Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Cult of the Telecaster

The unlikely staple of the jazz bandstand

Bill Frisell playing a Tele copy by J.W. Black Guitars at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2014
Jim Campilongo
John Scofield
Adam Rogers

The high wall that stretches along the left side of the Guitar Center near Manhattan’s Union Square is an excellent place to survey the current market of mass-produced electric guitars. I do this on a semi-regular basis, because I love electric guitars and I sometimes get homesick; Guitar Centers tend to be identical no matter what city or suburb they’re located in.

If you make these pilgrimages again and again over a number of years, the assortment of guitars on that wall can seem static, but only in a way that proves old adages about not fixing broken things: Electric guitars are a remarkable example of industrial design that was refined, even perfected, close to the inception of its industry. The Fender instruments, including Stratocasters and a stock of Jazzmasters and Jaguars that has grown in recent years to meet demand from indie-rockers, extend from behind the cash register and out into the melee of the showroom. Occupying only their fair share of wall space are variants of Fender’s Telecaster-the oldest of all the guitar models on view and perhaps the most perfect.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published