Harley Benton pays tribute to Keith Richards’ Fender “Micawber” Telecaster with $253 ash-bodied model

Harley Benton TE-53KR
(Image credit: Harley Benton)

Not too long ago, Harley Benton sought to tempt Jim Root fans by unveiling the JA-20HH Active SBK – a stealthy, $166 offset that looked to be modeled after the Slipknot axeslinger’s Fender Jazzmaster signature guitar.

Now, the champion of affordable electric guitars has set its sights on reeling in players from the opposite end of the six-string spectrum with its TE-53KR: a $253 model that takes inspiration from Keith Richards’ Fender “Micawber” 1954 Telecaster.

The TE-53KR certainly wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and though there is no official word to confirm or deny it, we have a sneaky suspicion we know what the “KR” part of that product name stands for.

Regardless, it looks to be another well-equipped, affordable variant of a popular model, with the TE-53KR scoring top marks as far as aesthetics are concerned: road wear and stage scars aside, the guitar flashes an appropriate gold bridge plate and Butterscotch Blonde-esque colorway, and swaps out the Telecaster’s usual neck single-coil for a humbucking alternative.

Build-wise, the guitar – which also carries a very faint whiff of Joe Bonamassa’s Nocaster Bludgeon signature model – features an ash body and bolt-on caramelized Canadian maple neck, the latter of which carries a wide C profile.

Other functional appointments include a modern 12” radius, 21 medium jumbo frets and black dot inlays, as well as a one-ply black pickguard that houses the previously mentioned humbucker.

Said humbucker is a Tesla Opus-4 Alnico 4 vintage pickup, which lines up alongside a Tesla Opus-TE Alnico 5 single coil. The controls are – just like the Micawber – housed on a conventional chrome-plated layout, and comprise volume and tone knobs and a pickup selector switch.

Harley Benton’s TE-53KR also flashes Kluson-style tuners and a double-action truss rod.

Though there are a number of obvious differences between the TE-53KR and the Micawber, it looks to at least be a faithful aesthetic recreation of Richards’ original, which was gifted to the Rolling Stones guitarist by Eric Clapton in December 1970.

Richards retrofitted the guitar with its neck '50s Gibson PAF humbucker and used the Micawber for many of his most famous open-tuning songs – such as Before They Make Me Run, Brown Sugar and Honky Tonk Women – and affectionately gave it the name “Micawber” after a character from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.

Other notable quirks of Richards' original include the lack of a low E string to accommodate the five-string "Keef tuning" and two additional bridge plate screws, which haven't been replicated on the Harley Benton model.

Back in 2002, Richards told Guitar World all about Micawber and his affinity for the Tele, explaining, “Of all the guitars, the Telecaster really lent itself well to a dry, rhythm, five-string drone thing. In a way that tuning kept me developing as a guitarist.”

The TE-53KR will be available for $253.

Head over to Harley Benton to find out more.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.