Fender American Vintage Series ’52 Telecaster

If there were a guitar that had become a legend in its own lifetime, it would be the Fender Telecaster, along with its stablemate the Stratocaster. The Telecaster has been the workhorse instrument of a myriad of bands over the past 60 years and jazz/fusion players such as Mike Stern, Robben Ford and Bill Frissell have all used the instrument’s incredible sonic qualities to great effect on numerous recordings.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the original model, Fender decided to re-create a series of iconic instruments from their extensive catalogue that would be all but identical to the original models, and so went about the task of searching out original specimens from which templates were then made. From these templates they restored original tooling dies and re-tooled, where the original tooling wasn’t available, and re-created original production methods to make almost identical instruments to those from their respective model years.

We took a look at the birthday baby – the ’52 Telecaster. Not only has the original styling and design been copied faithfully with the original deep U-neck profile and the traditional bridge with three brass saddles, but like all the models from this reissue series, the ’52 is coated with the traditional thin nitrocellulose lacquer finish. A number of models from the series, including the ’52, are loaded with the original circuitry alongside the modern layout, so that the player can switch over and re-create the true period sound. But be warned, you’ll have to remove the pick guard, find the accessory pack and follow the enclosed instructions very carefully. Strangely, all the instruments arrive from the factory setup with the modern circuitry, as early purchasers had complained that they couldn’t get that ‘proper’ Tele sound! Odd, because if I bought a Vintage reissue ’52, I’d be looking to get that sweet, unique ’52 sound straight out of the box and not have to fiddle with the electrics to get there.

Although the main body of the guitar is period perfect, there have however been a few sensible upgrades. The original pickups have been refined with a new voicing, an updated sculpted headstock volute has been fashioned for easier first-position playing and the original body dyes have been reformulated.

Handling one of these beauties is like having your hands on the Ark of the Covenant. The lightweight ash body, the finishing on the maple neck and fretboard, the all new upgraded voicing of the pickups wound to period-correct specs gives an extra tantalising edge over and above the complexity of sound that the Telecaster is known for – presumably a combination of the period-correct winding and the modern circuitry. The bridge pickup is typically spikey and raw, but seems to have more guts and depth, while the neck pickup delivers one of the softest, sweetest and rounded sounds that you’re ever likely to hear coming out of a solid-body guitar.

Coming in the traditional flat, rectangular, Fender ‘tweed’ period case – the ’52 looks as good as it plays. But at a whisker under £2,000, it’s not exactly cheap. Problem is, once you’ve picked it up, you won’t be able to put it down. For more see www.fender.com

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