What makes a Telecaster a Telecaster?

Is a Tele still a Tele if you hollow out the body? Is it a Tele if it has F-holes and a big fat humbucker in the bridge position?

What if it’s really, really pretty, though?

The Faded Tennessee Orange Hollow-Body Tele still bears that signature single cutaway body, so she’s got the silhouette of a Tele… but otherwise, the Tennessee Orange definitely bends the status quo of the Telecaster, and boasts a few special features.

This curiosity from the Fender Custom Shop is a beautifully designed, masterfully crafted guitar — and quite a conversation piece, to boot.

The First-Ever Hollow Tele

Fender Master Builder Paul Waller spent all of 2013 cooking up his showcase piece for NAMM 2014: a true hollow-body Telecaster. Purists may howl, and they may cry foul, but this guitar looks good enough to eat, and seems to fill a niche that hasn’t quite been nailed down until now.

There have been a few semi-hollow Teles in the Fender Thinline family, but the Faded Tennessee Orange is the first to go all-hollow. The Faded Tennessee Orange paint job looks so good I kinda want to lick it. She’s also got:

  • an arch top
  • a bolt-on neck
  • pearl thumbnail inlays
  • gold hardware
  • string-through body
  • a special wide-range humbucker designed to be fat and warm, yet still clear

These traits combine to give the Tennessee Orange a distinctly western look and feel. This one should get the attention of all you folk, country, and country-blues pickers out there.

The Faded Tennessee Orange Tele’s Hybrid Bridge

Master Builder Paul Waller developed a special hybrid Jazzmaster/Jaguar bridge to give the Tele a true hollow-body sound — without stirring up the annoying feedback that too often plagues hollow-body guitars. The design was years in the making.

The Tennessee Orange’s strings also feed in through the back, like a Telecaster, which really pulls on the bridge and gives the Orange a fatter tone than you’d get from a Jaguar or a Jazzmaster.

But is it a Tele?

If you consider the old Telecaster design sacrosanct, the Faded Tennessee Orange Telecaster might not be your weapon of choice. But if you’re looking for a great guitar with a fat western tone and a bit of a rebellious design, the Tennessee Orange has your name written all over it.

So: is it a tele? Or is it banished forever to the Isle of Misfit Guitars? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Nicholas Tozier (82 Articles)

Nicholas Tozier is a book hoarder and songbird from the woods of Maine. In 2012 he made a small cameo in Songwriting Without Boundaries by Berklee professor Pat Pattison, and was named one of CDBaby’s top 10 Songwriting Resources to follow on Twitter.