Prince’s Telecaster

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.


Prince in 2007 and early 80's
Prince in 2007 and early 80’s

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
Something about the brand Hohner. Originally a German brand specialized in harmonica’s, also moved into the guitar business buying guitars from Japanese factories in the 70’s. During the NAMM show in 1972, a telecaster was shown by a brand called H.S. Anderson. The brand name is just a name made up (although there is an American wood sculpturer known by this name) but the guitar excelled in building quality and playability. The guitars under this brand came from the ‘Morris’ factory which built for a lot of brands. They still exist building high quality acoustic instrument.
H.S. Anderson Madcat guitar
H.S. Anderson Madcat guitar
Anyway, after he H.S. Anderson telecaster (named Madcat) became a success, Hohner decided to buy this model and put their logo on it. Due to lawsuit cases (the headstock of the Madcat was an exact copy of the Fender headstock), the guitar was taken out of production after a while
Luckily, one of these rare Hohner Madcats ended up in a music shop in Minneapolis, and the rest is history. Funny is that I can’t find any pictures of this Hohner version of the guitar, other than guitars played by Prince. I guess the Hohner logo versions of the Madcat are very rare
After Prince became a superstar in the 80’s, Hohner decided to bring this guitar back into production, but now with a different headstock to avoid legal issues.
In fact they did it twice (models were called ‘The Prinz’ and later ‘TE Prinz’)’, but these guitars didn’t reach the quality standards of the H.S. Anderson models.
Re-issue nr 1: Hohner The Prinz
Re-issue nr 1: Hohner The Prinz
In the mean time, the Bill Lawrence factory made a similar model, also with a slightly changed headstock. These guitars should be of better quality the the Hohner re-issues.
Bill Lawrence 'Prince' telecaster
Bill Lawrence ‘Prince’ telecaster
And at last, Hohner did another re-re-issue of their Prince telecaster. Two models called ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Artist Elite’, of which ‘The Elite’ model is handbuilt by Czech luthier Hans Waldermeir.
Hohner The Artist (2008)
Hohner The Artist (2008)
Just recently, I saw a posting that the original brand H.S. Anderson is in business again, issuing (you can already guess) an ‘as close as possible‘ re-issue.
Prince owns a couple of original Hohners (at least two) but the guitars he plays now are built by luthiers. It’s a known fact that he ordered (already years ago) three exact replica’s from luthier Roger Sadowsky. Exact copies, even the Hohner logo’s are correct. And in the meantime there are two re-issues, a vintage re-issue and a 45th anniversary Mad Cat one. Prices in Holland are a little bit under 3000 euros. Via-via I know someone who bought one and that person is very pleased with the instrument, but I also would paying that much money for a guitar. For that amount I would consider having a luthier built one. On the telecaster forum I saw a beautiful example by ‘Oigun’ (aka Eugen Wulff from Gun Guitars in Haarlem). What a beauty.
But since this item is in menu ‘My Projects’, I want to make a replica of this guitar myself with a limited budget. The Madcat comes closest so that guitar should be the reference, only the logo needs to be swapped by a Hohner logo (more on that later).
Lucklily there is a beautiful website dedicated to the H.S. Anderson Madcat. Please have a look here.
Here we go:
  • 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 webshop sells ‘wildcat yellow’ pickguard material that comes very close to the original (close enough for me).

Madcat logo

36 thoughts on “Prince’s Telecaster

    1. Hey do u want a picture of a original version version of the Hohner professional telecaster I have n play one in mint condition

      1. Hey John. I’m looking for a nice closeup shot of the headstock of an original Hohner. Looking to make a reproduction. Can you send me a photo? You still have yours?

  1. Hello

    What are the chance of finding a used Madcat for $$$
    What is the value where do you find them in Japan ??? USA
    There is one on e bay for 2300 euros $$

    in all my searches I was able to see the new Reissues and they are selling for
    3K quite allot of $$

    Any luck making one ?

    Tks for your time

    any comments

    Im in canada
    there rare for sure


    Frank rack



    ANY IDEAS ??








  4. Was looking for one today and found neck and body kits for around $250 at might be an option

  5. Hey ed,
    Great point of reference this site! Prince addict myself i bought a hohner re issue in the 80’s myself ( the prince) so the one with the telecaster head neck(!). There was one thing about the guitar that kept on buggin me since i bought it… You guessed it; the pickguard. Only last weekend I finished the project in replacing it with the yellowcat (leopard) print. Quite happy with the result even though the finish is more yellow than the orange colour with the mad cat original.
    If you would like me to send some pics, let me know! Still got room for another pickguard to be cut out of the material;
    Cheers ronald bosch (netherlands)

  6. does anyone have any info on the Bills Brothers Mad Cat tele with the hooked headstock?

  7. Hello I am a Moridaira collector. Moridaira is the original manufacturer of the Mad Cat Guitar. It was made with three different names.
    1. H.S. Anderson 1974 to 1986 and in 2011 Reissue
    2. Hohner 1978/ 1979 These are the rarest of the rare. I have searched for two years and so far NONE have been on the market. NONE. If it says Hohner then chances are you have a reproduction, or reissue, or just a fake. the real ones will have the Hohner logo in Rainbow writing, with block letters, it will also have the serial number stamped in the back of the peg head ending in 791. So far in my search the only owner of one of these is Prince. I do believe in 1985 Honer had a reissue made by moridaira, but only the one with the telecaster peg head, and a smooth plain chrome neck plate. If your neck plate is thick and says Hohner Professional it was made in Korea by the Samick factory. Almost all Prince, and Prinz guitars were made in Korea. The Six Killer Guitar is made in China. and sold by The HS Benton is Chinese as well. If it has a 3/4″ mahogany strip it was made in China.
    3. The Bill Lawrence 1980-1983 These are Made by Moridaira these are REAL Mad Cat Guitars. These are not Reissues, or copys. These were made from Mad Cat Bodys and necks. Using the original stock. These have the original celluloid. and are 100% The REAL THING. Using Bill Lawrence Pickups. In 1984 The Moridaira company Stopped using the “Bill Lawrence” Name and Changed it to Bill’s Brothers. These were made in Japan in 1984 and 1985. In 1986 Bill’s Brothers were made in Korea.

    1. I own an H.S. Anderson Mad Cat, with the straight letters on the headstock, not the curved ones. I’ve seen pictures of these, they were always referred to as ’79 Mad Cats. I bought mine used in ’81, so it’s possible it was built in 1979. It does not have a serial number. Is that typical for this model?

      Thany you in advance!

      1. Hi Matthew,

        Pfff, difficult question. Maybe best to check is to get in contact with the owner of He (or she) has a very extended website on these madcat models.
        Anyway, it’s not a strange thing that logo’s differ, serial numbers are missing etc. with small companies that build limited runs of guitars.

        Good luck!

    2. Matthew, what do you know about the “by Morris Hurricane” madcats? I’ve read these are a 4th version from the original factory. The headstock is a little different than the 3 original models you mention, which makes me think it’s early 80’s, but I’ve found so little info about them.

  8. I own a Hohner the Prinz, a reissue version from the ninethies,customized it with 2 Ultrasonic humbuckers into the bridge position,a unknown singlecoil intocht neck positionering, Kahler tremelo with rollernut and Schaller locking tuners.The guitar has a good clear sound,but the neck isn’t that steady to stay in tune.And it isn’t real collectable because everybody wants the same picture like the one Prince owns.

    I have a lot of appreciation for Prince as musician, composer and guitarplayer,but I think as a human,leave him left,he’s imposseble to deal with.

  9. I have a very first production mad cat,and they werent made by hohner.! Hohner took them to pos class very quikly and within a couple of years. ( thats 2 ) it was barely recognizable tops eerent flame but blister maple with a body made with maple 1x4s stacked in 2 layers,and walnut inlayed center stripe that is only in the blister top. Only says madcat on peghead. Electroncs were typical ( bad) japanese of the period. My store bought this one ,a59 lespaul junior copy ,and a oasis,alembic style copy ,all with the hs anderson name. Every one a winner,but had a hell of a time selling,and bought this one myself,and used for some years befor prince came on the scene. These guitars were designed in england i thik and wholsaled by david wexler co. In the us the one i have is of the vert highest quality with a golden ( with just a touch of green?). Finish. Again exellent guitar that hohner basically drove into the dirt!!! Imagine that. :S

    1. Thanks. Is really close but I prefer the ‘leopard’ print I have found with a shop in the Netherlands.
      I also need a pickguard blank to cut my own model.

      But thanks anyway.


      1. Would love to get one from that shop, how do you pay through that site, it seems to use some Swedish ordering system, and I’m in the UK?

    1. Yep, thanks for the tip! Just ordered one, but delivery time as one a month. Am curious about what the guitar will be.


  10. Hi Cool that you mentioned me in this article, I’ve built thisd guitar for a customer some years ago.
    I still have a little piece of the pickguard material but I will save that for a future build.
    Here are some pictures:

    Eugen Wulff
    Gun Guitars

  11. I remember back in 79 when i first went into guitar retail selling the original Hohner Teles for around £100, must be worth a fortune now 🙁

  12. Hi all I have got a 1987 the prinz i would like to know more about it as you guy’s know a lot about hohner i thought i would ask the questions.
    the neck plate on my guiter has a number starting with 8716xxx and yes the same head stock as a fender.
    it is in very good condition as it has been loved by the same person from new.
    i wish i could upload some pic of it so you could see it in more detail.
    any help would be great thank you atb shaun

  13. Unless I’m very mistaken, I thought I saw the name Carlo Robelli on the headstock years ago…which makes it a San Ash copy Telecaster.
    Any one agree?

  14. H.S. Anderson’s “H.S.” is the Japanese designer and luthier Shiino Hidesato’s initial. Morris Guitar Company decided to put the Anderson name to make it look and sounds as made by the unknown builder and it had the logo mark featuring the cat. H.S. Anderson built two guitars which were the Telecaster type and the Vox tear drop type and their own original bass. But Shiino was a kind of eccentric man with hard to handle personality. So the H.S. Anderson brand ended in a short time. Shiino went on and was the part of the ESP and then the Vestax brand in Japan. He is the man with the pride bigger than life. So wherever he went on, he didn’t, or say couldn’t stay there for long.

    Now the re-issue model of the H.S. Anderson is available from music store in Tokyo, Japan which still has the connection with Morris factory. Morris owns the copyright and they still have the jigs at their shop to reproduce those guitars. Here’s the link to their website accepting the orders.

  15. Hey John. I’m looking for a nice closeup shot of the headstock of an original Hohner. Can you send me one? You still have yours?

  16. I’m buying a Bill Lawrence right now. Do you happen to know how to decode the serial number?
    This one is R 31067.
    You’re saying that it could have only been made between 80-83?


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