Nashville luthier and renown ‘guitar tech’ Joe Glaser shares his thoughts on Robben Ford’s famous Telecaster.
Robben Ford’s 1960 Telecaster is one of my very favorite Tele’s, on top of being a favorite version of Teles in general. But then my favorite version changes depending on the day. Fender has had many short eras when the Tele was incredible, basically every loose grouping of two or three years from 1950 to 1968 as characteristics changed and neck shapes, pickups, pick guards, and finishes evolved. No doubt, the 60, 61 Tele is one of the absolute best of those mini eras, Brazilian slab board, see-through white blonde over ash. pretty rare and fabulous and excellent sounding, cool in every way… even if that’s not what one might guess that a guy doing his gigs might use. Great partnerships take a while to prove and Robben, pretty much as picky as he is great, has that relationship from years of serious testing, on the job, and not for no reason; it appears to me that that Tele makes him 95% happy, a big thing.
From time to time I get a call from someone somewhere around the world who has just bought a 1960 Tele and wants it just like Robben’s. We give them fret size, and setup specs, everything it might take.
But the fact is, having played Robben’s guitar a lot over the years, the truth has been driven home; it’s actually not the guitar that makes him so great.
In my hands, his rhythm with the authority of God, isn’t there, nor are those wonderful, unpredictable perfect lines.
Over recent years, as we’ve re-fretted that Tele, dressed it, redone the nut, etc. hoping for that 95%, it’s become pretty clear that, like us, the guitar’s job is to make the player 95% happy and then get out of the way and let inspiration and real gift take over.
Top photo (cropped) credit George Wells