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Road Worn 50's Tele Review

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
I spent a good bit of time recently playing a new blonde, ash-bodied "Road Worn 50's Tele" through a Deluxe Reverb at Guitar Center.


Let me start this review with two qualifiers:
  1. I do not "get" relics. Nothing personal against those who play 'em, but I'm old enough and play out often enough to wear out my own guitars, and don't see a lot of value in accelerating that process.
  2. So you know I have some background for this review, The last Tele I owned was an awesome guitar, a Fender Japan, ash-bodied, feather-lite, 50's Tele with a custom wound set of flat-pole-bridge, Broadcaster pickups which were hand made by the late WL "Van" Van Zandt (we miss you, Van). I sold the guitar in a moment of weakness; What, like you've never done something completely stupid before?
So the first of two similar Teles I picked up had a terrible setup, with a severely bowed neck and visually uneven frets, so I put it back on the rack. Note to Fender guys: I understand that there is some readjustment necessary after the initial factory setup, and sometimes shipping a guitar to different climates and altitudes can affect setup, but how much trouble would it be to at least attempt to get a good straight neck starting point at the factory?

Then I picked up the other one. First impression, good setup, easy to play, action low but not too low, but what really impressed me was the acoustic sound of the guitar. Very rich and resonant wood tone unplugged. Hmmm... This is promising.

So I plugged it into a reissue Deluxe Reverb, not my favorite of the reissues, but a known entity. Turned the amp up loud enough to get a little punch, set treble and bass in the middle and turned off the reverb, which always seems to get in the way of an accurate assesment of tone for both guitars and amps.

First impression plugged in: Wow. Second impression: More wow.

The aforementioned wood tone of this guitar really translates well through the amp. I mean really translates, so much that after trying every pickup and volume setting, I flat out DID NOT want to put this guitar down.

Speaking of the pickups, these cheap Tex Mex Tele pickups are actually pretty cool, vintage sounding pickups, with plenty of Tele honk and bite, but with the warmth of my old Van Zandt Broadcaster style pickups. I began to wonder if the Tex Mex's flat bridge pole pieces were an intentional Broadcaster design nod.

Compared to every other production Fender Tele I've picked up since selling mine a couple years ago, this is the first real winner that measures up, maybe even surpasses the one I let get away.

I finally had to put the guitar down, but not easily. Have you ever picked up a store guitar and immediately started running through a list of inventory of gear to sell in your mind, in order to finance it?

And maybe because I don't get relics, or maybe because this is just a crappy mass produced rellc job, this seemed like a particularly ugly guitar to me, and I don't care. It just played and sounded awesome.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
Cool review. You need to go get it! The next one might suck. That happened to me with a nocaster back in '02. I hate teles, but it's still with me and sounds so good. Teles are ugly and I even got one in an ugly color but it sounds and feels so good.

The strats are like this too, the nice resonance makes them sound pretty good. I don't think it's the Tex Mex pickups. More about the wood and natural tone of the guitars coming through, like you talked about. The same Tex Mex pickups in all the other MIM guitars don't sound like that either. What's really different other than the nitro finish that gives these that nice woody resonance that even the USA guitars don't have?
 

bobbypols

Member
Messages
182
I played a strat in the store for a bit. It felt familiar and comfortable for sure. 2 grips are that it didnt seem as resonant as i expected, and the frets were too sharp at the edges of the fret board. File those babies down a bit and its easily comparable with a americaan strat.
 
Messages
48
Good Review. reminds me of me basically

The night before I purchased my road worn, I was talking w/ my wife about how ugly i thought it was, expensive and how I could buy a highway one for cheaper blah blah

Next day GC was having a sale so I popped into 2 of there stores just browsing.

To make a long story short I played a bunch of Tele's (Highway one, American Standard, American Deluxe, Mexican Standard, Squiers, Nashvilles) Then I figured I would give the road worn a shot. I had the budget for a American Deluxe but it just didnt speak to me no matter how much I loved how it looked. I picked up the guitar and was like hmmmmmmm very light. Then I played it and it was very resonant. the neck felt VERY nice. That was one of the things that swayed me the most. It was in need of a setup but thats an easy fix. I plugged it in to a epiphone valve junior (b/c I own the amp and I wanted a real world comparison). It sounded great on all positions. I ended up taking it home after It was offered at a price in which I couldnt really turn it down ( I would have payed 949 for it though) .

So yes, I came home that night and basically told my wife. Let me insert my foot into my mouth b/c look what I bought.
 

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
Cool review. You need to go get it! The next one might suck. That happened to me with a nocaster back in '02. I hate teles, but it's still with me and sounds so good. Teles are ugly and I even got one in an ugly color but it sounds and feels so good.

The strats are like this too, the nice resonance makes them sound pretty good. I don't think it's the Tex Mex pickups. More about the wood and natural tone of the guitars coming through, like you talked about. The same Tex Mex pickups in all the other MIM guitars don't sound like that either. What's really different other than the nitro finish that gives these that nice woody resonance that even the USA guitars don't have?
I really don't know if it's the nitro that does it at all, since I read where the nitro may be applied over a urethane base.

As far as MIM guitars go, my experience is they're all over the map in tonal quality. I've played some low enders that KILLED, including a couple Jimmy Vaughan Strats, and others just kinda laid there.
 

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
I played a strat in the store for a bit. It felt familiar and comfortable for sure. 2 grips are that it didnt seem as resonant as i expected, and the frets were too sharp at the edges of the fret board. File those babies down a bit and its easily comparable with a americaan strat.
The first RW Tele I picked up had the same problem with fret tangs. No such problem on the second one, though.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
It wouldn't detour me at all if I came across one with sharp edges. All it means is the wood is dry and shrunk and once you file them down, you'll never worry about it again. If you get one that doesn't have it, you might still have those sharp edges next week or next winter..

I've read many complaints about the sharp edges, but people don't seem to realize there's less finish on the necks, that means the wood is more prone to environment. espcially when the guitar still thinks it's a tree. Simple fix.
 

rhinocaster

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,378
I really don't know if it's the nitro that does it at all, since I read where the nitro may be applied over a urethane base.

As far as MIM guitars go, my experience is they're all over the map in tonal quality. I've played some low enders that KILLED, including a couple Jimmy Vaughan Strats, and others just kinda laid there.
I haven't seen anything that indicates that Fender is using a poly base with these guitars. On the ash Tele you can see lots of finish sink that you don't get with the poly base AV series.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
I don't really care if they have a poly base or not. The thing that makes me think it's like a highway with a clear sealer is that the wood is so clean looking. When people relic their highways it looks exactly like these road worns. The bare wood areas look so clean and new. Plus the flat finish. At first I thought they were just using finished highway bodies, but the MIM's have those extra holes on the bodies and the HW's don't.

Only thing I'm bummed about is I can't use a USA trem on one : (
 

ford

Modz
Staff member
Messages
13,891
I tried several of the teles.... just couldn't connect with them.... I don't mind relic'd guitars at all.... BUT I can see these are a good idea for Fender.

Having played a lot of made in Mexico Fenders.. the quality can move from poor to great..... I know there are going to be some really cool roadworn strats and teles.. you'll just have to play and find the one that speaks to you. I wouldn't order one or buy one without playing it first...
 

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
I tried several of the teles.... just couldn't connect with them.... I don't mind relic'd guitars at all.... BUT I can see these are a good idea for Fender.

Having played a lot of made in Mexico Fenders.. the quality can move from poor to great..... I know there are going to be some really cool roadworn strats and teles.. you'll just have to play and find the one that speaks to you. I wouldn't order one or buy one without playing it first...
Yep. I saw a huge swing in quality just between two examples.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
Messages
18,611
A very similar thing happened to me yesterday at Daves.

I went in just to look around. I saw the 50's Roadworn with the white pickguard and tried it out. It played A LOT like my buddy's Cunetto Relic. A lot. Plugged it in, it sounded a lot like his '97 Relic.

So I had to buy it. I can't put it down now.

This thing just oozes Redd V.
 

Jellecaster

Member
Messages
184
I hate teles, but it's still with me and sounds so good. Teles are ugly and I even got one in an ugly color but it sounds and feels so good.
Teles are the single most beautiful, wonderful, awesome things that man has ever created.

Just had to get that in!
 

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
I'm realy debating what to sell. An amp, a guitar? I don't really want to sell my old modded Epi Emperor II jazz box because I always play so much better on other guitars after home practice on that, with its thick flatwounds.

Don't really want to part with one of the two tweed Blues Jr's, either - they really sound good together, and 2 are much easier to lift than 1 larger amp.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
Messages
18,611
I'm realy debating what to sell. An amp, a guitar? I don't really want to sell my old modded Epi Emperor II jazz box because I always play so much better on other guitars after home practice on that, with its thick flatwounds.

Don't really want to part with one of the two tweed Blues Jr's, either - they really sound good together, and 2 are much easier to lift than 1 larger amp.
Well do what you gotta do, because once you find one that really "speaks to you" you have to leave the store with it.

I am probably going to move my '52 RI now to finance the RW.
 

gkoelling

Member
Messages
17,212
I'm realy debating what to sell. An amp, a guitar? I don't really want to sell my old modded Epi Emperor II jazz box because I always play so much better on other guitars after home practice on that, with its thick flatwounds.

Don't really want to part with one of the two tweed Blues Jr's, either - they really sound good together, and 2 are much easier to lift than 1 larger amp.
If you're married, sell something of your wifes.:)
 

Guitar Dave T

Member
Messages
10,707
Went back to GC and replayed the RW Tele. Definitely some very nice, organic tones, but at over $1,027 including tax, I cannot get my brain wrapped around a MIM Fender guitar, nitro or no nitro.

Of course today, the Hwy One USA guitars go up 30% (along with most everything else "Fender") to $975, or $1,055 after tax. The RW series will bot be going up - their pricing already takes the Fender price increase into account.

I have decided the best bet will be to wait and pick one up on the used market in 6 months.
 




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