Tag Archives: Vintage Fender

Fender Highway One Telecaster, Honey Blonde

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!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Francesca,” the LSL Saticoy

About one year ago I was on the hunt for the perfect Stratocaster.  Wanting something more unique than a brand new, stock Fender, and not wanting to spend a fortune on a real vintage Strat, I was checking out boutique guitar makers like Nash Guitars and Mike Lull Custom Guitars.  Then, during a lesson with guitar great Carl Verheyen, he recommended a local company called LSL Instruments.  He was a big fan of their guitars, and told me to contact Lance, the owner of LSL.

So I called up Lance about getting a guitar, and he recommended I come by the factory.  I live in West LA, so it was about a 20 minute drive to Van Nuys where I pulled up in front of the understated LSL headquarters.  Hanging outside was a group of guys, all clad in work clothes and covered in paint and sawdust, the kind of crew that reminded me of my grandfather and his bronze casting foundry.  Out of the bunch came an older gentleman, Lance, who greeted me and led me on a tour of the factory.

Inside, the place even looked liked my grandfather’s foundry – raw materials, tools, paints, chemicals, interesting smells.  Lance explained that he and the crew make everything (except for some plastic and metal components) in house.  They shape the bodies and necks from raw wood.  They cut the pick guards, and lay the frets. They hand wind their pickups, mix their own custom paint colors and do their own aging.  Basically, this small, in house operation is the closest thing to what I’d imagine a pre-CBS Fender factory to be like.  Pretty cool!

Needless to say, I was completely sold.  This was definitely the company that could deliver that ideal Strat – and I loved that I knew exactly where and who it was coming from.  Lance and the crew gathered up a few various guitars and had me plug into a Bogner amp, testing all of the different combinations of elements.  LSL offers bodies made of Swamp Ash, Alder and Pine – yes, Pine.  They have the option of 50s or 60s wound PUs, Maple or Rosewood Necks, and various neck shapes, widths and radius options.  They also have an essentially unlimited amount of finish colors and designs, done to your liking, complete with Nitro Cellulose Lacquer and topped off with a signature aging process.

That day I was playing a lot of Eric Johnson and Carl Verheyen inspired, intervallic rock type licks – and this is what I ultimately hoped to do with the axe.  Upon hearing this, the crew recommended the following combo: Pine Body, 60s PUs, and Rosewood Neck.  Unable to take orders directly, Lance sent me down the street to California Vintage Guitars where I placed my order.  I opted for a thick, V-shaped neck, minimum aging (LSL requires some amount) and a Surf Green finish – The Strat of my dreams!

Long story, made somewhat shorter, about 8 weeks later my guitar was ready.  I picked it up from CVG and was stunned.  There she was, “Francesca” (LSL gives all their guitars a woman’s name with  a name tag on the neck plate).  The Pine body is so lightweight, the guitar easily weighs under 6 lbs – built for the stage. The NC Lacquer allows the guitar to vibrate with the strings, giving it a very “live” feel.  And the PUs perfectly capture that hand wound vintage sound.  Ultimately, it’s an awesome guitar, and as close as you can come to a vintage Strat without breaking the bank!

LSL has been on a steady rise ever since.  They now have a Carl Verheyen signature model, and an ever expanding list of distributors, where you can purchase already crafted guitars or place a custom order.  LSL models include the Saticoy (Stratocaster), the T-Bone (Telecaster) and the newest addition, the Topanga ( Les Paul Jr. Double Cutaway).  For more info check out the LSL Instruments website.

“Never sell a guitar, that you don’t want to keep.’ – LSL Instruments

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
Advertisements