Fender Telecaster 1997 '52 Reissue "parts"


Last Update 02/12/2012

Just when I get done complaining about how much I hate cherry picking for good Fender guitars like Strats and Jazz basses - I stumble upon another good Fender (despite my best efforts to stay out of music stores, I feel this irresistable *PULL*).  The store wasn't sure whether it was real and they had a good price on it.  It obviously wasn't stock but as far as I could tell it looked authentic.  I got my brother on the cell phone (he's the real guitar slinger of the family) and he thought it was authentic too.  Playing it through an amp revealed pretty good sounds.  The action was quite high - previous owner probably had it set up for slide.  The guitar badly needed a setup as it wasn't in tune through the neck.  It didn't sound redundant compared to my Strat or Les Paul so I felt the perpetual drain on my wallet once more.

I took it to a reputable vintage guitar store and they confirmed that it was a "parts" guitar but all indications were that the body, neck, and parts were authentic Fender components.  The neck plate, bridge, tuners, and pots were not original.  The tuners are sealed Grovers which I like.  The wiring in the control cavity is positively the worst solder job I have ever witnessed.  There is an intermittent buzz that will need attention.  There is no serial number anywhere on the guitar- not on the neckplate, not even on the underside of the neck.  Although the former owner did etch some wisdom on the side of the guitar on the upper bout, which is the only unique identity of the guitar.  When the neck was removed there was a "1992" timestamp on the end of the neck, but a label on the underside revealed a "1997" date so it is the later date.  Judging by the position of the logo and the string tree on the heastock, this was a neck from a '52 reissue Telecaster.  Despite the Fender "spaghetti logo" on the headstock I thought it was more likely this was a reissue not an authentic 50's neck, as I was aware that Fender was building reissues of vintage guitars.  The other telltale sign of a reissue was the roller string guide not the simple screw and ferrule of the 50's guitars.

According to the store I bought it from, the neck pickup is a Seymour Duncan "Jerry Donahue" telecaster pickup while the bridge is a Fender Texas Special.  Whether the bridge pickup is overwound like a 50's bridge pickup I do not know.  These pickups are not stock on a '52 reissue.  The bridge is missing the Fender logo and patent number stamp so it is not stock, although it does have the triple brass saddles typical of '52 reissues and is a "B Bender" bridge with the telltale through hole behind the B string - and someone was experimenting with benders on the G and D string as there are cutouts for those strings too.

The body was definitely Fender material judging by its construction.  It likely did come from a '52 reissue as it originally was a butterscotch finish, although the former owner had stripped the finish from the top surface (it remains in the wood grain).  It has that "road karma" look to it - hey I'm no snob about pretty guitars!  I don't think the body ever had a sealant like polyurethane applied to it.  The wood has a nice resonance to it which really helps the guitar get that tele "spank" (strats go "twang").  The guitar is featherlight - 6.9lbs, the lightest in my collection.  Since ash grows in widely varying densities, there is a theory that the lighter ash bodies contribute to better tone.  "Better" is highly subjective but I do like the tone of this one.

Different alloy strings make a difference with single coil pickups.  When I bought the guitar I gauged the low E which turned out to be an 038 - pretty small.  But I LIKED the sound of this set.  The store did not know what it was strung with but the differing colors of the ball ends were the telltale mark of D'Addario XLs.  When I took the guitar to have a setup done and the buzz fixed, they put 042s on it.  They still have that tele "spank" and the action was MUCH better.

The neck has that "broken in" feel to it and it plays pretty fast.  I never cared for maple fingerboards but this one is a good one.  The pickups get some interesting variations, especially the middle position which has this interesting "honk" that is effective for funky staccoto style playing.  The wiring is the later circuit with master tone and master volume pots.  While it is a bright guitar typical of Telecasters, the tone control does a good job of taming this for the tone of your taste.  This guitar has the lowest output in my arsenal but Teles were never hot level guitars anyway.

This is not a guitar for high gain distortion as the pickups squeal too much.  That's typical for a Tele and that explains why single coil Tele pickups were not seen in Heavy Metal or Modern Rock bands.  But this does offer tones that I couldn't get on my Strat or Les Paul.  I had been leaning towards soul and funk styles and Teles were the tool of these players.  With the addition of this Tele now I am satisfied with the variety of tones available in my guitar collection - no more guitar purchases for me (although my brother keeps tempting me to buy a vintage Gibson).  Time to get serious about saving money to build a house.

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