The Story Of My Telecaster Parts-Guitar

I was Teleparteralways one of those kids who liked to take things apart to see how they worked, then put them back together again …to see if they still worked after I’d disassembled them, hehe. I started playing guitar when I was 8 and by the time I was 10 I was modifying destined-for-the-scrap-heap guitars from the side of the road. I made a ‘bass’ by putting four heavy strings on an acoustic guitar. I also painted it in tribute to the Tele-style guitar Per Gessle played in Roxette’s “The Look” video but that’s another story. The point is, my dad was always a big supporter of my guitar stuff, whether it be playing them, learning about them or fixing them. He doesn’t play guitar himself but he likes to tinker with gadgets and I guess I inherited that trait from him.
One day when I was about 13, one of Dad’s friends brought over a Telecaster-style guitar that he’d rescued from the trash. Knowing that I was into guitar, he thought I’d like to do something with it.
It was pretty busted up. It had a really bad home-made neck that felt like a chunk of wood rescued from a swamp. It had no electronics whatsoever. And of course it’d been fished out of a garbage skip or something so it probably had more than a few microbes skittering around on its surface. So after a good clean-up we set about thinking what we could do to bring it back to life.
The very first thing we did was to buy a control plate, a couple of pots and a 3-way switch so we could actually get some sound out of this thing. It …wasn’t great. The bridge pickup sounded weedy and thin, and the neck pickup sounded muffled and distant. But eh, we were learning valuable stuff about how guitars are made so it was okay.
Then we ordered a neck from a local music store. We also ordered some Gotoh tuners. This neck was much better than the one the guitar came to us with. To this day I’m not sure who made it other than that it was a couple of hundred bucks and has a big fat Nocaster-style profile. It’s about an inch thick the whole way along. The fretboard is a curvy 7.25” and the frets are quite low and narrow. True vintage-style.
11202-14-T_003Of course those pickups weren’t great and we had to do something about that. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had zipped out to a music store (it’s still there; hi, Custom Music) and bought a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound for Telecaster set to give me for my birthday. There was no particular tonal consideration behind this choice; they were simply the only Telecaster pickups in stock. And I was thrilled to get them. I remember seeing a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails ad in the very first guitar magazine I ever read, and being transfixed by the look of the pickup. I also loved reading the copy that Seymour had written about the pickups. So I loved looking down at the guitar and seeing ‘Seymour Duncan’ written on my bridge pickup.
If you’ve never played the Quarter Pounds, they’re pretty beefy-sounding pickups. They’re hotter than regular Telecaster single coils and they also have less high end, so the low strings don’t twang so much as growl, and the high strings have a smooth singing quality. The neck pickup’s tone is smooth and round, relatively dark but with hints of clarity especially when you really dig in with the pick. These pickups ended up being perfect for the semi-clean, Hendrixian side that would develop in my playing over the years, but they also hang in there for the heavier stuff, right on up to Devin Townsend-influenced Open C stuff (as long as I use a noise gate – they are true single coils after all). They’re great for harder-edged, more assertive styles that require a hint of Tele but with more grunt.
Peter and SeymourThis guitar and I have been through a lot together. I’ve used it in prog bands, funk bands and funk-rock bands. For a year in college I used this guitar exclusively as part of an experiment to go for a year without using a pick or playing a pointy Ibanez. During that year I went to a lot of blues jam nights and learned all sorts of real-world lessons about how to use your guitar to change the mood of a room for the better. Heck, I even used it to serenade a girl I had somehow managed to charm. And to this day it has pride of place on my guitar rack.
A few months ago I told Seymour this story. He undoubtedly hears this kind of stuff all the time but it felt good to share the story of this guitar with someone who was a part of its construction without even knowing it. My dad and I did various other guitar-tweaky things over the years and to this day he still likes to hear about when I modify my guitars or buy a new one.

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  1. A few years ago I was at my day job. My band gear (includng a black Strat) was in my van in the parking lot. In the afternoon my boss asked me, “Is that your guitar in the ditch?” Sure enough there was a black Strat in 18 inches of swampy water. Waitaminnit! On closer inspection it turned out to be a Peavey Strat copy someone had lost patience with. I fished it out, let it dry out & gave it a test-drive. At first I could see why its previous owner had deep-sixed it. Played like a truck, impossible to tune etc. But after installing a new set of strings & spending 30 minutes w/ a Strobe tuner, an allen wrench & a Phillips head it tuned up & played like a dream. Sounds not half bad either. So this is my official home practice guitar & I could definitely gig w/ it if I didn’t own 3 Fender Strats already.

  2. The reverse of this story is what happened to a perfectly good 1970 Tele. My brother Mike & I had been huge Chet Atkins, Beatles & CSNY/Buffalo Springfield fans so of course we were seduced by that Gretsch sound & vibe. So when a friend of ours had smithereened his Gretsch Tennesseean Mike bought the electronics. There used to be a Tele/Bigsby bridge on the market so it seemed logical – A guitar that had that cool Gretsch tone but played like butter. What could go wrong, right? Well… The Bigsby bridge/tailpiece sucked all the sustain out of the strings & even made them FEEL squirrely somehow. And the pickups were simultaneously muddy & tinny. Sounded like Zoot Horn Rollo’s Guitar on Capt. Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica”. NOBODY could bear to play that axe after that. Guys would pick it up, plug it in, play for 20 seconds & just SHUDDER. It hung on a consignment rack at a music store for at least 2 years.

  3. I was at the local recycling centre dumping some garden waste when a woman walks by with a broken Telecaster, heading for the General Rubbish skip ! I stopped her in her tracks, and said I could use bits from it, and not to just bin it. Turned out to be one of the newest economy Tele’s, made in Indonesia, and I guess her teenage son had done a Pete Townsend on it, so the body had shattered at the neck joint. What surprised me was the weight of the body – with everything removed it’s only 1.2 kilos. What wood is that ? Obeche ? Minimum weight I see quoted for bodies is about 1.9 kilos. I’ve still got the bits, figuring out how exactly to use them.

  4. I wanted a thinline Telecaster, but couldn’t find one exactly as I wanted, so I bought all the parts and put one together. I found some Antiquity Gold Humbuckers at a local guitar shop where I used to teach guitar and bass and they gave me the pickups at a really good price. I’m very happy with how the guitar turned out and how it sounds. Here are some photos, for your viewing pleasure.

  5. got one but currently away for its last finishing touches will post a photo soon (it started out as a vintage modified squire)

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