There are some guitars that are forever linked to certain musicians. Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” and “Brownie” Strats, Brian May’s home-built one-off, Neil Young’s “Old Black” Les Paul, and B.B. King’s “Lucille” ES355 are just a few that come to mind. But there is another that fits nicely into this category and deserves equal attention because of its backstory, and that’s Bruce Springsteen’s very unique Telecaster.
Like “Blackie,” Bruce’s Telecaster is a hybrid of parts collected from at least 2 other guitars. It’s a 50’s Telecaster body with what looks to be a 57 Esquire neck originally purchased from Phil Petillo’s Neptune NJ guitar shop for $185. That’s only part of the story though.
The Telecaster body was originally jury-rigged with four pickups wired into extra output jacks so that each could plug into a separate channel of a recording console. The thought behind this wasn’t so much for the sound, but so that the session player original owner could collect four times union scale for playing four slightly different versions of the same guitar part. As a result of the modification, a lot of the body underneath the pickguard was routed out for the extra electronics.
Petillo removed the extra pickups and returned the guitar to original Telecaster shape before he sold it Springsteen, but a huge side effect of the routing was that the Tele was now really light, giving it a sound a feel unlike any other (see the picture on the left).
Bruce wasn’t one to sit still with one version of the instrument however, and over the years had it significantly modified, all personally done by Petillo. He added his patented triangular Precision Frets, a six saddle titanium bridge, and custom hot-wound waterproofed pickups and electronics so they could better survive a sweat-soaked 4 hour show.
Bruce played the guitar in virtually every live show until around 2005, when the wear and tear of the road finally took it’s toll and the guitar was retired. He now plays clones of his original Tele on tour, but still uses his favorite when he records.
Now for really cool part. It’s been estimated that the guitar is worth anywhere between $1 million and $5 million, depending upon the collector that could manage to get his hands on it. For now, that’s not going to happen, since the Tele has been Bruce Springsteen’s partner for more than 40 years now, and that partnership shows no sign of ending.