For his farewell column, Richie Owens tells the story of his dad’s exceptional Fender, from arrival to unsavory departure to return.
This is my last Vintage Vault column, so I want to finish with a story about a guitar near and dear to my heart: my father’s 1960 Fender Custom Telecaster.
The Fender Custom Telecaster was first offered at the NAMM show in 1959, and its initial full year of production was 1960. It came with an ash body, a maple neck, and Fender’s famed slab-rosewood fretboard, which is considered very desirable. This fretboard was only available from 1958 to August 1962. Sunburst was the model’s original standard finish, but other colors were also available, and my dad’s came in red with white binding.
My father, Louis Owens, purchased his 1960 Custom Tele in 1962 from a friend who needed cash to pay his family’s bills, for the princely sum of $75. The instrument had a slight burn mark on the front of the body that made it identifiable. (This is what we call foreshadowing.) Oddly, the last of its six Kluson tuners was plastic instead of metal, but it had a chrome coating.
When Louis Owens purchased this guitar in 1962, it had a red finish with white binding. After it returned to our columnist, it was given a facelift in tobacco burst, a new bridge, and rope-style binding.
This guitar floated around my house, mostly unused, for years until I got interested in playing electric guitar as a teen. But at that age, I wanted something more rock ’n’ roll looking, so I went to a music store here in Nashville, where I saw a low-priced Les Paul I was interested in trying. The store wanted some collateral to let me take the guitar home to try it, so I brought the Tele in for them to hold while I tried the Les Paul out for the weekend. (You might see where this is going.)
I was so upset by this rip-off that I told all my friends at other music stores in town about what had happened and gave them all the serial number of the Tele.
I didn’t like that Les Paul, so I brought it back on Monday to get my Telecaster back. They informed me that wasn’t the deal: It was a swap, and they had already sold my guitar. Of course, I was devastated, and being young and inexperienced I just accepted that the guitar was gone. I walked away like a safe was on my shoulders. I was so upset by this rip-off that I told all my friends at other music stores in town about what had happened and gave them all the serial number of the Tele.
A marker of this guitar’s rarity is the location of the serial number, stamped at the bottom of the neck-joint cover. It is among the first 25 examples of this model ever made.
Fast-forward 11 years. I got a call from a friend that worked at Gruhn Guitars who said he believed he’d found my dad’s Telecaster. I went down to the shop to verify the guitar, and sure enough it was my dad’s 1960 Custom. Unfortunately, the guitar had already been sold. It made me very sad to get that close, but Gruhn’s told me they would give the buyer my information and explain what had happened in case he ever wanted to sell it. About six months passed, and I got a call from the buyer. He’d found a 1952 Fender Telecaster he was interested in and wanted to sell me the 1960. He even offered it to me for $1,000 less than what he paid, so he could quickly get money to buy that ’52 Tele. I immediately reached out to family members to put the money together to get the guitar back, and it was soon mine again.
Some years later, I went to work for Gibson in California as the product specialist and development manager for the Dobro guitar company, which they’d purchased. The Fender Custom Shop was just down the road, and we occasionally swapped parts for different projects. (They were trying to make Telecaster-style resonator guitars.) I became friends with Fred Stuart, one of the master luthiers at the Custom Shop. He had just done his now-famous herringbone Telecaster and was looking for other types of binding. Dobro had moved into using rope binding, in the style of Weissenborn guitars from the 1920s, and Fred wanted some. So, I asked him if he’d help restore my dad's Custom Telecaster, which had a lot of wear.
The 61-year-old pickups on this Tele have produced tones for Vince Gill, Albert Lee, and James Burton, and appeared on various recordings by Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau.
Since he was interested in rope binding for Telecasters, we decided to do it to my guitar. We changed the finish to a tobacco burst, which was painted at the Dobro factory to save money. Fred also did some research on the guitar, which has its serial number stamped on the bottom of the plate. That’s rare—only a very few Fender Custom Telecasters made in late 1959 and early 1960 have this. He found it was one of the first 25. He also put new-old-stock pots in, replacing the scratchy originals, and added a better-intonated Danny Gatton 3-piece bridge. We also added an NOS headstock logo.
The results were amazing, and I’ve been lucky to have three of my Tele heroes—James Burton, Albert Lee, and Vince Gill—say it’s one of the best Telecasters they’ve ever played, with lots of clarity, definition, snap, and gorgeous midrange. I will never part with this guitar, accidentally or on purpose, again—even though I’ve seen 1960 Custom Teles listed for more than $30,000 and much higher.
Thanks for sharing this column with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my 6-string stories as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.