Every Prince fan knows that Prince’s favorite guitar is a telecaster. From the beginning of his career to his latest concerts, you can always see him play this flamed maple tele with maple neck and matching leopard print strap.
But what brand is this telecaster? It’s not a Fender, but what is it and is it for sale? I got really curious when I saw Prince throw his tele during a concert (I was only a few meters away) into the crowd after playing ‘Purple rain’ (he did the same at the end of the concert). On my way back I was wondering, if you could catch that guitar, how much would it be worth? Ebay is not flooded with Prince guitars, so what happened that night? And if Prince would really throw an instrument into the crowd, would he throw a cheap knock-off (Richie Blackmore would trash a cheap stratocaster, not one of his beloved guitars)? But you can’t play the purple rain solo on a multiplex telecaster in front of 20 000 fans. So what’s the deal?
First about the throwing of the guitar, he throws it to a roadie who returns it back-stage. So nobody is hurt fighting about that guitar (I’ve seen people almost kill each other to get hold of a Satriani plectrum). But now the guitar!
In the 70’s, Prince (not being famous yet) bought a Hohner telecaster. There are rumors that he bought this guitar since the pickguard matched perfectly with leopard strap he already had. But I guess there were more reasons:
- the looks are fantastic, beautiful book matched flamed maple front and back
- building quality is excellent
- the guitar body is made from maple (rarely used by builders) which gives it a very distinct, bright, funky (and that’s important!) sound
- Maple body. Later re-issues, even the expensive ones, use (swamp) ash.
- Flamed maple top and back
- Walnut central binding over the body (front and back)
- Black binding from and back (there are models with ‘leopard’ binding, but Prince’s guitars have black binding as far as I could check)
- Maple neck
- Blonde maple finish
- Fender noiseless (stratocaster) pick-ups. There have been rumors about Kinmann pick-ups but Prince guitar tech has confirmed he uses Fenders now.
- Schaller mini tuners
- 21 frets (size unknown)
- Fretboard radius is unknown (normally I prefer 12″ but for funky chords 10″ is also very comfortable). According to Prince guitar tech Takumi the fretboard is really flat. So I guess you go in the direction of 15-20″ radius.
- Pick guard: ‘Hohner’ style with kind of ‘tortoise’/ ‘leopard’ pattern (impossible to get these). The website about the Madcat describes how you can make one yourself.
Now the search for a ‘donor’ instrument could start. I wanted a tele model with maple neck, but it had to be cheap. I ended up at ML-factory. They sell tele kits but also separate bodies and necks. The body I like to go for is a telecaster body with black binding for 49 euros. The black binding must probably be removed in order to add a flamed maple top. That can be easily done with heat (hairdryer). For the neck I would consider an all maple neck with skunk stripe. It’s pricey, around 100 euros, but it is exactly what I need.
For the maple top I want to use flamed maple veneer. You can get really thin ones (0.6 mm) all over ebay (check ebay Germany – seller ‘elder_kontor’ ). I can glue them on the front and back and do a binding routing for the black side bindings.
The walnut binding most not be forgotten. It’s possible to buy Glitz Washi tape with woodgrain. That would be easiest to work with. Stick it on the body and spraying over it will give a good result. But I could also use real walnut veneer that must have the same thickness as the maple veneer. Or print a wood grain on decal paper and stick that on the body?
For the hardware:
- Gotoh GTC102 hardtail bridge
- Gotoh SG360 machine heads (or Schaller mini’s since the chrome Gotohs are hard to find)
- Leopard pickguards (don’t forget the output plate at the jack plug, don’t use metal here)
- String retainers
- Bill Lawrence USA S1 and S3 pick ups.
- Telecaster metal control plate
- Chromed knurled brass knobs
The Leopard pickguard will give some issues. This material came originally from Italy but is almost impossible to find. The madcat tribute page has a way of making one but the tonefactory.nl webshop sells ‘wildcat yellow’ pickguard material that comes very close to the original (close enough for me).