jul 31, 2014
    My first electric guitar was a whiteguard with a maple neck, Olympic white I think. I was told it was a '62 but I'm not sure because of the maple neck, definitely Pre CBS. It was really awesome but, being an idiot, I sold it so I could buy a shiny new '73 strat. I always kicked myself for selling it until I got my Ron Kirn which is also awesome....Just get a Kirn!

  3. PARCO

    PARCO TDPRI Member

    Mar 5, 2008
    Fenders are remarkably inconsistent. I was in a band with a guy who had a 57 Strat. It was his pride and joy. It was a dog. He wouldn't admit it because he had spent a lot of money on it, but it was a dog. Another guy I played with had a 56 Strat that was amazing. The pickups had been replaced but playing that guitar unamplified was a pleasure. When it was plugged in it was heaven. Another guy I played with had a Tokai Tele. That guitar was really something. It wasn't old but it was really a great guitar. Another thing is that what you may like I may not and vice versa. I do think a guitar that has been played a lot has a little something extra. My bandmate's 57 Strat was really clean and hadn't been played much. Maybe because it was a dog. The good ones usually get played a lot.

  4. TimothyC

    TimothyC Tele-Afflicted

    May 12, 2016
    I think that, as with any vintage guitar make, time really sifts out the bad guitars (for the most part) so the ones that are left were the ones worth keeping. There are bound to be poor examples, but after this much time, probably more loved for either player guitars or well preserved guitars. Though I was at Norms a few weeks ago and they had some vintage juniors that were crazy good. But I'm a sucker for lightweight juniors.

  5. BradL

    BradL Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Feb 9, 2009
    Sussex, UK
    I've tried a fair few vintage guitars over the years but never came across any instruments that I felt were really anything special. I'm of the view the magic that's attached to them resided in the fingers of those that played them back in the day. That I couldn't wring a better sound from them definitely speaks more about my (lack of talent) than anything else. However I'm nonetheless happy with a few newer/cheaper reissue types.

  6. acrylicsuperman

    acrylicsuperman Tele-Holic

    Nov 17, 2010
    I have a 69 tele with a fender factory replaced neck ('72). It does have some areas were craftsmanship compared to today's cnc standards would be considered sloppy. But I will admit, there is some mojo in that guitar, and I am not sure what the cause of it is. Could be anything or it could be nothing. It definitely took over for my partscaster strat that was my main axe at the time.
    gitarjoe likes this.

  7. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 20, 2011
    Englewood, CO
    I played a lot of "vintage" Fenders and others long before they were ever considered any more than "my guitars" or "my buddies guitar". There was nothing special or magical about them and if anything production was probably more inconsistent then than it is now. Most current production sounds better and plays better.

    Are there exceptions? Sure but IMHO by in large those that are exceptional aren't often up for sale. They're being played by someone you may know or in his collection because I doubt top guitarists buy them just for their looks or because all of the pickguard screws are period correct. How many sell a truly great playing guitar?

    So much of what's left for the herds or collections of the not so great may look great, have the proper pedigree, and all original parts but those I believe are far better for displaying than playing. Great musicians who own exceptional instruments do actually play them not lock them away in some display case to be shown off.

    I think that sequence in Spinal Tap where Nigel shows off his guitar collection spoofs that whole deal very well especially where he claims he can hear the sustain just by looking at one and I hate to think about what that Strat with the hang tags still on it might actually sound and play like with old corroded strings and no fresh set up. LOL
    Rooster16, Flakey and badfish_lewis like this.

  8. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    I'm 59 and have been a guitar nerd forever.
    I have owned roughly a dozen pre CBS Strats and eight or so pre CBS Teles.
    They were all cool, and all sounded and played great.
    Maybe that's because I learned to set them up and work on them, early on.
    The new stuff is actually better.
    Better machined, assembled, conceived and executed.
    Old stuff cool, new stuff cooler, IMO.
    jannodude, Flakey, KevinB and 2 others like this.

  9. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

    Aug 29, 2007
    MV, CA
    Wood was more seasoned and from old growth trees so the supply was different in the 50s. This provided a lot of very light weight ash and as it turns out resonant pieces of wood. Also the necks on "holy grail" telecasters were thicker. So you put a very stiff neck (remember no truss rods in the early ones) with a light ash, very seasoned body and you get a very different sounding guitar. Plus the final finish coat was much thinner in those days.

    The wood today is greener and must be seasoned in huge ovens in a very short time frame. Not the same process as yard seasoned wood. Because the demand is higher it's the current process for processing large quantities of wood. Necks are thinner by and large but they now all have truss rods. So they are actually more flexible which reduces the resonance i.e. sustain and modern telecasters have less of that piano string quality tone on the low E and A string than the vintage ones from the 50s I have played.

    Add to all this the differences in pickups through the years and today's telecasters are different.

    Now for my opinion. Did the heavens open up? Well let's say when a guitar responds to subtle finger movements and has that piano string like sound it is more inspirational and I have played a couple of 50s telecasters in the last few years that I felt were unique over most other guitars I've played. They sounded absolutely remarkable and I would love to have one other guitar that sounded like that.

    I've never heard a custom shop telecaster sound that good and I've played about 10 of those. I've only played one Boutique telecaster and it did not sound as good. Of course none of these had the baseball bat neck and light body of the several 50s teles I have played.

    PARCO above is absolutely right that there is a great inconsistency in Fender Factory guitars. They run about 50% reasonable, 30% atrocities, 10% excellent and another 10% amazing. I play about 5-10 telecasters a week. I am lucky to live in Southern California with over 10 Guitar Centers within an hour or two from my house. Been doing this for maybe 15 years as it's kind of my weekend de-stress activity. That's over 5000 telecaster guitars I've played since moving here. I know, a bit insane. I have played maybe 10 modern telecasters that were completely over the top and came close to the vintage telecasters I've also played. Generally they were all blackguard reissues. I bought 1, a 2011 Anniversary model which was one of the best I've come across. It happens to have a very light weight body and nitrocellulose finish. Another was a Deluxe Am Standard I came across.

    That said, the vintage guitars I've played have pickups which are microphonic due to age. Unless you custom order a pickup with that characteristic, the tonality of modern guitars is just not going to be exactly there.

    So, in the end, be happy with the modern guitar that inspires you because vintage guitars despite their uniqueness are just too expensive and who would want to take a $50k guitar out into bars to subject it to theft. There is a huge downside to owning a vintage guitar in that you probably will use it at home in a "My Precious" type experience. If you are a hugely successful musician, have at it.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    gitarjoe and RoscoeElegante like this.

  10. 10thoufirst

    10thoufirst Tele-Holic

    Nov 16, 2013
    When I started playing in the early '60s, all the guitars available were what would now be considered "vintage." I went through the usual "brother's guitar" to something I swapped at school to a Rosetti "Lucky 7". Lucky if you could play it if you ask me! But my first good guitar was an L series Strat, bought second hand in 1967, and it was a gem, my pride and joy in fact. Soon after, in 1968, I got my first pro job and they wanted me to use a Tele so I chopped in my beloved Strat for a blonde early '60s Tele and it was a dog. I couldn't believe it.
    So there you go- two "vintage" guitars, one stellar and the other crap. Things have always been that way, vintage isn't necessarily good. Just as we get good and bad today. I have a few AVs now and they are the nearest I have come to the older guitars, at least as I remember them all those years ago.
    Watto likes this.

  11. J Hog

    J Hog Tele-Holic

    Oct 18, 2009
    Norwood Ohio
    I've found with vintage guitars, the ones that are usually mint or close are that way because they were DOGS. They were not inspirational. The ones that look like they have been dragged down a gravel road by a pickup truck are that way for one reason. Someone picked that guitar up in a store and it spoke to them, very much akin to a love affair.
    fenderchamp, Rooster16, Watto and 3 others like this.

  12. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Dec 29, 2010
    Any time I read one of those threads about how shoddy the current production Fender guitars are I know that guy has never handled any vintage instruments. The weight of the guitars varied from feather light to cinderblock. The neck pocket might be a perfect fit, or there might be gaps on any of the mating surfaces. Any old Fenders I've handled in recent years have all been well played, so it's impossible for me to gage what the original finish might have been like. The only constant that I can really point to is that the necks all seem to be really nice.

    What were the new instruments like when I was a kid? They were works of art; truly marvelous, wonderful things. But my judgement might have been clouded because my one-and-only at the time was a Harmony reject. That thing was so bad that Harmony wouldn't even stamp their name on it. Anything that didn't make my forearms knot up and turn my fingertips black would have been a mystical object. I suspect that if we all were honest about those old guitars we would admit that those kinds of experiences influence our present day assessment of vintage guitars.

    I've said it a hundred times, we're in a golden age right now as far as instruments go. They're cheap. plentiful, and very consistent, even the cheapest guitars can be made to play well. Couple that with the easy access to good information*, there's really no excuse for not being happy with modern production guitars.

    *You've got easy access to bad information, too. I'm not responsible for what you may see on YouTube or read in Premier Guitar. :)

  13. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    I think the great vintage guitars were great guitars the day they were made, and the dogs were dogs. Same as today.

  14. Mountianjustice

    Mountianjustice Tele-Meister

    I would think just the opposite throws that are nice and unmolested would be great. And the ones that are modified were done to "improve" a dud.

  15. The Guy

    The Guy Tele-Holic

    Sep 15, 2016
    Just curious.... What exactly makes a dog a dog?
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  16. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

    Jan 27, 2010
    Kingston, Ontario
    Like most others here, I have played vintage teles that were great and other that were..... meh. My favourite tele right now is the partscaster I built for myself. Having the opportunity to spec a guitar exactly to your liking is pretty amazing. I would love to have a cool vintage tele for the vibe and mojo, but are they better? Depends on the guitar don't it?
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  17. Major Gruber

    Major Gruber Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2012
    Colombes France
    The thing about vintage is that they're all different, each time it's like encountering someone. Old wood is an advantage but some are disappointing or just ok. Good copies can compete against these and sometimes win. But when you fall on a real good vintage one, nothing compares. Suddenly you have the millenium falcon in hand, it's like a fountain of sound, everything is balanced, deep, meaty, clear, vibrant, with a grain you cannot describe. It's like it's alive inside. Next question is can you afford it?

    By the way, here's a very fun experience of trying real vintage ones

    lycheelassi likes this.

  18. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

    Feb 9, 2009
    London, England
    My '56 is just about the best Tele I've ever played. Maybe I got lucky, maybe I'm just biased (although everyone who has played it seems to really like it and a few have tried to buy it off me).

    But, I agree there are good and bad examples of every era. Before I got it, my #1 was a 70s Tele Custom which is a really nice guitar too.
    gitarjoe likes this.

  19. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Tele-Afflicted

    I played a couple when I was there - I think one was a '60 or '61 cherry, and it was in excllent shape and played really well.

    Then there was that TV Yellow Special... I nearly bought that one, but came home with a Tele instead.

    - D


    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    My '51 plays like butter. A friend of mine has a '51 that was gifted to him, lucky bastard. It also plays very well.
    My PV58 plays and sounds great. I also have a black label '94 MIM Strat with several upgrades(electronics, tuners, ect.) that plays/sounds just about as good as any Strat I've ever picked up.

    I've built several partscasters that, to me, play and sound good.

    No matter what make/style of electric guitar since the fifties, there's been players and dogs. The vintage gear is just maybe more special because it survived regardless of condition.

    It doesn't mean technically it plays or sounds better.
    Chicago Matt likes this.

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