Fender Road Worn ’72 Telecaster Custom and ’72 Telecaster Deluxe
Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
The ’72 Road Worn Telecaster Custom and ’72 Road Worn Telecaster Deluxe are great axes for players who love the worn-in vibe of a vintage instrument and want something a little different from the norm.
While the Standard Telecaster reigns as one of the most popular solidbody guitars of all time, Fender’s humbucker-equipped Telecaster variations—like the Custom and Deluxe, both introduced in 1972—have more of a cult following. However, both models have found favor with great players who don’t always run with the herd. Keith Richards is one of a handful of guitarists who adopted the Telecaster Custom and its unique humbucker neck/single-coil bridge configuration, while Thom Yorke, Lee Ranaldo and Dave Grohl count among the dual-humbucker Telecaster Deluxe’s devoted fans.
Fender recently added Telecaster Custom and Deluxe models to its expanding, popular line of Road Worn guitars, which have the aged look and worn-in feel of a well-loved battle-ax. Both models are relatively accurate reproductions of the original versions, but they sell for three to four times less than what you’d pay for their vintage counterparts.
The Road Worn ’72 Telecaster Custom and ’72 Telecaster Deluxe share several features, such as an alder body in the traditional Tele single-cutaway shape, one-piece maple neck, Seventies-style three-bolt neck plate with Micro-Tilt adjustment, bullet truss rod, three-position pickup selector on the upper bout, and individual volume and tone controls for each pickup instead of the master volume and tone found on a traditional Tele. The differences include the single-coil bridge/humbucker neck configuration on the Custom model and dual-humbucker configuration on the Deluxe, a large Seventies-style Strat headstock on the Deluxe compared to the thin traditional Tele headstock on the Custom, and a rosewood fingerboard on the Custom compared to the Deluxe’s maple fingerboard.
Both guitars are sprayed with a thin lacquer finish, which, combined with exposed wood from the Road Worn relic’ing process, results in very lively, resonant and responsive tone. Both necks feature a C-shaped profile, 25 1/2–inch scale, and 21 medium frets, but the Deluxe has a flat 12-inch radius while the Custom has a more rounded 7 1/2–inch radius. The Deluxe has a Strat-style through-body hard-tail bridge with six adjustable saddles, and the Custom features a vintage-style Tele bridge with three adjustable saddles.
Keith Richards fans are certain to gravitate toward the Road Worn Telecaster Custom, which looks almost identical to the black 1975 Tele Custom that he often plays in concert. While previous Road Worn models have included several modern “hot-rodded” enhancements, those modifications are absent and missed on the Tele Custom. Fender opted for vintage-style frets, which are lower profiled, thinner and an acquired taste along with the Custom’s 7 1/2–inch curved radius, but then again, this ax is for players who are already familiar with vintage guitars. The single-coil Tele bridge pickup provides more jangle than twang, but the neck humbucker is a welcome addition that gives added punch to open G–tuning rhythms.
The Deluxe has medium jumbo frets, but they are a little on the small side. However, the flatter 12-inch radius feels good under the fingers. The pair of humbuckers gives the guitar attractive fat tone that’s almost like single-coil P90 pickups but with a little more weight. This is a great guitar for pounding out “wall of sound” rhythms (no wonder so many rhythm guitarists have leaned toward this model), but it also holds its own quite nicely for lead players who desire bold, aggressive tones for solos.
I’m not sure why Fender decided to revive the much-disparaged three-bolt Micro-Tilt neck mounting design, but the neck felt solid and secure throughout my trials, and the tonal benefits outweigh the initial set-up hassles.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The ’72 Road Worn Telecaster Custom and ’72 Road Worn Telecaster Deluxe are great axes for players who love the worn-in vibe of a vintage instrument and want something a little different from the norm. The tones of these guitars have as much character as their used-and-abused styling.
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