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Fender Telecaster American Vintage 1952 transparent

I’ve recently become fascinated with the Fender Telecaster, a guitar design I’ve neither owned nor even played. Why the fascination with a guitar I’ve never owned? Well one reason might be the following Julian Lage video.

Sometime during the past five years, I saw Julian Lage play a concert. I was impressed he played through a ZT Lunchbox amp, the exact same model I own. But he wasn’t playing a telecaster that night. I would have remembered. 

Telecaster Jazz is a Thing

It turns out that Telecaster Jazz is a thing. Among jazz guitarists who have or currently play telecasters are the following:

Ed Bickert

Ed Bickert, a Canadian jazz guitarist and one of the first I could find who played tele jazz.

Bill Frisell

Ted Greene

Mike Stern

Robbin Ford

Telecaster History

The telecaster was the first mass produced solid body electric guitar. It’s interesting to compare the development of electric guitars between Fender and Gibson. Here’s a brief version:

  • 1936 Gibson ES-150 Archtop (later became known as the Charile Christian guitar).
  • 1946 Gibson P90 pickup
  • 1949 Gibson ES-5 (triple pickup) and ES-175 archtops.
  • 1951 Fender Telecaster, Precision Bass, Bassman Amp
  • 1952 Gibson LP 
  • 1954 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1958 Gibson ES-335, Flying V, Explorer & Modern
  • 1959 Fender Jazzmaster
  • 1960 Fender Jazz Bass
  • 1961 Gibson SG

Telecaster Models 

The same thing applies to telecasters as to my complaint about Fender Stratocasters. I recently posted articles about the Stratocaster where I complained about the proliferation of model variations making it difficult to understand what’s different about the guitars. (I’ve played, owned and loved Stratocasters though I guess I didn’t love them enough because I currently don’t own any). 

The least expensive line of Fender Telecaster is the Squier Bullet series. For about $180 you can get a nice Telecaster in an assortment of finishes. This would make a great beginner’s guitar. (Following Images are my Amazon Affiliate links for which I earn money when you click or purchase item).

For about $400 to $450 you can get Squier Classic Vibe Series guitar, solid body or thinline, single coils or humbuckers.

A new Telecaster trying to emulate the fifties design specs is over $800. There are others, such as the Players series that are priced between the Squier models and this. One of the classic features this guitar has is a 7.25 inch fingerboard radius. This is extreme and not for everyone but I liked the feel of the Stratocaster I once owned with this radius.

Of course, you can spend much more than $1000 on a Telecaster.

Because the telecaster is such an old and iconic design, you can find many copies from other manufacturers covering all price points. Here is a link to inexpensive telecaster styled guitars and another to high-end versions of the telecaster.

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