Guitar Stories – Bob Palmieri

“How (and why) I trashed my rare vintage Rosewood Telecaster”

In 1969 my parents bought me my first “good” guitar. Previously, I had acoustic & electric axes bought from department stores, neither of which had names on their headstock. ‘Course, at that age and time period, as my drummer friend Fred said, “There were only two kinds of guitars – a guitar and an ELECTRIC GUITAR!”.

Anyhow, my mom said “the kid seems to be serious, so let’s go to a music store and get him something nice.” So, on the recommendation of my guitar-slinging pal Carl (with whom I’ll be working this weekend, more than a half century later!) we went to Nolde’s Music in Flemington, NJ to pick out “something nice.” The winner was a ’69 Rosewood Tele. My family was pretty short on cash – in fact, they borrowed the money from my aunt for this Big Purchase – all $236 dollars. Couldn’t afford a case, so it got banged around going in & out of houses & station wagons for the first year or so.

At some point in the second year I traded it for a ’59 Burst that a fellow named Pete Wood had. About a month later we decided we missed our original axes and traded back.

A bit later I decided that it didn’t sound quite “heavy” enough for the music that I was playing, so I brought it into my high school shop class and cut a nice big hole in the horn for a giant three-way switch, which controlled onboard resonance caps and, for awhile, a one transistor preamp I got from Lafayette Radio Supply. Also hacked together a beefier neck pickup from some scrounged parts…

After high school I re-fretted it maybe 3 times in an attempt to get the board radius just right – took off quite a bit of rosewood there.

In college I recall once leaving it on someone’s front lawn for awhile, then driving back when I realized that it wasn’t in my car.

So, basically, it seems that this axe & I just can’t seem to part company, what with me hacking the thing for years and its habit of coming back after brief periods of separation. It’s the guitar that helped me learn how to do mods, which has become a large part of my scene, eventually leading to my work as a pickup designer.

As a player, much of what I do these days involves jazz, so let me pass on this little tip: Heavier strings and a Henriksen are all you need to make a good Tele into a great jazz guitar. These amps have the high headroom you need for big chords and none of that enraging suck-out of the body of the notes in the lower mids, like so many of The Usual Suspects in the amp world do. I have two Henriksen’s in my teaching studio at DePaul University in Chicago, and I’m damn glad I was able to get the U to spring for them. It might sound like I’m just blowing smoke here, but I’m serious!

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