Having been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2001, James Burton should need no introduction – although if you aren’t familiar with his work, rest assured he’s one of the greatest rock and roll guitarists to have ever lived, having worked with everybody from Elvis Costello to Elvis Presley. Which is why it makes perfect sense that he’d have his own signature guitar – the James Burton Telecaster, part of Fender’s acclaimed Artist Series. This high-end guitar is a masterpiece to look at – but how does it feel, sound and perform? Let’s take a look.
It’s certainly distinctive! As the name suggests, the James Burton Telecaster uses Fender’s famous Tele body shape, with this model using solid basswood. This is painted black then plastered with a striking custom graphic – either blue or red paisley flames engulfing the lower bout of the guitar. Other key appointments include elegant gold-plated hardware and the classic Telecaster headstock. It’s a stunning model and hard to fault the fit and finish, coming from Fender’s respected Corona factory.
The neck is also a beautiful feature of this signature guitar. Made of maple, with a satin urethane finish, it features a vintage-style 60s U profile, which offers a bit more heft in the hands for a vintage feel that blues, country and classic rock players will appreciate. This smooth neck sports a maple fretboard with 21 vintage-style frets.
Onto hardware and electronics and the James Burton Telecaster takes a sidestep from the classic Tele pickup configuration by including three specially-designed single-coils, adhering to Burton’s specifications. As well as master volume and master tone, the controls stretch to a five-way ‘Strat-o-Tele’ switch to choose between the three pickups, as well as an S-1 switch that – in short – can help create a fatter, rounder tone similar to a humbucker.
In addition to the pickup configuration, there’s some further Strat influence with this Tele in the bridge, which is a string-through-body hard-tail Stratocaster bridge featuring six saddles. All gold-plated, of course. At the other end you’ll find six very responsive sealed tuners with pearl buttons for a guitar with solid tuning stability. As for extras, you get a stylish tweed case, which is fantastic, as well as a strap and cable for extra convenience.
Sound-wise, it’s superb. Were you expecting anything less? The trio of pickups, designed with Burton himself, are tailored to voicing this guitar accurately and provide a great tone that can deliver both the twang of a Tele and the spank of a Strat. Output is surprisingly big and a little darker than your traditional Tele, but this beauty can cope with everything from Elvis and Clapton to ZZ Top and beyond, especially with the S1 switch engaged. You can also get some pretty good James Burton tones from it too…
Fender once again impresses with its Artist Series, giving James Burton a signature guitar worthy of the Master of the Telecaster himself. It’s not the cheapest guitar out there, but the luxurious feel, style and sound on offer make it feel very worthwhile.