Is This the end of the Telecaster vs. Esquire Debate?

We’re excited to introduce our latest collaboration with Brad Paisley, the Secret Agent neck-position pickup. Recessed and hidden under the pickguard of your Fender Esquire, it provides Esquire appearance and grit with traditional Telecaster tones. And, each one is handmade in the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop.

The Telecaster Family Tree

The ’50s brought on the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll, jazz combos, and electrified country. As a result, guitarists’ feedback-prone hollow body electrics were now on the losing side of the volume wars. Seeing the need, Leo Fender decided to apply lap-steel-like construction principals to a 6-string guitar.

He arrived at a plank of wood, a bolted-on neck, and lonely single-coil pickup. Minimalism at its finest. Add in a 3-way switch, and the Esquire, not the Telecaster, gave birth to the electrics we know today.

While the design took off, it wasn’t long before guitarists asked Leo for more warmth and less aggression. Valuing their input, Fender added a neck pickup and changed the 3-way switch into a pickup selector. This new design became the first Telecaster.

Well…sort of. They called the new model the Broadcaster. Then that was called the No-Caster. Then they finally settled on the Telecaster. But that’s a story for another time.

The Telecaster vs. Esquire debate begins

A glance through popular music in any era proves the immense popularity of the Tele. And it continues to be a go-to guitar for every style of guitar playing out there. But there was something magical about the Esquire that a Tele could never replicate. Without a neck pickup pulling on the strings, the Esquire offers an attack, fullness, and sustain that players love.

Brad Paisley weighs in

One of those players is country music superstar and undisputed titan of the Tele, Brad Paisley. Though primarily known for eliciting his twang from T-style guitars, he always keeps his Esquires close by.

However, as with the Esquire’s original critics, Paisley never jived with the guitar’s odd wiring and switching system.

3-position Esquire wiring

  • Tone control bypass for a louder, more cutting sound
  • ‘Standard’ wiring
  • Added capacitor and tone control bypass for a jazzier (muddy?) tone*

*This circuit was intended to allow guitarists to replicate a bass.

The Secret Agent is born

Brad took action. He approached Seymour Duncan with the idea of a Tele neck pickup hidden underneath an Esquire’s pickguard. This would reduce the pickup’s pull on the strings while achieving Esquire sustain and the bell-like Tele tones. It would also offer traditional 3-way pickup switching and an uncluttered Esquire look.

Seymour and Brad went to work. When they emerged, they had the Seymour Duncan Special Agent Brad Paisley signature pickup. It’s a revolutionary, ceramic single-coil that delivers familiar top-end detail and pillowy low end. Its bar design maintains even string response. Recessing the pickup below the pickguard allows your guitar to sing with a new level of unrestrained sustain. And it does it all while retaining the Esquire “thing.”.

The best of both tones

The Secret Agent is much more than a pickup for Brad. It offers Esquire lovers a tonal enhancement without losing the Esquire character. And the fact that we designed it with a tone connoisseur like Brad Paisley definitely doesn’t hurt. So if you have a Tele or Esquire but want the tones of both, Try the Secret Agent.

Let’s talk tone!

While many guitars won’t require much modification, consult a qualified guitar technician. They can assess your instrument and perform the Secret Agent installation. And as always, give us a call at (805) 964-9610 or email with any other questions you may have. We’d love to help you turn your guitar into the versatile tone machine it deserves to be.

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