By Rick Nielsen
I've had this Telecaster since the mid Sixties, when a customer at my father’s music store in Rockford, Illinois, traded it in for a new Martin electric guitar. I know that sounds like a crazy deal today, but you have to remember that back then, this guitar was just old, not vintage.
People liked their guitars to look shiny and new, like their cars. This was last year’s model—Fender had already switched to rosewood fingerboards—and the guy who brought this in probably didn’t like that his maple board was getting dirty from use.
I used this Tele as one of my touring axes in Fuse, the band that I had before Cheap Trick, and also as one of my main guitars in the early days of Cheap Trick, before we got signed. It actually got stolen once in 1973, when we were playing a place called the Silver Dollar Saloon in East Lansing, Michigan.
The crew was there in the afternoon setting up—and when I say “crew,” I think at that time it was one guy — and somebody ran in and grabbed a Firebird III and this Telecaster. They ran out and took o in a car, and our guy chased them down the street. They panicked and threw the Firebird out the window of the car, and—get this—it didn’t break! We filed a police report and the next day got a call from a pawnshop where the guy had dumped the Telecaster for $50.
I eventually lent the guitar to Cheap Trick’s singer, Robin Zander, around the time that we made our Heaven Tonight album. I thought it would work well for him because it sounds great, looks cool—because it’s white, not butterscotch—and has a small enough body profile to not get in the way when he’s singing.
I guess it worked out for him — he played this guitar on the At Budokan live record and for years after that. The guitar is now retired. It’s still a super guitar, but it’s been through the mill — and around the world 13 times!
Photo: Mike Graham