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My First Telecaster & The Yardbirds

By Brian Wolfe

In the beginning, I wasn’t a big fan of Fender guitars.  My second guitar was a 1965 Fender Mustang. It wasn’t my first choice. I bought it based on how much money my grandmother was willing to give me for a guitar.  It was my mom’s mother who was always there for such things but she did have her limits; and a Mustang was it.

The thing that got me thinking about a Fender was my newest obsession: The Yardbirds.  I bought their LP, “Having A Rave Up’ and set about learning all the songs on the live side.  My band started playing extended versions of “Smoke Stack Lightning’ & ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’.  It was at that point I started staring at the cover with Jeff Beck holding a maple board Telecaster (Actually, it turned out was an Esquire; but his hand was over the neck pickup…). 

I did the research, saved some money and was ready to buy my first Fender Telecaster.  Once again my dad and I went to Caruso Music in New London CT.  The problem was: all the Telecasters that were in-stock had rosewood fingerboards.  I wanted no part of that.  The guy at he shop said he would make some calls and get back to me. A week or so later I got a call saying that I could custom order one with a maple fingerboard but that I would have to put $100 down first. 

I arranged for my dad to drive me up the next day. It must have been a Thursday because they were open late.   My dad had to pick me up from my part time job.  It was a hot day and as we hit the road my dad suggested we get a soda at the next gas station.  The soda machine was on the side of the building and there was a window next to the machine.  I looked in the window and there it was the back of a Telecaster.  I walked into the gas station and there it was, a very beat maple board Fender Telecaster.  I asked the guy if it was for sale and he said no.  It seemed that when Interstate 95 was being cut through Connecticut someone abandoned their car on the unfinished highway.  The tow service at the gas station got the call to come remove the car.  After sitting on their lot for a few years, they decided to junk it.  Before towing the car away they popped the trunk and there was the Telecaster with no case, just lying there in the trunk.  The gas-guy thought it was a 1957, he said he enjoyed banging on it.  The guitar looked like the grease monkeys never bothered to clean their hands before playing it.  As I walked out the door he said, “yeah, I’d never sell it, I’d have to get at least $75 before I would even think of letting her go”.  Well you never saw someone pull out the money and run as fast as I did. When I got home my mother cleaned the guitar, she would not even let me touch it until she had gone over the whole guitar, even taking off the neck in the process and noting the 1951 date.

Now for the details as I remember them:  The guitar was pencil dated on the neck: 1951, the body was red with a white Bakelite pickguard, flat head screws, my guess was the guitar was sent back to Fender in the late 50’s for a custom finish and a new pickguard.   The guitar was in the trunk from sometime around 1960 and at the garage until I bought it in 1967. 

 I replaced the Fender Telecaster sometime in 1969 with a Gibson Goldtop reissue.  I sold it to a friend for $75 after a high school dance where we played.  I later got it back in a trade for a Vox Mark VI. Sadly the second time I owned it, all I got back was the body, neck, tuners, back pickup, output jack and bridge.  I wired the rear pickup straight to the output jack and played the guitar that way until I traded it for my first vintage Les Paul Junior.

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