How may instruments and amps do you own?
I have approximately 10 guitars. The newest
addition is my Hahn Telecaster, which is a fantastic instrument. And I have approximately
13 amps, all from Fender. Most of them are
Princeton Reverb and Vibro Champ amps.
crazy it is. It’s amazing to have a friend like
Let’s talk gear, Jim. Do you have a favorite
guitar, amp and effect, and why they are
Without any doubt, it’s my old and trusty
Fender toploader Telecaster from 1959 and
a Fender Blackface Princeton Reverb amp
from the mid-‘60s. This combination works
perfectly for me. The Fender toploader
Telecaster was only produced in 1959, and
the feel and sound of this guitar is a bit more
“rubbery” than a standard Telecaster, more
unique. As for the Fender Princeton Reverb
amps, I prefer the weight, portability and
their sound. It’s a low-wattage amp, but I
still have yet to find a venue where the amp
isn’t loud enough… and I prefer to play my
Princetons with the Volume and Bass control
on 10—Yeah! [laughs]
Is that your standard equipment for live
gigs and studio sessions?
It’s always the same setup: my ‘ 59 toploader
Tele and a Blackface Princeton Reverb amp.
That’s all I need. Ocasionally, I also use a
1962 Fender Strat, a Gretsch Chet Atkins
model and a 12-string guitar.
What is the secret of your signature
Telecaster tone, gearwise?
Photo by Arthi Krishnaswami
I think it’s my hybrid picking with a thumb
pick. You know, that’s the kind of playing
Chet Atkins made famous.
What do you think about vintage equipment?
Well, a lot of those guitars are great, but not
all of them! I don’t know what it is that makes
a lot of those guitars stand out… maybe it’s
the wood they used back in the golden days
of guitar building. Most vintage instruments
are unaffordable today and to be honest,
even if I were a millionaire, I wouldn’t spend
$25,000 for a guitar. There are a lot of great
and fairly priced guitars from actual production runs that work more than well for me
and my needs. But I really enjoy playing old
instruments as well.
Is there a general setup for your instruments: string gauge, action, pickups, etc.?
I like jumbo frets and a medium action, you
know that kind of “not too high but also not
too low” thing? [laughs] I also like threaded
saddles and a pure neck-to-wood connec-
tion—no shims, stickers and paint between
them, just the plain wood. I use regular
D’Addario .009 strings on most of my guitars,
but 11s on my Gretsch Chet Atkins axe.
Can you tell us more about your
Fender Signature Telecaster?
I’m really proud that Fender is doing this, and
it’s a lot of fun to work with the guys from
the Fender Custom Shop. It will be an exact
copy of my ‘ 59 toploader Telecaster, but with
some little modifications. The neck is a faithful recreation of the original; the Fender guys
even copied the neck wear. The neck is on the
smaller side, so it’s easy to play with the thumb