Saturday, June 28, 2014

1994 Fender Japan Telecaster TL52-80SPL Keith Richards Micawber Model


Today we are looking at another fine example of the wonderful instruments that come from Fender’s Japanese subsidiary. And, like many of them, it is not imported to the United States.

It is a super-rare TL52-80SPL '52 Reissue Telecaster that was crafted by Fender Japan Custom Shop. Hallelujah, it is a Keith Richards signature Micawber model! Buying one of these would save a fellow a lot of trouble if he is in a Rolling Stones tribute band. This one was built in 1994, in case you are keeping score at home.

This guitar is expertly crafted with a white ash body that is sprayed with a light Butterscotch Blonde finish, so that the grain shines through. In real life, the finish is a bit lighter than the US Made ‘52 re-issues. It is at least a shade or two lighter, and is closer to the way the finishes came from the factory in the early 50s. It comes with a single-ply flat black pickguard.

The neck has a chunky C profile with a deep nitro tint, and vintage frets. A 50’s type spaghetti logo is used on the headstock. Gotoh tuners are used on these Fender Japan Custom Shop models for their stability, but unfortunately do not fit the theme of this guitar. A four-bolt F-stamped plate holds the neck to the body.

The bridge is machined from a block of brass, with six solid brass saddles (one more than Keith’s). It makes a huge difference in the tone of the guitar. If you want to be Keith, you are going to have to lose one of those strings, you know.

This SPL model comes with a Fender humbucker at the neck and a traditional vintage single coil at the bridge. I have heard from my guitar sources in Japan that the pickup used in the neck position is actually a Gibson PAF '57 reissue humbucker. I cannot verify this, but it looks like one too. It certainly has that Gibson humbucker sound.

The craftsmanship on this guitar was probably outstanding when it was new, but 20 years of hard use have given it a well-worn vintage vibe. As it is, the original frets are still good, and it is a marvelous playing guitar that sounds amazing.

Too bad that you will never see one of these at your local Guitar Center.


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