Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1987 Fender Japan Keith Richards Sonny TL67-70SPL Telecaster Review


Here is another guitar from Fender’s Japanese affiliate that you will not see every day, a rare 1967 Reissue Keith Richards signature Sonny Telecaster, model TL67-70SPL. Of course, Keith’s is a 1966 Tele, but it is hard to get everything right…

The serial number on this had an E-prefix, and it is marked “Made in Japan,” which dates this one to around 1987. This is one of the earliest ones of these that I have seen.

TL67-70SPL can be decoded as follows: TL = Telecaster, 67 = 1967 re-issue, 70 = original price (70,000 Yen), SPL = special build. This guitar is expertly crafted with a white ash body that has been sprayed with a 3-tone sunburst finish, so that the grain shines through. A single-ply black pickguard is mounted, and it provides a nice contrast. I am tempted to see how a tort guard would look, but this is how Keith’s is, and he knows best!

The neck has a medium C profile with vintage frets and there is a late 60’s type logo on the headstock. Gotoh tuners are used on these Fender Japan Custom Shop models for their stability, although they look out of place on this guitar. A four-bolt F-stamped plate holds the neck to the body. The signature feature of this guitar is that the bridge is machined from a block of brass, with six solid brass saddles. It makes a huge difference in the tone of the guitar. I am sticking with normal tuning, not the 5-string open G that Keith uses, so there are still six saddles on this instrument.

On to the pickups: this one uses a Fender humbucker at the neck and a traditional vintage single coil at the bridge. The pickup used in the neck position has that Gibson PAF '57 reissue humbucker sound. On all of these the bridge pickup is a bit weaker than the neck, but this particular guitar seems a little worse. I am going to have to chase that down to see if it can be improved.

The craftsmanship on this guitar is impeccable. The fretwork and nut-detailing are superb. The neck pocket fit is as tight as they come. There is a good reason that these guitars were not exported to the US, as they are a tough act to beat. Of course, this guitar is 20+ years old, and it shows some honest wear, but it is still quite handsome (and it is not nearly so beat up as Keef’s).

It plays as nicely as it looks as the frets and neck are still very serviceable, and I have it set up with 0.010 Slinkies. After I look into the electronics situation I will get back to you all to let you know how it turned out.


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