The Telecaster: From maligned to much loved

Endless Mike

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I've played Telecasters nearly exclusively for thirty odd years. I can recall going to an audition around 1992 with my ESP telecaster (back before they were making budget models) pulling it out of the case and someone saying "Ewww, a telecaster!" Another time, a conversation with someone who said he didn't like them because they were too twangy, which received a response of "well, duh" followed by "Ever hear Jeff Beck play one?"

Now fast forward, everyone and their dog, and their dog's dog plays a telecaster. It's kind of a perplexing fad, and I'm sure it's a fad. It will pass and most will move on to the next cool thing. That's fine, I'll keep playing my telecasters.

It's odd how something that once was associated with country and was looked down on by many (I actually started playing a tele because I was in a funk band, and had been listening to a lot of James Brown/Jimmy Nolen) now is cool. It's funny because the telecaster can be quite unforgiving. Some have a certain 'fight' or resistance in them, as Jeff Beck once observed. They don't have that 'soft' 2nd and 4th position as a strat does, and they don't have that quality that the Les Paul offers. I see them as a guitar that requires a certain commitment to play and make work, at least as a stock guitar with two single coil pickups. Unless you use compensated saddles, you have to contend with intonation issues (see Jerry Donahue).

I wonder why the incredible popularity? Will it last as long as the zombie craze did? We wonder.
 

Esquire Jones

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My first guitar teacher hooked me up with my first real rig: a 72 Tele and 73 Twin Reverb.

I think I paid $500 for both pieces. Total!

Of course, I thought the setup was hopelessly boring and outdated. I wanted something more flashy and “metal”.

Yeah, I sold them off…for something, well, flashy and “metal”.
 

unixfish

Doctor of Teleocity
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Buying and playing a Tele made me a better player. You cannot "get away" with things that I could on my Strat.

Teles were minimized for years, but players are finding how good they sound if you get away from "twanging styles". Add a bit of overdrive and OMG! No wonder Jimmy Page sounded so good!

It may be a fad, but a good guitar never disappears.
 

IrishBread69

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I don't think they were truly that unpopular and I don't think it's a fab or phase.

You only have to look back at the volume of artists who have used telecasters through the decades.

Tastes do change though, perhaps the Strat is a little bit overdone and perhaps clichéd. People like simpler things now, clean and timeless lines and designs. Offsets are making a come back too. I'm torn between telecasters and Jazzmasters at the moment.

Guitar music is definitely on the up as a whole, the last few years has increased telecaster sales for sure. The YouTubers are a large part of that too and probably a certain Danish demo merchant has had a fairly large impact.
 

telemnemonics

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Near as Ican recall I cobbled together my first Esquire in 1990.
Strats were of course still super then and I only cast toward Tele because a guy at the NYC vintage guitar show had a stack of new unfinished swamp ash bodies for $100 each.
Also snagged a '69 Tele bridge pickup at that show, not sure where I found a bridge, and I cut down the headstock on a '70s style Squier Strat neck plus gave it jumbo frets.

I have to guess Tele pop came as a result of super strats getting really boring with everyone including Gibson making them?
 

willietheweirdo

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I may be in that fad crowd. Couldn't see a reason to play telecasters till I heard this album in ~2007. Not that his was a typical tele. But here was an electric being played like an acoustic and it sounded better than I'd ever heard either. Had to have one.
1655234832152.png
 

BrazHog

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Not growing up in the US, I was not aware of the country music connection of the Tele (or the fact that you were supposed to hate country music). When I was a youngling, they had a natural 70's or 80's Tele in the window of a music shop in town for the longest time, and I would walk by every now and then and lust after it.

That may have been the origin of my fondness for Leo's Masterpiece. Of course, when I started earning enough money to be able to buy it, it was gone.
 

IrishBread69

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I hated country and therefore had no interest in Teles. Through a long journey I ended up getting one and was absolutely gobsmacked over how good it was. Why did I wait so long?

If anything the country connection was probably putting people off historically.

Like @BrazHog I'm not in the US and had no idea it was associated strongly with country music. For me it was just a cool rock guitar. It did take me a while for my love to develop though.
 

Telecaster582

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Honestly I don't even know why I own a Telecaster right now. When I decided to build one I didn't know the difference between a Telecaster or a Stratocaster, it was just electric guitar or acoustic guitar, either one I could play. So I decided to build an electric guitar. I did my research and found out about Fender, and the different models that they made, and I fell in love with the company. I also found a site called Guitarfetish (yeah, I know) and the prices where cheap enough for me knowing that the only money a 12 year old gets is by Christmas and other holidays. I don't know why I chose the Telecaster, because to me at the time thought they looked ugly, with that upper left horn, but I didn't want a strat. Anyway, 7 months of hard saving later, I had myself a guitar that I was very proud of and after that many months of staring at the blank body, began to love playing it. Now fast-forward 3 months and now I want another one 🙄
 

Wrighty

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Buying and playing a Tele made me a better player. You cannot "get away" with things that I could on my Strat.

Teles were minimized for years, but players are finding how good they sound if you get away from "twanging styles". Add a bit of overdrive and OMG! No wonder Jimmy Page sounded so good!

It may be a fad, but a good guitar never disappears.
You’re right, but why is that? If I get something sorted on a Strat, chances are it’ll not be sorted on my Tele. Vice versa, no problem, play it good on a Tele, play it good on any decent guitar. Hey, a neck, six strings, pretty much the same dimensions but………………well, the Tele fights you.
 

mr natural

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In 2003, I decided to retire my Gibson Melody Maker because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to it at a gig. So I started looking for a solidly built guitar that had more oomph than the MM. I tried everything I could get my hands on new, used, every brand you can name, the 1 that impressed me with good strong output, solidly built and consistent in quality was the American Series Telecaster. I played a bunch of them and the quality was consistent enough that I ordered a new 1 sight unseen with some money I made on a consulting job. I ordered a natural finish but apparently Fender were out of natural bodies as it was the end of the model year or something. Had to wait a couple months for it to come in but it was worth the wait. Almost nobody in the local music scene was playing Teles at the time so it was cool and different. Didn’t really buy it because it was a Telecaster. Bought it because it most closely matched what I was looking for in an electric guitar at that point. Glad I made the choice I did. Oddly, within a couple of years everyone in that scene were playing Teles. Guess I was a trend setter.
 

bottlenecker

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I think it's been a roots music staple for about seven decades. The only fad I see is some types of rock players moving to them that didn't play them before.
I think it's likely because the impossibly vague umbrella of "americana" is where guitar players still work, and it's more fashionable than rock at the moment.
 

Telecaster88

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I bought my Tele new in 1989 because a couple of my guitar heroes played them (D. Boon, Robyn Hitchcock, Dave Pirner) and it wasn't a Strat. It was the height of hair metal and Strats were everywhere. At the time, I viewed Strats as weedly weedly guitar-wanker instruments. (I dig Strats now, a lot, and own three.) (Also, my first electric was an Ibanez Strat copy...)

Alternately, the Tele seemed like a plain-stated, back to basics workhorse. And put me down as one of those players who think Teles are incredibly beautiful.

I think that in the Post-grunge, post-rock era we are in now, the simple, non-flashy attraction of the Tele still holds for young guitar players. I would guess that many young players still find Strats kinda dorky. For that reason alone, I expect they'll (Strats) eventually make somewhat of a resurgence amongst young, hip players.
 
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dlew919

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I was stupidly talked out of buying a 1990 telecaster new because ‘you need a super strat’. Bought a Yamaha. Now I loved that guitar. But when it wore out I bought my Nashville. I don’t know why I didn’t buy a telecaster before the time I did. It was like when I picked it up my brain said ‘*this* is how you play guitar’.

But yes. Apart from Springsteen (and prince) there was a time where no one seemed to play a tele. I kind of wish I did then too.

I now have two telecasters. And I don’t care about fads. If it’s right it’s right.
 

ReverendRevolver

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I was sick of seeing strats, and offsets were hard to come by for awhile. The tele could do blues and punk, so I gravitated towards it around age 16ish.

But when I was like 12, yea, lame country guitar. Of course playing one changed my mind.

No idea why they're "cool" now, the lack of popularity was also attractive to me back then.
 




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