This is a rare and historically important guitar that has remained lost to the collectors marketplace until very recently…
This is THE same guitar that is pictured in the 1959-1965/6 Fender Catalogues for both the Telecaster Custom and the Esquire Custom and has some very unique pre-production features…
Have a look at the pictures and you will see it has one of the very first rosewood slab boards made with the walnut truss rod plug and the skunk stripe on the back. It also has uniquely, a one piece ash body in a dark wide burst finish just like the one in the catalogues. It has obviously faded a bit over the last 50 years but the ash body has an individual and distinctive grain pattern that perfectly matches the one in the catalogue - have a look at the first picture in the gallery and see for yourself. The original catalogue scan in on the left and this guitar is on the right.
The very first, early slab rosewood fingerboards had a skunk stripe plus a filler plug and you can see this in the early catalogues. These early slabs are extremely rare, have a very thick slab fingerboard and probably very few exist. Also, the very early Telecaster Customs did not have ‘Telecaster Custom’ on the headstock, just ‘Telecaster’. If you have a look at the pics and compare it to the catalogue one, you can see this decal is exactly the same place. As these were applied by hand, their position does vary very slightly, as does the position of the string tree in our experience.
We bought this guitar as a husk - a body and neck, both with original finish from 1958 plus a neck plate. We have spent a considerable amount of time and money acquiring genuine vintage parts to get as close as we can to the original with the full intention of resurrecting this great and important vintage guitar.
All the parts are period correct and sourced from the most reliable of sources, the only item we could not find is a 5 hole original green guard (if you know of one let us know) so we commissioned a hand aged repro to match the wear and what we felt would be the look, of a 60 year old original.
Was it originally a top loader or a bottom feeder..? We do not know for sure as we cannot find any pictures of the back but we do know both the ferrules and the holes for the ferrules are newer however the holes from the top to where the ferrules start (where the strings go through) are a lot older. It may have left the factory as a top loader then converted to a bottom feeder, or it may have been used as a test bed for the changeover in late 59..?
As can be seen from the pictures, it has been played and yes, it does sound rather good actually! It has had other tuners fitted at some stage but correct ones are back on there now with some tiny screw holes just visible on the back. No tuner holes have been enlarged.
Neck date is 10/58, there is no body date but we can see all the correct factory tooling marks from that period are visible in the routings. Pots are both dated 43rd week of 1958. Both pickups are 58/9 as is switch and all wiring.
Playing wise it is real nice on its very thick, early slab rosewood fingerboard. It has obviously has been refretted, maybe a few times in its life, but the fret job on there now is most excellent and it is a real joy to play. Included is a 1959 original brown tolex case with yellow lining.
Some may question our logic of restoring this wonderful guitar, but given the choice of leaving it as an empty husk to stare at, or filling it with brand new, re-issue parts (which is what the people we bought it from were about to do), or filling it with as closely matched as we can, period correct parts what would you choose? We think how it has turned out is beyond our expectations and is how this cool, historical guitar should be treated.
As a foot note, we believe that this very same guitar was also used for the catalogue pictures of the Esquire Custom as well. It may have been the only Telecaster Custom around at the time so the cost conscious team at Fullerton probably took the Esquire pics first then just changed the pickguard to take the Telecaster Custom pics next!
I wonder where the Strat and the P-Bass with the same rosewood slab board, skunk stripe neck pictured in the same 1959 catalogue are today…?