al­ter­na­tive tonewoods, un­ortho­dox fin­ish and a stet­son on the head­stock. What does it add up to? a clas­sic tele... Find out why inside

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Neville Marten Pho­tog­ra­phy Neil God­win

when your name’s Pais­ley and you’re a coun­try su­per­star who’s been play­ing the socks off Fender Te­les all your life, it seems per­fectly fit that the com­pany and the man should get to­gether to pro­duce a sig­na­ture ‘pais­ley’ style guitar. Of course, ‘pais­ley-ised’ Te­les are no new thing – Brad has been play­ing an orig­i­nal pink ’68 model for years, as well as sev­eral stylised cus­tom ver­sions. But one of many things we like about this one is the fact that for his main­stream model Brad has gone down the af­ford­able Road Worn route rather than opt­ing for a big-ticket Mas­ter Built Cus­tom Shop job.

“The thing I’m proud­est about this guitar,” he af­firms, “is that it’s rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive for young guitar play­ers.” He’s also happy to point out how in­volved he was in other as­pects of its de­sign. “I picked ev­ery­thing from the wood the body is made of, to the pickup rat­ing, neck size and shape. It’s based on a ’63 Tele that I had, which was re­fin­ished this colour; I then made a pick­guard for it. And Fender said, ‘Oh, we’ll make a bunch of these,’” grins Pais­ley, proudly of his cre­ation.

So what’s dif­fer­ent about this par­tic­u­lar Tele? Well, as we’ve said many times, the model’s sim­plis­tic de­sign – Brad calls it a “cut­ting board with a neck” – is the per­fect tem­plate for cus­tomi­sa­tion. Be that those pink pais­ley and blue flower mod­els from 1968, f-hole Thin­lines, bound-bod­ied Cus­toms, hum­buck­ing Deluxes, ex­otic tim­ber ver­sions such as the Ge­orge Har­ri­son rose­wood, a ma­hogany P-90 model, triple-pickup-plus-piezo Nashvilles and a host of oth­ers. Pais­ley’s Road Worn tells its own in­ter­est­ing story.

Brad wanted a light­weight guitar so opted for a core of solid paulow­nia with spruce top and back. Grow­ing in­cred­i­bly fast (paulow­nia saplings can gain seven feet in a sin­gle year), it makes for a most sus­tain­able tim­ber as it can also colonise dif­fi­cult ar­eas where other trees strug­gle. It’s also rather beau­ti­ful, with masses of lilac coloured, fox­glove-like flow­ers. The paulow­nia and spruce sand­wich makes for a supremely light, acous­ti­cally res­o­nant guitar.

Most ob­vi­ous to the eye, of course, is the sil­ver sparkle ni­tro fin­ish and clear plas­tic pick­guard with black and blue-grey pais­ley print­ing on the un­der­side. Up close it’s stun­ning, es­pe­cially un­der lights, although some of the ef­fect is lost from fur­ther away. Some relic’ing has been ap­plied: lac­quer check­ing and some fairly un­sub­tle fore­arm wear. But hey, it’s fac­tory made in Mex­ico and is not a £5k Mas­ter Built dream, so we’d say this is ac­cept­able, but per­haps ques­tion the need for age­ing at all.

Brad stip­u­lated that he wanted the neck to be fat and com­fort­able down at the nut end, for chords and all the speedy pulloffs that char­ac­terise his play­ing, but slim enough at the top for se­ri­ous coun­try wigouts. He also wanted the thinnest of fin­ishes (this one is oiled Road Worn) so it would wear through on the fret­board and round the back. A soft ‘V’ pro­file and Fender’s now al­most manda­tory 241mm (9.5-inch) ra­dius and medium-jumbo 6105 frets com­plete the pic­ture for an in­stru­ment de­signed for a very se­ri­ous player in­deed.

No cor­ners have been cut where the pick­ups are con­cerned, with Pais­ley in­sist­ing on a cus­tom wound ’64 Tele at the bridge and Twisted Tele at the neck. Con­trols are the usual mas­ter vol­ume and tone, plus three-way se­lec­tor.

While the bridge base is stan­dard vin­tage Tele, the com­pen­sat­ing sad­dles take care of any tun­ing is­sues as­so­ci­ated with ‘ash­tray’ bridges (T-lovers com­plain the ‘im­proved’ six-sad­dle setup doesn’t cut it, son­i­cally). Es­sen­tially, a small sec­tion of each brass bar­rel can be loos­ened and re­set us­ing a small hex screw. Al­most in­dis­cernible to the naked eye, it will be a wel­come in­clu­sion for those who can’t live with the Tele’s usual in­to­na­tion com­pro­mises.


Fender’s Road Worn 50s Tele­caster (£1,026) comes with maple neck, aged ni­tro­cel­lu­lose But­ter­scotch or Sun­burst fin­ished alder body, Tex-Mex pick­ups and 6105 medium-jumbo frets. For some­thing like the ‘real’ Pais­ley Tele for sim­i­lar money, Fender Ja­pan’s ‘Spe­cial Re­lease’ model (£999) is a take on the ’68 orig­i­nal that Brad calls his num­ber one. With alder body and pink, green and sil­ver ‘wall­pa­per’ fin­ish and clas­sic Tele lay­out, it’s a stun­ner! Fret-King’s JDD ‘Jerry Don­ahue’ Coun­try Squire (£899) hon­ours an­other great coun­try player. With bound ash top, alder body and Sey­mour Dun­can pick­ups, it’s a ver­sa­tile and af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive


As you can imag­ine, a guitar that looks like this is go­ing to be ravenously greeted in an of­fice full of play­ers. And af­ter be­ing grabbed by a va­ri­ety of gui­tarists, a straw poll gave this po­ten­tially po­lar­is­ing neck a big thumbs up. When per­form­ing open chords and those afore­men­tioned pulloffs to open strings, it’s help­ful to have some­thing to pivot against, so too much meat re­moved down there can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. How­ever, too fat at the top end can in­hibit free solo­ing, so in that sense this ‘pos­i­tive com­pro­mise’ re­ally works. Of course, it’s not just a coun­try guitar – none of the play­ers here that tried it and loved it are coun­try gui­tarists; it works for any­thing you throw at it (Jeff Beck would mur­der it!).

Brad has been us­ing the guitar live, so watch­ing a few YouTube clips should con­firm our find­ings that it’s dark, pow­er­ful and full of huge Tele tone. The bridge ’64 has a gutsy bark that rev­els in over­drive but cleans up beau­ti­fully. Over at the neck, the Twisted Tele sin­gle coil pro­vides ev­ery­thing

from smooth jazz to sub-Ste­vie Ray blues – it cer­tainly gave our Cus­tom Shop Strat with Fender Fat 60s pick­ups a run for its money! The sur­prise here, though, was the mid­dle po­si­tion: while neck and bridge are dark, pow­er­ful and woody, set the se­lec­tor in cen­tre po­si­tion and it goes re­ally hol­low and twangy, for a com­pletely new voice that does ev­ery­thing from dirty funk to Johnny Cash ‘ricky-tick’ rhythm. A fab­u­lous sound­ing, im­mensely ver­sa­tile in­stru­ment.


Oc­ca­sion­ally when fa­mous play­ers get in­volved in cre­at­ing ‘artist’ in­stru­ments, the out­come is based on per­sonal quirks rather than the de­sire to make a great guitar that any­one can use. How­ever, Brad Pais­ley’s Road Worn Tele is one of those oc­ca­sions where their in­put re­sults in a real work­horse in­stru­ment – al­beit one with its fair share of bling. And while we were un­sure at first, the guitar’s look has re­ally grown on us; the pick­guard’s pais­ley art­work is ac­tu­ally rather sub­tle and the sil­ver sparkle com­ing through cre­ates a unique look. We even like Brad’s ‘Stet­son’ logo on the head­stock.

What­ever you think of its liv­ery, as a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment it’s hard to fault. Brad’s choice of the un­usual paulow­nia and spruce ‘sand­wich’ body is in­spired. It weighs next to noth­ing, seems son­i­cally in­ert so the pick­ups’ and strings’ sound is largely un­coloured by a par­tic­u­lar wood’s ‘tone’, and it plays great straight out of its gig­bag. Also, given its sus­tain­abil­ity and the guitar maker’s never-end­ing quest for new tim­bers, we can see paulow­nia ap­pear­ing on other mod­els in fu­ture.

Street­ing for around the magic grand means it’s an af­ford­able ‘proper’ mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, too, and one that could ex­cel in any num­ber of mu­si­cal set­tings, cer­tainly not just coun­try. Although cur­rently lim­ited edi­tion, should it prove suc­cess­ful (and we have no doubt it will), it would be great to see the range ex­panded with other sparkle colours and per­haps a pau ferro (Fender’s new ‘rose­wood’) fingerboard. All in all, this is a col­lab­o­ra­tion that’s re­ally worked, and you can’t say fairer than that.

1. The body relic’ing on the Road Worn isn’t the sub­tlest we’ve seen, but it def­i­nitely adds the well-played vibe sought by Brad 2. A white hat by John B Stet­son is a Brad Pais­ley sig­na­ture; we rather like the stylised logo with pais­ley de­sign wo­ven...





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