Back in 1974 I was working in London at the Fender Soundhouse where I was doing guitar repair and modifications. One of the benefits of working at Fender was that I had a chance to meet so many great guitarists that rehearsed on the third floor sound studio.
Nearby was CBS Studios where Jeff was recording the second (unreleased) album with Beck, Bogert and Appice. I decided I would put together a special guitar for Jeff because I had such immense respect for him and his music. I used a Telecaster that was found in 1972 at a music store in Cincinnati, Ohio. The “Tele-Gib” was a hybrid guitar that started out as a butchered ’59 Fender Telecaster that originally had a slab rosewood fingerboard. The body was chiseled out badly and had been through some unearthly modifications by the look of it.
It had no pickguard, bridge or other parts that could be used. I worked on repairing the fingerboard and pickguard as quickly as I could so that it could be done before Jeff was done at CBS Studios. I had to rewind a broken pair of old Gibson ’59 “Patent Applied For” humbuckers that were damaged when the covers were removed. The pickups were from an old smashed ’59 Gibson Flying V that was painted black and once belonged to Lonnie Mack.
It was hard finding the magnet wire needed for winding the coils. I found the wire at a motor repair shop and ended up with two different rolls of wire for winding the coils. I used the heavier gauge to wind the neck pickup also because I had only a small amount. I used the finer wire to wind the bridge pickup because I could get extra turns on the bobbins for increased sustain, harmonics and output.
Over the course of the next several days I worked on each detail of the guitar, so that it would be something unique and worthy of Jeff’s talent. Once it was finally ready, I brought Jeff the completed guitar and he seemed impressed by it. I wasn’t expecting anything in return at the time – I just wanted to build something that could be put to good use by an amazing guitar player. Later on, Jeff’s manager Ralph Baker came in and brought three guitars in a duffel bag – he said Jeff wanted me to pick any one I wanted. The bag had three bodies and three necks that were disassembled. I choose the Esquire and went to putting it back together.
Even though I wasn’t expecting anything in return, back then trades were pretty common and we didn’t know the guitars we had would become as valuable as they are now. I made sure to take great care of that guitar and in recent years it has been on display for the public to see at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum. People have asked me if I would sell it but it’s a great piece of history and I want to make sure it is shared with the world.
I’m honored that the “Tele-Gib” that I made for Jeff became a part of the “Blow By Blow” album and that he has described it as a “great guitar, that is really the best of both worlds.” He recorded “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” and songs like “Freeway Jam” with it. You can see Jeff playing it on the video “Secret Policeman’s Ball.” Jeff is my favorite all around guitarist and I can’t thank him enough for all the help and friendship he has given me throughout the years. He has many tricks up his sleeve so sit back and listen to what he does! He’s the best!
Here’s footage of Jeff Beck’s Esquire at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.