1996 Fender Pink Paisley Telecaster, as made famous by James Burton
Most famous in the hands of Elvis Presley's chicken-picking maestro James Burton, and since then anyone from Noel Gallagher to Taylor Swift. An eye-catching beauty, let alone a great player. "Play it, James".
Fender first launched their Telecaster in spaced-out pink paisley in 1968. A guitar for the Flower Power generation. The story goes that the original print design wasn't some bright spark of in-house inspiration. It was wallpaper, from the local paint shop. More specifically, a peel-and-stick product made by the Borden Chemical Company, called Cling-Foil. And when they decided they were going to make a run of these, the Fender Fullerton team bought up the entire supply of pink paisley Cling-Foil from that local paint shop. They then stuck that onto the slab-board of a Telecaster, and layered it in nitrocellulose to protect it. It was always going to be a limited run - when the wallpaper ran out, so did production. Fortunately, Fender Japan have done a great job of reproducing the 69 version of the Paisley Tele over the years, with a more repeatable silk-screening taking over from a finite supply of wallpaper. They don't come up often, but when they do, they're snapped up.
The original paisley Tele may have missed the boat for 1967's Summer Of Love, but Fender found their way to nail it into the history books. James Burton had made his mark on music long before his more famous part in Elvis' TCB band. He'd co-written the often-covered Suzie Q, and had been Ricky Nelson's guitarist for 11 years. Ricky liked to keep James busy. But, whatever other time James did have, he filled it working with other musicians. It's what you do - better busy, than waiting for the call. So busy, that he turned down Elvis' request to appear on the legendary 68 Comeback Special - James was working in the studio at the time, with another of the greats, Frank Sinatra. But when the second call from Elvis came through in 1969 - sugared with the opportunity to hand-pick Elvis' backing band - he jumped at the chance. And it was around the same time that Chuck Weiner, then vice-president of Fender, called up and said "I have a guitar here with your name on it". No sending it, no pictures, but in the flesh - prompting James' immediate response: "Wait a minute, that's too fancy!" But he played it, he loved it, and the rest is history. And this model will forever be known as the James Burton Tele. An absolute peach of a guitar!
See & Hear It In Action
James Burton Guitar Solos: There's loads out there showcasing James' style and versatility, but if you fancy a quick dip, this compilation from TCB Productions is just great. Check out that trademark chicken-picking on See See Rider. Absolute joy.
James Burton In Interview With The Musicians Hall Of Fame: The story behind the Pink Paisley, and so many other of James' guitars and experiences. Lovely stories, lovely man.
Go Let It Out, Oasis, Wembley 2000: Was there then. Majestic stuff, with Noel on Pink Paisley Tele.
Chicken-picking Maestro Soren Sebber Larsen & Pink Paisley: Self-confessed "James Burton Tele chicken-picking freak fanatic", Soren is an absolute master - not only that, he has two suits of armour behind him in the video, which is not something you often see in a guitar showcase video ;-).
Nathaniel Murphy at Chicago Music Exchange With Original 68 Pink Paisley Tele: Check out the skill towards the end of this with a masterclass Mystery Train.
Pink Paisley Telecaster
Number of Frets
Maple, with Rosewood "skunk" stripe
Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Pair
Fender 3-Saddle American Vintage
The original run of these beauties lasted only two years, from 1968 - 1969. What else can you do when the wallpaper runs out?
But the design's been loved for years, so as the reissue market began to build in the 80s, Fender Japan started a 12-year run of the Pink Paisleys in 1986 - and they've followed up with shorter runs in the 21st century.
Aside from the wallpaper, they're faithful reproductions of the original 69 models they're based on. As if to make the point, the body neck recess is stamped "TL-69 PRD". One person's pink is another person's red. And while most of us think of this as a Paisley Pink Tele, Fender have always called it Paisley Red (or "PRD"). Or maybe that's what the original wallpaper was called.
The 68/69 originals may be in short supply, but this one will take you right back there. Lovely Slim "C" neck, 3-barrel saddle bridge, Top Hat selecter switch, and "F" stamped neckplate.
The previous owner swapped out the white scratchplate for a clear one, more in line with the originals - and it makes all the difference to see the full paisley pattern in all its glory.
Still has the original pickups and control loom as it was shipped with, but has been upgraded from Fender Vintage Style to Custom Shop Texas Specials, and CTS "Soft Vintage Taper" pots. Both of which just get it closer to that 69 vintage sound.
To play, it sounds great. Chicken-picking is way beyond me, but that lovely twang is there in full force. A joy to behold, a joy to play. In the words of The King, "Play it, James!" Luckily, this guitar is happy, whatever your name.
Sources & Links
The James Burton Website: A treasure trove for the fan and enthusiast.
James Burton In Interview With Vintage Guitar Magazine: Sometimes all it takes is the right parents: "In rural Louisiana in the early 1950s, it was no small feat when a family scraping by to survive bought a new Fender Telecaster for their 13-year-old son, especially when that $280 had been set aside to buy a car so their father could stop thumbing a ride to work."
The Pink Paisley Japan Model At Andertons: No longer for sale, but a really helpful description and spec.
Dating Japanese Telecasters, Strat Talk: OK, one for the geeks, but I couldn't understand the date difference between serial number and neck stamp.. Turns out Fender Japan had an overstock of "A"-prefix bridge plates, which they used til they ran out. Thank you, Dr Stratster!