1974 Fender Telecaster Custom

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: A great variation on an industry stalwart, that neck pickup, hugely flexible sounds, condition and originality, OHSC

Thumbs down: CBS‑era design including the truss rod adjuster and 3‑bolt neck joint, weight, polyester finish

Decree: While many think that Fender shouldn’t have messed with the classic Telecaster design, the Custom is certainly a valiant attempt to diversify its appeal

Model Description:

While Fender left the Telecaster design relatively untouched from the mid‑1950s to the mid‑1960s, under the new CBS management, they started experimenting with the Telecaster from the late 1960s. The first departure from the norm was the semi‑hollow Telecaster Thinline in 1968. By the early 1970s, Fender really went to town with several new variants on the traditional design. The Stratocaster format, in contrast, was left largely unscathed at the time. The Telecaster Custom (not to be confused with the bound‑body Custom Telecaster 1959‑1968) was made famous by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. The story goes that Richards fitted a neck humbucking pickup to his 1950s Telecaster, which then led other musicians to follow suit. As a direct result, Fender saw the opportunity to put the model into mainstream production in 1972 and it remained part of the Telecaster line up until it was discontinued in 1981. The Fender Telecaster Custom combines the standard Telecaster single coil bridge pickup mounted on the familiar bridge/tailpiece with the new Seth Lover‑designed ‘Wide Range’ neck humbucker. The control layout, however, is very different from the standard Telecaster and has a configuration that is more like a Gibson Les Paul with a large scratchplate, two volume and two tone controls and a standard 3‑way pickup selector switch moved to the upper treble bout. The Custom is the only Telecaster neck with the 3‑bolt neck plate and ‘bullet’ truss rod adjuster – the Telecaster Deluxe also has these features but that model actually uses a Stratocaster neck. The Telecaster Custom shared several features with the dual‑humbucker Deluxe which Fender introduced during the same time period. The Telecaster Custom has been reissued on several occasions over the years. Vintage market prices for the Telecaster Custom (and Deluxe) tend to be generally slightly lower than standard‑layout Telecasters of the same year.

Guitar Description:

Cool huh? This mid-1970s classic Fender Telecaster Custom from the vaults. This gorgeous example is in fabulous all‑original condition. It is a bit on the heavy side (8lbs), as many instruments of this era were, it has a big beefy neck, solid ash body with natural finish. It clearly means business and just exudes that sense of blue collar machismo that you just don’t want to mess with. This example has a few typical hairline cracks in the body’s thick clear polyester finish. Fender changed from nitrocellulose to polyester finishes around 1969/70 and, because polyester is a thicker finish, the aging process is quite different from the fine crazing you get with a vintage thin nitrocellulose finish. Other than that, you’d be hard pressed to think it is as old as it is, at a glance. As a hybrid between a standard Telecaster and a marked Gibson Les Paul‑type influence, it has a very unique sound, particularly when both pickups are combined. The original Seth Lover ‘Wide Range’ pickup is like no other in Fender’s arsenal and it works surprisingly well alongside the standard Tele single coil. If you are used to a normal Telecaster, the control layout is visually and ergonomically very different from a standard Tele as well, so it feels as well as sounds different to play. Les Paul players will probably feel at home though – and the Deluxe takes that a step further. Although not widely recognised as ground‑breaking – it clearly wears its influences on its proverbial sleeve – it has amazing flexibility and versatility compared to some instruments of its time. It is all the more notable in that its creation stemmed from a practical solution to a singular guitarist’s need. Thank you Mr Richards.


  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1974
  • 3‑piece Ash slab body
  • Natural polyester finish
  • Maple bolt-on neck (3-bolt ‘microtilt’ ‘F’ neck plate) with mahogany ‘skunk stripe’
  • Maple fingerboard with 21 frets and black dot markers
  • Scale length 25½” (647mm)
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original Fender ‘F’ tuners
  • Original 3‑ply black/white/black plastic scratchplate
  • Original Seth Lover ‘Wide Range’ humbucking neck pickup and classic single coil Telecaster bridge pickup
  • Original 3‑way toggle pickup selector switch, witch hat knobs and jack socket
  • Original bridge with 3 steel saddles and through‑body stringing
  • Original ‘ashtray’ cover
  • Weight: 8lb 1oz (3.65kg)
  • Original Fender hard shell case


  • Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones)


Keith Richards’ 1950s blackguard Fender Telecaster was given to him by Eric Clapton for Keef’s 27th birthday (December 1970). Richards replaced the original Telecaster neck pickup with a Gibson humbucker around 1972. Richards’ guitar, which has been much modified over the years, was nicknamed ‘Micawber’ and remains a go‑to guitar for The Rolling Stones’ guitarist. That simple modification also provided Fender with a key historical Telecaster variant which remains popular today.

This 1974 Fender Telecaster Custom is the only instrument in CRAVE Guitars family that has the mismatched combination of one humbucker and one single coil pickup.

Detail Gallery:

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