Monday, 20 December 2010

Project parts, museum piece or pile of poo?

This really is, from the sublime to the ubiquitous. After Bertram's post about Franck Cheval's works of Lutherial art, here is the the most commonplace of guitars - a Telecaster copy. Not only is it a Tele copy but it's not even a very good one. I'm posting this Lero Telecaster copy, not because I think it's cool (although I do) nor because it's rare or unusual (it's not), but really because it raises a few questions about buying (especially cheapo) old guitars.

What do you do with a guitar that's seen better days, was never that great shakes in the first place and has been carefully hand painted in Hammerite by a previous owner. You call it "Exceedingly rare" and put it on eBay with a laughable starting price. As something is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it, this is definitely one of those items that will define its own value.

I actually do quite like the look of it and as a twenty quid bootsale jobbie, it would be great for chucking around the stage in a fug-out-psyco-jam or maybe for a two chord garage-punky-reggae-party-bop, whichever is your wont. It's already pretty singed around the edges so you wouldn't fret too much if it acquired an extra ding or two. It even has the curvy bridge plate like some of the older Fender Teles, which is nice.

It has a basswood body, which is (as I understand) cheap and cheerful AND very resonant. That means, of course, there are two divided basswood camps. One lot think it's cheap and therefore it's junk (I read in forum that someone had bought a guitar but didn't like the basswood [or as he called it - firewood] body so intended to chuck it and buy a Warmoth body). The other lot like its resonance and think that's what makes it a good material for guitars. I don't know enough to get into the debate.

I did some Googling over this and found one or two people who liked them but mostly were talking about changing various parts.

Me, I'm going to buy a Squier Affinity Tele - after Christmas when everyone is desperate to offload their stock/unwanted Chrissie pressies - and a tin of Hammerite and swap out whatever pickups come with it for some Hagstrom Futurama pickups that I've had in a box for the last 15 years. I think then I too will have an exceedingly rare guitar. This is not entirely untrue so don't think me a cynical old Hector.

Over the years, questions, comments and observations have popped up concerning various - often cult - copies, and even Fender's own copies of their own guitars i.e. MIJ, MIM, HCIJ/C/K (handcrafted in Japan/China/Korea), Made in Indonesia, and Made in the USA. Plus, there's a slew of quality copies that way out-spec fender. Then there's these... 60s, 70s, 80s copies that employ the cheapest materials, components and production standards to make something that's superficially (from a distance, with the lights down) like the real thing.

Their primary value seems to be nostalgia, which is scary - in a Harley Davidson way or a harking back to simpler times (which is... er... nostalgia).

We read so often about vintage guitars, effects, valve amps vs other technologies (spit) computers (bah!), about tone monsters and holy grails, about rewinding old (sorry vintage) bobbins with Leo Fender's virgin Grannie's pubic hair and dipping them in Appalachian earwax. What do people think? Are we kidding ourselves? Without even referencing this particular example, are we preserving a past that only existed in our (rock star) dreams? Were those crude, cheap, knock off guitars really better than what's available today? Have we become obsessed with the past at the expense of now? Do we know it's Christmas?

David in Barcelona

Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!


  1. I've had three of these Tele "copies" (using the term loosely) and liked all three. Two were in better condition than this Lero, but one was much worse. One played and sounded as good as any real Tele, one was close, one was not so pleasant to hear through an amp. Now that I'm no longer buying and selling, I'd consider keeping one if I came across it. As for this one, I would clean it up as possible and save it for posterity.

    1. I had one too, and it played and sounded great. I sold it to a girl in France who paid double what it cost me because she wanted to replace a similar guitar she'd had years before.



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