1999 ’52 Telecaster Vintage Reissue

When it comes to the electric guitar, the Telecaster is the one that started it all. It’s so simple and rudimentary it’s almost insulting.

I had been lusting after a ’52 blackguard Tele RI for a LONG time. The problem is that I didn’t want the little 7.25″ radius fretboard – I wanted a 9.5″ fretboard like the original Broadcasters, and Fender wasn’t helping me out in this quest. Also, thick, hot single coils were a must. The AV52RI was only available with the 7.25″ neck, but the Hot Rod ’52 had the right 9.5″ neck… unfortunately it also had an awful mini-humbucker in the neck and a $400 higher price tag. Then I found out they released a limited-edition thin skin nitro edition of the AV52RI with a 9.5″ neck, but they were all long gone. For the price of getting one of these not-quite-what-I-want models ($1700) I’d be better off buying a Ron Kirn Barnbuster ($1650), which is built to downright perfection. And that’s exactly what I was going to do.

Then one day my buddy calls me from a local guitar shop in Tampa. “Hey, I know you’ve been jonesing for a ’52 Tele and they got a beautiful one here for a steal!” So I end up taking a very long lunch and go check it out. It turns out to be a USA-made 1999 ’52 Telecaster Vintage Reissue. It’s got a couple tiny blemishes and some funk on the bridgeplate, a sure sign that this was a player’s guitar. Upon closer inspection, questioning and testing, I find it has a Wilkinson bridge with pivoting saddles, a Lindy Fralin Blues Special bridge pickup and a Lindy Fralin “stock neck”, 2% overwound, mounted to the pickguard. The strings weren’t all that old but they were clearly worn. The case looked like it had seen a decade of moderate gigging. This was no wall ornament. Best of all, it has a 12″ radius neck! Don’t ask me why – I haven’t found any documentation of any production run of ’52 Teles with 12″ fretboards, but the hardware, logos and factory markings all suggest it’s original.

They let me plug it in to a fantastic Vibroverb they had there and I fell in love. Even with the dead strings on it, the pickups were right in the tonal range I like best – thick but clear, avoiding the icepickyness present in some teles. Action and intonation were set decently enough – I could tune it in proper once I got it home. And that thick neck with the 12″ fretboard had me feeling right at home, just like my ’72 Deluxe. After a little haggling I walked out with the guitar for just under $900 after tax.

Like all my guitars I’ve rewired it, and I installed Schaller strap locks, but that’s the extent of its modifications. This guitar is just… RIGHT.

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