You might feel it’s a little odd that Fender released a range of guitars and basses to commemorate the formation of Leo’s company in 1946. After all, the first six-string didn’t materialize until 1950, and the equally radical four-string a year later.
Still, we’re always happy to see another twist on the ever-malleable Tele theme, since that’s the model we have for review. In fact, there are two 75th Anniversary Teles on offer: a £1,839 US-made version in 2-Color Bourbon Burst, and the more affordable one we have here, built in Mexico and finished in Diamond metallic with matching headstock.
Other instruments in the line-up include various Strats, plus Precision and Jazz basses. Instead of taking the vintage-correct route, Fender has if anything chosen to celebrate how the Telecaster’s seven-decades-old design has evolved to be more in keeping with what today’s players might prefer.
After all, not every guitarist hankers for micron-perfect recreations of ‘good old days’ guitars, and many have desired the exact mods that Fender has incorporated here.
So, what do we actually have? Well, it’s an alder-bodied, maple-necked Tele with standard post-’67 wiring of master volume and tone plus three-way pickup selector controlling a pair of vintage-style American-made single-coil pickups.
You’ll also notice the solid bridge plate with six block steel saddles, rather than the classic ashtray Tele bridge with three saddles that carry two strings each. The ‘ashtray’ was the almost-never-used cover, not the bridge and pickup housing plate itself.
Of course, those six individual saddles eradicate the intonation compromise inherent in the three-saddle original. It’s something that frustrates many Tele players, even though compensated saddles are readily available from Fender and others. On top of that, and just as interesting, is the 22-fret all-maple neck with 241mm (9.5-inch) fingerboard radius and medium jumbo wires.
As you’d imagine with a modern take on the septuagenarian beast, this Tele also features enclosed Schaller tuners, hex-key-adjustable truss rod socket at the headstock end, and the neck pickup adjustment screws visible rather than hidden beneath the pickguard as on vintage Fenders. There’s also a commemorative four-bolt 75th Anniversary neckplate to round things off.
As always with Fender Mexico, the finish is beautifully done, the polyester body in high-gloss metallic and the polyurethane-coated neck in silky smooth satin, which sits all but friction-free in the palm.
This Diamond Anniversary metallic lands somewhere between silver and gold to create an almost champagne color that changes depending on the light in which it’s viewed.
There’s an obvious if subtle sparkle under the poly gloss, and that’s going to really catch an audience’s eye under those super troupers! That the headstock is similarly finished lends a distinctly posh edge to this otherwise affordable model – it is under £900, after all.
Feel & Sounds
Fitted with what Fender describes as a ‘modern C profile’ neck, it’s certainly a welcoming place to visit. With a 1st fret depth of 21mm and 23mm at the 12th, it’s just a millimetre less at both points than this reviewer’s own Custom Shop Tele yet it feels markedly different. There’s a touch more ‘shoulder’ on the CS guitar, so the impression is of a much fatter lump.
We don’t want to be perceived as ageist or ‘ability-ist’ here, but we would imagine a slender neck would be more inviting to younger or less experienced hands. That the 75th comes strung with 0.009-gauge strings rather than the 10s fitted to Custom Shop instruments points to the fact that Fender feels this way, too.
That said, it’s an utterly delightful and engaging guitar to play – the satin-finished neck is extremely slinky and fast, and the flatter ’board and larger frets create a bend- and vibrato-friendly experience.
And there’s that extra fret, too, which is so well incorporated that it neither looks nor feels obviously different to a regular Tele’s neck, but does allow a tone bend to hit the second-octave ‘E’.
At 3.6kg (7.9lb) in weight it’s a touch heavier than our CS’s 3.25kg (7.15lb), but still well within the ‘normal’ ballpark. On a strap it certainly doesn’t feel like a hefty beast, and anyway the jury’s still out on whether the mania for light over heavy guitars is justified, tone-wise. Talking of which… With that Custom Shop guitar to hand, brandishing Twisted Tele pickups, this was going to be interesting.
Fender describes the Anniversary’s vintage-style ’50s Telecaster pickups (which are called ‘Vintera ’50s’ on the launch PR) as “warm and twangy”, which is just what most players desire from the model. Through our Blues Junior set clean, first impression is that the Mexican guitar is marginally quieter on every pickup selector setting. It’s also a little brighter all-round, too, but not in a spiky or unpleasant way.
But remember the Twisted Tele set is designed to be higher output and with a touch more ‘gutsy Strat’ about it – especially on the neck pickup, which is certainly the case here. Pile on maximum gain and while the CS guitar begins to get very rocky – almost pushing SG territory at times – the Anniversary model is a little more polite.
But in true Tele form the bridge pickup darkens considerably, for a bullish if strikingly articulate tone that suits everything from modern country to Setzer-style rockabilly, hot blues in the Josh Smith vein to early Led Zeppelin.
Likewise when switching across to the neck position: where the Twisted Tele is distinctly Stevie Ray in nature, the vintage Tele’s neck coil remains lighter in voice but very musical and expressive.
In ‘both pickups on’ mode the CS guitar is altogether tougher, while the Mexican model returns that classic but gorgeous ‘tinny’ country tone that’s perfect for Luther Perkins’ Johnny Cash ‘boom-chicka’ rhythm, or even the occasional Albert King impersonation. In many respects it’s a fruitless exercise comparing what are superficially similar guitars but voiced to be deliberately different.
And while some would definitely prefer the pokier Custom Shop Tele, the Anniversary is equally musical and offers a more subtle Tele experience. In certain circumstances you might even pick it over the instrument that retails for four times its price. And that’s no mean feat from Fender.
It’s quite hard to sum up the 75th Anniversary Telecaster. As a modern Tele it does its job impeccably, as they almost always do. Compared to our far more upmarket version it holds its own extremely well, and by no means was this either a knockout in the first round or a throwing in of the towel at the 12th.
To keep the corny (and getting rather thin) boxing analogy, pit Liston against Ali and where one is a bruiser, built for power and the killer punch, the other is lighter on his feet and with arguably greater dexterity and range.
We’ve said before that it’s hard to pull back from a powerful, super-fat Les Paul tone, but you can stick any number of pedals between a lighter-edged instrument to boost, fatten or colour it anyway you want.
Whether there’s any need for 75th Anniversary Fender guitars or not is another question, and more for you to decide than us. But as a standalone version of this redoubtable model, this is a fine guitar that can hold its head high among its more upmarket kin and perform in a way that few guitarists would find wanting.
The neck is fabulous, the guitar is beautifully built and sonically satisfying. And with six saddles the intonation won’t be a problem; truss-rod adjustments don’t require neck removal, and the flatter ’board with 22 medium jumbo frets contributes to a capable instrument that makes solid sense. It looks pretty cool, too!
- PRICE: $849 / £889 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- TYPE: Single-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, medium C profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic bone/42mm
- FINGERBOARD: Integral maple, black dot inlays, 241mm (9.5”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.6/7.9
- HARDWARE: Modern-style Telecaster bridge with through-body stringing, block steel saddles; Schaller enclosed 6-a-side tuners. Includes neckplate with ‘75 Years’ inscription – chrome-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: Fender vintage-style ’50s Telecaster neck and bridge pickups, master volume, master tone, 3-way selector switch
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: US-made 75th Commemorative Telecaster in 2-Color Bourbon Burst (£1,839)
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Diamond Anniversary metallic (as reviewed)
- CONTACT: Fender