Since 1952, the Tele has twanged, chunked, and thrashed its way into virtually every style of music imaginable, and in commemoration of those 60 years, Fender gives us the 60th Anniversary Telecaster ($1,799 retail/$1,399 street). From the non-contoured ash body to the Spartan headstock and bare-bones electronics, the 60th Anniversary Tele is at first glance decidedly retro, but the vintage looks belie a few modern twists.
The light-blonde ash body features a lacquer finish that’s so thin you can easily see the wood grain texture under bright light. This may also account for why the guitar feels so uncommonly alive and responsive. Before I even plugged in the 60th I was impressed with the sound: a snappy, clear, and ringing acoustic tone with strong, mud-less twang on the low notes.
The maple neck’s finish is also lacquer: satin on the back and polished gloss on the headstock and fretboard. The back of the neck feels great and doesn’t get gummy with sweat, but while the gloss ’board looks cool, I found the shiny lacquer a bit sticky when doing heavy string bending. The comfortable neck profile is a slightly chunky C-shape, thinner than a ’50s Tele’s, but a touch meatier than a ’60s Strat’s.
Beautifully installed and highly polished, the stellar frets, coupled with a medium radius and rolled fretboard edges, make for a very comfortable player’s guitar. The 60th Anniversary Tele arrived with a rulerflat neck and very low action (a" at the 21st fret), and played well without buzzing, but I found such low action uncomfortable for bending. After dialing in a little relief with the included trussrod tool (no need to remove the neck), the factory setup otherwise proved outstanding— especially the intonation afforded by the Strat-style bentsteel saddles.
Plugged into a ’67 Super Reverb, the 60th Anniversary sounded clear and twangy, but with enough girth and low-end punch to rock out mightily. Teles are renowned for their versatility, and the 60th gives off a sky’s-thelimit vibe that inspired me to veer between chicken-pickin’ country, swinging jazz, and Keef-approved sus4 stabs.
The American Vintage Tele single-coils are wired to a standard 3-way switch and Volume control, but the Tone circuit is a No-Load type. This means it’s completely removed from the circuit when dialed full up, which coaxes slightly more presence from the pickups. It’s an interesting choice for a guitar known for its brightness and snap, but I found the extra sheen usable and not ice-picky, and you can easily get a more “vintage” tone by rolling back the Tone knob.
The modern-style tuners—staggered to balance the tension at the nut—held tune well, even after big bends and hard playing. But I found old-school behind-the-nut bends caused binding at the E/B string tree, so a vintage “button” tree might be better for true disciples of Gatton and Buchanan.
Given how popular the Telecaster remains today, it’s easy to forget Leo Fender’s classic design was born back when television was cutting-edge technology. If you’re looking for a great-sounding and great-playing guitar that will probably still look cool on stage in another 60 years, it’s hard to go wrong with the 60th Anniversary Tele.
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Fender Pawnshop Series and 60th Anniversary Telecaster