Roy Buchanan, Hey Joe
May 25, 2012 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Roy Buchanan - ♪ Hey Joe ♪, a grandmaster of the Telecaster lays bare the instrument's unique spectrum of tone.
posted by Ardiril (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Feel free to add your own links.
posted by Ardiril at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2012

Well, if we're discussing the Telecaster sound in a blues context, let me tell you about this fella named Albert Collins...
posted by Trurl at 12:08 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I started playing guitar in my early teens I went through a Roy Buchanan phase after listening to Live Stock. My first soldering project was flipping the control plate on my Telecaster to make his volume swells easier to do.

Even though I only listen to him infrequently now, to this day I still flip the control plate on every Tele I own.
posted by mikesch at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2012

Danny Gatton - Redneck Blues. In my opinion, the only player who came close to matching Roy Buchanan at coaxing mindboggling sounds from a Telecaster.
posted by Lorin at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2012

The thing that consistently blows me away about both of them is that they achieve all this with almost no effects. Nothing but a cranked tube amp, the built in reverb/trem and occasionally an echo of some kind.
posted by Lorin at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2012

A strat sounds like a strat. A Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul. A tele, especially clean, sounds like you, warts and all. If you're good, there's nothing more expressive.
posted by kersplunk at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Roys version of Misty

(accompanied by the great Mundel Lowe and some other top shelf guys)
posted by The_Auditor at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2012

Whenever I go to a bar with one of those newfangled Internet jukeboxes and I put on Buchanan's "The Messiah Will Come Again" I never fail to see people whipping out their phones to Shazam it or just walk up and ask "What was that, dude?"
posted by jonmc at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

True, a mediocre player cannot hide lousy technique behind a Tele, but getting that Tele tone is fairly easy because it is built in.

While the internal circuit (scroll down) helps to bleed highs back into the tone as the volume knob is lowered, the real secret is the copper-plated steel base plate attached to the bridge pickup. That plate not only distorts the magnetic field upwards toward the strings, it also has electrodynamic properties that translates body vibrations into that characteristic twang. As well, it creates eddy currents that fatten the tone and keeping it from getting even more shrill.

This all creates a highly sensitive instrument that amplifies bad technique (and explains why I play Strats), while rewarding those with the diligence to learn its moods.
posted by Ardiril at 12:54 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am 42. I love the blues and I love Telecasters. How in the hell did this pass me by for so long? THANK YOU ARDIRIL. You have made a blues-loving, telecaster admiring 42 year old man very happy indeed.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Tele was the first decent guitar I treated myself to when I could finally afford one, at the age of 24. I still have it, and it is still my favourite guitar, almost thirty years later.
posted by Decani at 1:14 PM on May 25, 2012

LOL he tunes his guitar after the song has already started, at about 0:23. Just one quick turn of the peg, during a pause between notes and it's dead on. I've only seen one other guitarist do that: Pete Townshend (1:02 in this performance.)

Anyway, Buchanan always amazed me and I have never been able to even attempt the stuff he does. He's one of the reasons I bought a Tele, long long ago, but I was too young to realize the guitar doesn't make the player. He does little tricks like putting his little finger around the volume knob so he can run it up and down as he plays a note. Most people would get a pedal for that. I remember he said he played pedal steel guitar until he found he could do al that stuff on a Tele. And that's really what a Tele is, it's a Fender pedal steel guitar with fewer strings and a body on the lower end so you can strap it on.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keith Richards discussed the Telecaster which of course he usually plays with only 5 strings in open G tuning. (Bonus Mick Taylor playing on that last link from 1981 tour...YES, I said 1981).
posted by punkfloyd at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2012

Pete Townshend - Magic Bus on Jools Holland. This is how a tele should sound.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:21 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hats off to Roy Buchanan.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:27 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's a guy from Jersey named Bruce who's a pretty fair hand with a telecaster, although according to the Making of Born to Run video, his guitar is actually a hybrid of a Telecaster body and an Esquire neck that he found in a guitar shop in Belmar, NJ that hat the perfect sound that he wanted.
posted by jonmc at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure its a Telecaster that my cousin Chris is playing here Roomful of Blues 1999 Bern Jazz Festival, Switzerland. Regardless, you might enjoy it anyway.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2012


I could talk tele tales all damn afternoon.

A tele and a fender super reverb-god damn that's perfected tone. Dunno why anything else is made really. A blues deluxe can get you most of the way there, but that combo is just sweet love.

I've spent years lost in that sound.
posted by roboton666 at 1:39 PM on May 25, 2012

It's not a Tele, blaneyphoto, but that tone he's getting at 2:20 is super sick. I'm totally sampling that.
posted by Ardiril at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2012

Wow!!! Look at the stash on that bass player! Now I can understand where these "hipsters" are coming from! not really

Awesome song tho!
posted by Somnolent Jack at 1:46 PM on May 25, 2012

Yep, sorry - should've dug into my photos first. But now I'm going to have to ask him because I can't figure out what it is he's playing. You'd think after seeing them a thousand times I'd know...
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:48 PM on May 25, 2012

I saw Roy back in '87. The thing that amazed me was how calm he looked as he was making those incredible sounds. If you just looked at his face you wouldn't even think he was playing.
posted by DaddyNewt at 2:05 PM on May 25, 2012

Whoa that Redneck Blues is hot. I love the Wes Montgomery style thumb / octave chord solo around 1:42. Dude's got chops.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2012

If PBS played nothing but Austin City Limits reruns all day, every day, I would definitely buy a tote bag.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Wait a second, Sys Rq... Are you saying you would Totes tote?!
posted by Somnolent Jack at 2:20 PM on May 25, 2012

A strat sounds like a strat. A Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul. A tele, especially clean, sounds like you, warts and all.

(It also sounds a bit like tin.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:21 PM on May 25, 2012

I was lucky enough to live in Northern Virginia during the reign(s) of Roy and Danny Gatton, and got to see both of them scores of times. I also saw Bill Kirchen ( originally from Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen) play every week for six years or so. He's a rockabilly whiz on a Tele.

Good times. Gone too soon.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:35 PM on May 25, 2012

Roy also played a beautiful cover of Down By The River if you're up for a double dose of tragic domestic violence.

The version posted is my favourite of those available on YT. He may be playing a Les Paul on it - I'm not expert at the distinction, though I get that the Tele has its own thing going.

I got to see him on two occasions at a small club, from a distance of about an arm's reach. Lucky me.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 2:54 PM on May 25, 2012

*cough* Joe Strummer *cough*
posted by humboldt32 at 3:26 PM on May 25, 2012

A strat sounds like a strat. A Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul. A tele, especially clean, sounds like you, warts and all. If you're good, there's nothing more expressive.

Totally correct! They are the most versatile guitars on earth. To the guitar players mentioned on this thread, I'd add Jonny Greenwood, who sounds as unlike them as they sound unlike each other.

Though I prefer my Gretsch these days.
posted by Zerowensboring at 4:04 PM on May 25, 2012

Can I Change My Mind from Live Stock.

Sings. One of my favorite guitar tracks of all time.
posted by parki at 4:47 PM on May 25, 2012

If we're talkin' Tele today, here's a nod to the god of Scarborough Ontario, Mr. Ed Bickert.
posted by ovvl at 5:06 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Roy Buchanan's dazzling Telecaster technique is deeply fused with his spirituality in The Messiah Will Come Again.

(note: I first heard this song on Dan Behrman's excellent Blues programme which used to be on Radio-Canada Espace Musique).
posted by ovvl at 5:21 PM on May 25, 2012

One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, thanks to Martin Scorcese's otherwise, meh The Departed. Though I thought the song was very well-placed.

Also, if anyone doesn't know (and I certainly didn't until I saw an Austin City Limits episode), but damn if Vince Gill can't chicken pick with the rest of 'em. Takes some serious balls to go toe to toe with Danny and Albert.
posted by ssmug at 5:41 PM on May 25, 2012

Oh jeez. I love that song Sweet Dreams, ssmug, I had that album and played it over and over. And that song The Messiah Will Come Again, those are Roy being laid back and taking the guitar for a smooth ride at high speed with some fast corners. But then I noticed over in the YouTube sidebar, a version of The Messiah Will Come Again by Gary Moore. Never heard of him, let's fire it up. Oh holy shit. You want to hear the same song, but with Roy Buchanan's licks on a 59 Les Paul? You will hear the difference in the sound. This is why I sold my Tele and bought a Les Paul, the sound is so full bodied and you can pull a lot more different sounds out of it than a Tele and none of them are shrill. But this guy isn't laid back at all. He's just burning this song down to the ground. And he's even using some of Roy's tricks like turning the volume knob, which is one hell of a reach on a Les Paul, it's almost impossible.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:53 PM on May 25, 2012

This is great, but sadly there's no footage of Ray flipping the guitar up and picking the strings with his pointy beard.
posted by HeroZero at 10:29 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

My main guitar these days is an '86 Thinline, which again sounds very little like a solid-bodied Tele', but the tone of the neck pick-up is out-of-this-world smooth, and just enough on the right side of jazzy to be incredibly fun to play!
posted by benzo8 at 12:27 AM on May 26, 2012

charlie don't surf: "Gary Moore. Never heard of him"

You've never heard of Gary Moore? Oh, you've got some great learning to do...
posted by benzo8 at 12:31 AM on May 26, 2012

A little of that goes a long way. With all due respect to Mr. Moore, and Mr. Buchanan to a much lesser extent, you just can't play lead guitar solos all the time. While both the classic Tele and Les Paul sounds are famed for their ability to wail on the high notes with big sustain, they both sound really good when played up near the head on the first few frets. You know, chords and stuff. That Pete Townshend clip of him playing a 52 Tele is amazing, he just makes the guitar bark. That's how you do it. I think the Tele in particular was designed to emulate Fender's steel guitars, and became popular in rock because you could adapt that sound to ways it wasn't intended to be used (like Pete there). Until then, a lot of guys even played these guitars like they were lap guitars, check this out, a guy playing a Strat flat on his lap with a capo really high up, with a pedal steel accompanying him. This is the electric sound you would hear until rock came along. Notice all the guitarists are strumming rhythm chords except the pedal steel which is 100% lead.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:28 AM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

OMFG I didn't know there was any live footage of Blind Faith. What is this dust in my eye or something

You know, I am probably the only person on earth that bought the double album Ginger Baker At His Best. Well, I had to, to complete the whole set.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:20 PM on May 26, 2012

In the DC-VA axis of Tele legends Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and Bill Kirchen, don't forget Evan Johns.
posted by bonefish at 3:47 PM on May 26, 2012

John 5 showing off his incredible collection of vintage Telecasters.

How many fucking Telecasters do you need?

The first one I purchased was this one here, it's a 1966 Fender Esquire, and I bought it for, like you know, $5000, you know, it's probably worth like 13 or $14000 now.

This is why we can't have nice things. Some rich fuck owns them all.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:04 PM on May 26, 2012

Billy Price really helped the cause on "Livestock"
posted by johnny7 at 6:37 AM on May 27, 2012

I have been fuming since yesterday when I saw that video of that guitar collector, I had to turn it off when I got to the bit about his $150k Telecaster. It really bothered me and I think I figured out why. He opens the case and it's got the original pamphlet the guitar was sold with. Then gushes about how the guitar looks like it's never been played, never even been out of the case. And of course he leaves it in the case and would never consider actually playing it, that would destroy it's collectible value. Hey asshole: if you never play it, it's not a guitar, it's a trophy.

I think the reason this really pissed me off is because someone recently posted to MeFi an old film of a Fender factory tour in 1959. Now this is a moment they were producing their most legendary guitars. But these guys are not building Stradivarius violins worth millions of dollars. Hell, even Stradivarius wasn't building violins like that, he was just this guy who made stringed instruments for musicians. Up until around the 1970s, you could still buy a Stradivarius violin for around $100k, and actual violin players could afford them. Then institutional collectors started buying them and the prices skyrocketed. Think about that. This guy paid more for a Telecaster than some people who are still alive paid for their Stradivarius violin. And those guys played their Strad for their entire career, and so did the previous owner. I read an article recently about a violinist who bought a Strad when he was young, for around $150k I think, and that was a lot of money that he had to work for years to pay off. Now he decided to retire because he is old and arthritic and no longer capable of playing his Strad in the way that it deserves. It was time to sell the instrument, and let someone else play it. He decided to put the Strad up for auction, with the proceeds going to an endowment at Julliard, where he taught. I haven't heard how that turned out, but surely the violin sold for millions. They all do, nowadays.

And now that's happening to Telecasters. Everything is going up in price because of collectors. I often gripe about how I sold my '61 Les Paul Jr for $350 back in the mid 1980s, and now it's a low end collectible that will cost about $6k minimum. I don't even want to think of the value of my mid-60s Telecaster I owned back in the early 70s. Back then, it was just a used guitar a few years old that some guy sold because he never played it. It was in pristine condition. I don't remember what I paid for it, I think somewhere around $300. A couple of years later, I sold it because I hardly ever played it. I don't even remember what exact model it was. But it could actually be the guitar this guy paid $150k for.

Now, vintage Gibsons, Gretsches, and Martins, on the other hand, really do have magic that the new ones just can't seem to capture.

Oh you might be surprised. I remember reading an interview with Les Paul, a long time ago, maybe the mid 1970s. He was still working with Gibson as a designer and consultant on their production methods. He complained of the quality of guitars Gibson produced from his designs. He said that over the decades, he checked hundreds, maybe thousands of guitars, coming straight off the assembly line and in guitar stores across the country, to check the quality of the product being delivered. He said that every single Les Paul guitar he inspected had serious build problems and would need repairs and a re-setup before he would consider it good enough to sell, let alone good enough for him to play.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2012

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