The Top-70 Telecaster Guitarists!

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  • By Erik Bogaards
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The Top-70 Telecaster Guitarists!

Leo Fender’s brainchild has been making a huge mark on music for 70 years. From Stairway to Heaven to Killing in the name of: the Telecaster was there. That's why we proudly present: the TelecasterTop 70!

 

But Gretsch had already registered the BroadKaster brand,  so Leo had to find another name. As he pondered, some unnamed Nocasters came on the market, to later be labeled as the Telecaster which turned out to be a keeper. In all its simplicity, this model is just right for a lot of guitarists.

 

Most people might think of a Tele as a tool for just country twang, but you can play pretty much anything on it and to celebrate its versatility,  we present to you: Our Ultimate Telecaster Top 70! Like there can't be a best guitar in the world, their isn't a best player out there. As with everything on the internet, take this list with a pinch of salt.

 

#70 James Burton (Elvis Presley)

 

Elvis Presley occasionally mumbled: 'Play it, James'  and of he went…

 

 

Fun fact: James Burton later also played on an album by Danny Vera.

 

#69 Andy Summers (The Police)

 

Thanks to the simplicity of the Telecaster, they are very easy to tinker with. That's what Andy Summers of The  Police also found out. Initially not a fan of the  Tele, but with a built-in pre-amp  and  some smart switches he found  this one 'something magical'.

 

 

#68 George Harrison

 

For a concert on a rooftop, facing a fresh breeze, you can use some solid gear. George Harrison chose an all  rosewood  Tele  'that  would never let him  down'.

 

 

#67 Tom Morello (Rage  against  the  Machine)

 

Need a brutal RiffMachine? Grab a Telecaster!

 

 

#66 Jeff Buckley

 

Time to catch a breath with the late, great Jeff Buckley. His own guitar  was nicked, so he borrowed a  very simple Telecaster from a girlfriend,  just to play some secret chords.

 

 

#65 Merle Haggard

 

That Tele's do well in country is especially proven by this man. He was doin’ some time in San Quentin when someone called Johnny Cash came to play some songs. This was a source of inspiration for Merle to also start making music.

 

 

#64 Chrissie Hynde

 

With the flick of a chorus pedal, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders pushed the Tele into the 1980’s.

 

 

#63 Prince

 

The Telecaster was so popular that other brands started copying it. Like Hohner/H.S. Anderson, who renamed their Telecaster the MadCat.  It's not a slavish copy, but  it's clearly inspired by Fender's. Bit more polished looking and a bit funkier  than the original, so Prince fell for it head over high heels. But it is also a lot thicker, so just listen from 3.28 minutes

 

 

#62 Sandro Assorgia (Van Dik Hout)

 

From the first notes it is unmistakable a Tele. This is a must know Dutch original. 

 

 

Fun Fact: The bands name means ‘Thick Wood’, but the original  Telecasters  are not made of  Thick  Wood, but of an 'airy' type of wood: swamp ash. This grows quickly,  is therefore very light and resonates nicely with the strings.

 

#61 Billy Gibbus (ZZ Top)

 

Speaking of the swamp, rarely heard a Telecaster sound soggier than in La Grange.

 

 

#60 Joe Strummer

 

Rock, country, funk and... Britpop! With a nice punk edge. Joe Strummer of the Clash loved his Telecaster.

 

 

#59 Pete Townshend

 

Telecasters are also perfect for ‘the Wind Mill’ and thank God he's leaving it whole this one in one piece.

 

 

#58 Avril Lavigne

 

Fender markets very affordable guitars under the name Squier, including a Telecaster by  Avril  Lavigne with skate print on the scratchplate.

 

 

#57 Clarence WhiteThe Byrds)

 

Mr. White was looking for the extra twang of a pedal steel guitar on his Tele and invented the 'String-bender'. With this you can push the B-string a whole tone up with the guitar strap and that's why it is also called the B-bender.  The result:  more Tele Twang!

 

 

#56 Jimmy Page

 

The guitarist of Led Zeppelin is best known for his Les Pauls and double neck guitars. But he started on a  Telecaster  and played with it on the  legendary  studio version  of  Stairway to Heaven.

 

 

#55 Albert Collins

 

Always put a capo in seventh position for an even sharper sound and this made his  music so cool that he was also called 'the Iceman'.

 

 

#54 Paul Davids

 

In the late 1960s, swamp ash wood was a bit harder to get, and that's why they came up with the Thinline at Fender.  A partial hollow-body  Telecaster to limit the weight. A hit, because it makes the sound a little rounder and that 'F' gives a Tele just a bit more of a refined look. Careful if you see one, they are deadly attractive.

 

 

#53 James Valentine -Maroon  5

 

'It can do the funky stuff, but it can also be really heavy. And it's great for lead and rythm,' says James. Very useful if you have to switch from heavy riff to funcky rhythm in one song very often.

 

 

#52 Ed Bickert

 

When you say jazz guitar, you usually mean a hollow-body, because they just sound 'jazzy'. Until guitarist Ed Bickert got a Tele as a replacement guitar. He turned on the neck pick up, turned down the tone et  voilà:  Djezzz. Bickert never played on anything else.

 

 

#51 Sheryl Crowe

 

Tele's are perfect for a tasty, slightly pinched, funky rhythm guitar  that we know from Prince, but can be heard in many more songs, like this one. Hit it!

 

 

#50 Will Ray (The Hellecasters)

 

What do you get when you put three Telecaster players in one band? The Hellecasters! With the sound of a truckload of pebbles scattered on a glass plate, they just have to be on this list.

 

 

#49 Robbie Robertson (The Band)

 

Later auctioned  for $490,000 and with that perhaps the most expensive Telecaster ever.

 

 

#48 Waylon Jennings

 

What do you do if you want to make a Telecaster  look even cooler? Out it in a leather jacket!

 

 

#47  PJ Harvey

 

Now that we're talking about dressing up, do you know what looks really good with a Telecaster? Fringes!

 

 

#46 Tim Akkerman

 

The ex-singer of Di-rect once did a tour with only Bruce Springsteen songs. He has never parted from his Tele since and plays it with his Ivy  League

 

 

#45 Greg Koch

 

The man just really knows how to squeeze everything out of his Tele.

 

 

#44 Sharleen Spiteri , Texas

 

She bought a Telecaster to look like Joe Strummer (#60), but then put a very different spin on the Telesound.

 

 

#43 Jerry Donahue

 

Also member of the Hellecasters  #50) and a maker of awesome  instructional videos.

 

 

#42 Joe Walsh (The Eagles)

 

We see half a guitar shop on stage that includes a 12-string Martin, a Gibson SG with a double neck and we hear Joe Walsh twanging through it just wonderfully.

 

 

#41 Heather Nova

 

Another song that just sounds a little better thanks to that Telecaster-Edge

 

 

#40 Brad Paisley

 

The man who is proudly carrying the country torch in the US, singing about life, love and rodeo.

 

 

#39 John 5

 

A guitarist that begins where some others might stop. He played with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie and thus makes the Tele even more versatile.

 

 

#38 Julian Lage

 

A Nacho Tele from Spain, a cable,  a simple amp and a pair of magical hands.

 

 

#37 Daniel Lohues

 

In an interview with de Volkskrant he confessed that he has eight Tele’s, because he likes them. But old Telecasters of swamp ash are not always reliable on stage. What seems to start with a Tele, therefore ends with a Strat.

 

 

#36 Steve Cropper

 

Who? The name may not ring any bells, but his music shines in the background of dozens of Stax  records. Sitting on the dock of the bay? He co-wrote it. The indestructible Green onions with Booker T. & the MG's?  It’s his. And he gave some extra Soul to the original Blues Brothers Band.

 

 

#35 Marty Stuart

 

A country legend who once bought Clarence White's B-Bender Tele (#57) chickenpicks it like a rooster.

 

 

#34 Anne Govaert

 

Which guitar do you pick for that one Dutch pop classic?

 

 

#33 Albert Lee

 

By now he has switched to a signature  model of Music man, but it all started with a Tele.

 

 

#32 Graham Coxon

 

Song 2 was actually a joke to upset the record company, but Woo-Hoo, what a hit!

 

 

#31 Noel  Gallagher (Oasis)

 

There was always some hate between Blur and Oasis, so to spread some TeleLove we put them side by side in this list.

 

 

#30 Hendrik Jan Lovink (Jovink and the Voederbietels)

 

The band gave us not only music, but also De Zwarte Cross Festival and for that we are eternally grateful.

 

 

#29 Mike Stern

 

This Jazz-Star started on a regular Telecaster and later switched to a very interesting Yamaha copy

 

 

#28 & #27 Brian May and Freddie Mercury

 

Possibly the best live performance ever: Queen on LiveAid. And obviously a Telecaster had to be present. In fact, we see two! Because Freddie left the piano for what it was f, and Brian May briefly gave up his self-built guitar in favor of a Tele. It’s a kind of magic!

 

 

#26 Harry Styles

 

He started in the boy band One Direction, but in the end, thanks to Stevie Nicks,  this musical centipede turned out more than fine.

 

 

#25 Nico Arzbach (De Dijk)

 

De Dijk has been playing all the venues in the Netherlands for years and guitarist Nico Arzbach  does this with a bright red Thinline Telecaster

 

 

#24 John Mayer

 

Huh? John Mayer? He always plays a Strat, doesn't he? Or on a  PRS? Or a Martin? That's all true, but  you can add a Tele to that list.  

 

 

#23 Ralph Macchio

 

The Karate Kid musters up all his acting talent picks up a Tele and takes on Steve  Vai in this epic movie. And wins.  

 

 

Fun fact: Steve  Vai played all guitar parts.

 

#22 Syd Barrett

 

Part of Pink Floyd in the early, psychedelic years and left an indelible impression. The band wrote the legendary Shine on you crazy diamond  for him.

 

 

#21 Tom Cochrane

 

First a modest success for this Canadian, later it turned out to be the perfect song for the Disney film Cars and it became a huge world hit.

 

 

#20 Joe Messina

 

Just like Steve Cropper (#36) an 'unsong hero', because without knowing it, you probably have listend to and liked Messina. He screwed the neck of a Jazzmaster on the body of a Tele and played on dozens of  Motown  records. Like this one from  the  Supremes.

 

 

#19 Jonny Greenwood  (Radiohead)

 

This multi-instrumentalist's Telecaster was once stolen in Denver, and 19 years later he got it back miraculously. 

 

 

#18 Lianne la Havas

 

Smooth, warm and jazzy with a shiny Custom Telecaster by James Trussart that she even takes into the  shower.

 

 

#17 Roy Buchanan

 

A bit of a forgotten guitarhero who once started out on a steel guitar and took that weeping, singing sound to the Telecaster. This list gives us a great opportunity to put Roy back in the spotlight.

 

 

#16 Bob Dylan

 

That Tele that Robbie Robertson (#49) played on was first owned by this Nobel prize winner.

 

 

#15 Robben Ford

 

Mr. Ford stood on stage with Joni Mitchell, George Harrison and many other great artists. At first he fought a Telecaster was 'the  ugliest  musical instrument  he'd  ever  seen'. Till he came across this one in the '70s that had him change his mind within a minute.

 

 

#14 Eric Clapton

 

Slowhand has become pretty much a synonymous for a Stratocaster, but he played guitar before that  model even existed! In his early years with the  Yardbirds he can therefore be seen with a  Tele.

 

 

#13 Luke Pritchard (The Kooks)

 

A Tele blends wonderfully with that sparkling sound of a Duesenberg  for perfect pop songs.

 

 

#12 The Edge (U2)

 

Un, dos, tres, quatorze!

 

 

#11 Jeff Beck

 

Started on a simplified version of the Telecaster: the Esquire. It only had a bridge pickup to make it slightly cheaper. He later switched to a real Tele and he gave one to Jimmy Page (#56), who was going to do some very nice things with it.

 

 

#10 Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand)

 

The versatility of a Telecaster is due to the fact that there are many different versions available. Thick neck, thin neck, wood types, finishes and pickups: anything goes, really.  With a pair of humbuckers  and a Stratocaster neck on it, they were sold as 'Telecaster  Deluxe' for a while. They sound slightly different and yet still got that Tele magic.

 

 

#9 Shawn Mendes

 

This hit machine also inspires new guitar players. Some even so that they are recreating his Telecaster exactly.

 

 

#8 Muddy Waters

 

Without Muddy  there would be no Stones and without a Tele there would be no Muddy. Oh yeah...

 

 

#7 Josh Smith

 

'No guitar does, what this guitar does. Which is everything'. He came to visit us once in Dedemsvaart to show that.

 

 

#6 Tres Manos (Urban Dance Squad)

 

Rene van Barneveld got this nick name,  because his playing sounds like he has three hands. Played with The Urban Dance Squad and a delicious Tele to turn the Pinkpop crowd wild. 

 

 

#5 Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)

 

Bought a Tele for £80 in Glasgow, he liked it and rocked it all over  the  world.

 

 

#4 Richie Kotzen  (Poison)

 

Country... Check

 

Britpop... Check.

 

Jazz... Check.

 

Pop... Check.

 

Funk... Check.

 

Blues... Check!

 

Hairmetal? Check!

 

 

#3 Jonny Buckland (Coldplay)

 

The guitarist who always in plays so modestly and beautifully serving the song on a Thinline  Telecaster.

 

 

#2 Keith Richards

 

Fender tried to sell him a new Telecaster,  but Mr. Richards preferred one with some scratches and wear, hence starting a long string of reliced guitars.  

 

 

#1 Bruce Springsteen

 

Only one can be The Boss. One! Two!! Three!!! ...

 

 

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