The Fender Telecaster is one of the most iconic guitars in history. From Keith Richards to Bruce Springsteen to Joe Strummer to George Harrison, no player can resist its unique allure. Able to function equally well in country, rock, jazz and blues, the Tele knows no boundaries. In good company, I too was taken in by its siren song , and have been under its spell ever since . . .
Not long ago, Fall 2009 to be exact, I began to get serious about collecting guitars. Like most beginning collectors, I wanted to start with the basics – and there is none more basic than the Fender Stratocaster. So, I began my journey by purchasing a Fender Highway One Series Stratocaster. Smitten with my acquisition, I soon decided to move on to the second collection essential – the Telecaster. Just a few months later I went window shopping on the historic West 48th street in New York City, and a quick dip into Sam Ash resulted in the second addition to my budding collection.
The Fender Highway One series is(was) a unique transitional series for the Fender corporation. Although still available, the HWY 1 is on its way out, and will soon be completely discontinued (or more appropriately, replaced by the American Special series). The idea behind this slew of guitars was to make an affordable, entry level, USA-made Fender guitar. Most guitar players are aware of the great discrepancy between an American-made Fender and a Mexican-made Fender, but for those unaware, generally there is a huge difference in materials, craftsmanship, overall quality and most importantly, holding of value. Although Mexican-made Fenders are cheaper, they depreciate drastically upon purchase, and are typically sub-par instruments, while American-made Fenders hold value and are of higher quality, they are upwards of $1000. To bridge the gap, Fender created the HWY 1 series – American-made guitars at approximately $700.
The Fender HWY 1 Tele is modeled after the 1970s Fender aesthetic. It has classic block lettering on the headstock, and a vintage styled bridge and saddles. The body is a huge hunk of Alder, there are 22 jumbo frets and a modern C-shaped neck. One of the coolest and most unique things about this model is its Satin Nitrocellulose lacquer finish. In congruence with vintage Fenders, this thin finish allows the body to breathe and vibrate with the strings, giving the guitar a more “live” feel. The finish color is Honey Blonde, and in combination with the NC lacquer, has translucence, allowing the body’s wood grain to show through. Ultimately, this guitar has the look and feel of a 1970s Tele, with modern playability and price tag.
I think this guitar is awesome. I have since sold my HWY 1 Strat, but I can’t part with the Tele – it feels like a worn in pair of shoes, fits like a glove, feels like butter, etc. It’s one of the most comfortable guitars I have ever played and the HWY 1 styling looks amazing. I use it as my travel guitar, and despite having been stowed away for thousands of miles, has never given me any problems. I have heard complaints about the finish wearing in too quickly, but personally I think its a perk, giving each individual instrument character (plus I love the “liveliness” of NC lacquer). You will notice that I have replaced the neck PU with a Lollar Charlie Christian PU – but I will save that for another review. Overall, I use this axe to play jazz, blues, country and solo chord-melody arrangements, and find its sounds and look continuously inspiring.
So go out and get one while they’re still available! As we all know, American made, discontinued Fenders can become pretty valuable over time – and why not get some quality playing with a great guitar in while you wait!