Hi Ya’ll! I have a confession to
make: I’m not really a “Tele guy”. So the phenomenal Success of my Vaughn’s
Velvet Tele pickups might seem a bit surprising … but wait … you haven’t heard
the REST of the story!
Let’s start with this little piece that accompanies the product description
of my Velvet Tele set:
“Whenever I talk to "Strat
guys" about tone, they say that if money were no object, they'd be playing
vintage pickups from the 50s-60s. Same goes for Les Paul people, their "if
money were no object" pickup would be a vintage 57-60 PAF. But Tele guys are different. I keep hearing
"I LOVE the sound of 50's Tele BRIDGE pickups ... but some can be kinda
ice-picky, and I've never really heard a Tele neck pickup that blows me away.”
Okay, ya gotta agree: something’s wrong with this picture!
I mean really, died-in-the-wool Tele players
who readily admit that they really don’t LIKE Tele pickups. It seems as though Tele players have long ago
learned to accept the limitations of their pickups and work around them. They LOVE the stripped-down serious 1940’s
no-nonsense attitude of the world’s FIRST readily available electric guitar,
but just ain’t equally smitten with the actual TONE of the Tele. Over the decades folks have turned to many
potential solutions for their Tele tone dilemma. Let’s take a moment to discuss some of these
First, some Tele folks have just plain turned their backs on even the idea that a Tele pickup can sound good.
That’s why we see so many Tele’s with Humbuckers (full-sized and/or mini). They make appearances in both the neck and
bridge position. We also see the “Nashville
Tele” with a Strat pickup in the middle, and possibly neck positions.
Second, we see an amazing plethora of decidedly un-Tele-like pickups made as
drop-in replacements for the standard Telecaster pickups.
No other guitar has so many options available
as drop-in replacement pickups that sound NOTHING like the originals. Stacked humbuckers, single-blade pickups and
twin-blade humbuckers, dummy-coils, shoot even no coils at all! The list goes on and on. It seems as though a bunch of folks have
decided the only good thing to do with a Tele is to make it not sound like a
Tele at all. It seems as though most
folks have just given up on Leo’s original design. I wasn’t quite willing to do that.
I’ve been a member of the Nashville music community since 1985. I’ve been a recording engineer, record
producer, professional guitar player, and recording studio owner. Oh, I should clarify …a “real” studio owner;
from back in the days when owning a studio entailed reel-to-reel tape machines,
huge consoles, grand pianos, and legitimate business locations, in my case on
Nashville’s famous 16th Avenue.
I’ve spent a BUNCH of time with the greatest guitar players in Nashville;
shoot some of the best in the world, many of them with legit claims to being a “tele-master”. And, none of them would say they were 100%
happy with their true Tele tone.
Here is where my NOT being a “Tele guy” became a true advantage.
You see, I WAS a fully indoctrinated FENDER
guy, and like most, I flat-out loved the sound of a great Strat. And certainly I was also totally in love with
the sound of a great Les Paul. I just
couldn’t accept the idea of someone “putting up with” the tone of their
favorite guitar … or worse yet, giving up and making it sound like ANOTHER
guitar! So you see, it actually HELPED
that I wasn’t a Tele guy … because of that fact, I had never learned to “put up
with” or “work around” the sound of a Tele.
I had no prejudice against, or stereotype of, the TONE of a Tele!
So, what exactly DID I do? First, I
listened to all the greatest examples of TRUE Tele tone over the years. From the classic Bakersfield sound of folks
like Buck Owens and Haggard to the classic Stax Records/Memphis tones of folks
like Steve Cropper and James Burton.
From the classic country tones of folks like Ray Flack and Redd Volkaert
to the modern Tele masters like Brad Paisley and John “Elmo” Szetela. And, of course so many more! Then, I talked to as many Tele players as
possible, and asked: “in a perfect world, what would you want from your Tele
tone”. It was surprising how many
started out with something like “well, of course we know the neck pickup won’t
sound good …” I had to remind them that
we were talking about a perfect fairy-tale world, with NO limitations!
What I arrived at was that true Tele players wanted a Bridge tone that was
the epitome of that great tone I just mentioned from folks like Burton,
Cropper, and Volkeart; a good bit of Tele “spank”, but still nice and
full-bodied and meaty with no “ice-pick” that is so common in the bridge
position of Tele’s made in the last few decades or so. On neck tone, folks often referenced
decidedly non-tele tones. Over and over
tele players wished they could get the Stevie-Ray-Vaughn neck tone from their
Tele, or a nice fat yet decidedly single-coil Jazz tone that was full-bodied
yet still had some sparkle and definition.
And, given the opportunity to REALLY dream, Tele players really wanted a
truly magical middle position, with the ability to get the sparkle and chime of
a Strat in position 2 & 4, and also be able to roll the tone back and
arrive at a nice humbucker tone with both the neck and bridge pickups working
In making Vaughn’s Velvet Tele Pickups, I accomplished all of these objectives. It was most definitely NOT a case of throwing
away Leo Fender’s original design and going with something new and golly-gee-wiz
… I’ve heard too many of these awful sounding designs! No, it was simply tweaking the design to augment
all the STRENGTHS of the original Tele pickup design, while finessing out the
weaknesses. The result is 100% TRUE Tele
tone … with everything you LOVE about the Tele … but ALSO with everything you
dreamed of, but had grown to believe was impossible. And, it took someone who was NOT a Tele guy
to deliver it.