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Your association with a specific guitar, your 1968 paisley Telecaster, is pretty iconic at this point.
“I’m really lucky that James Burton made that cool. In 1968, Fender decides to make this ugly guitar, that would still be considered the worst decision in guitar finish history, [except for] James Burton… They were selling those very, very slowly. They only made about three or four hundred of ‘em, I think, with wallpaper stuck to the front. They thought, ‘This will get the hippies!’ [Laughs] And what happened was…[music stores] couldn’t sell it. They’d mark it down, some guy would buy it and he’d strip the wallpaper off of it and paint it. So there’s very few left, and they go for, like, 20 grand now.
“James Burton, almost as a joke, gets it sent to him by Fender. He opens it up and he goes, ‘I’m gonna play this tonight, and Elvis is gonna hate this, but it’ll be funny.’ He’s playing on stage and Elvis is standing there in Vegas, in his jumpsuit or whatever, and looks over and sees this thing. He gives him a look. And James is like, ‘Oh, crap. I’m getting fired.’
“Elvis never stopped looking at it and talking about it onstage. James got done with the show and just went straight to him: ‘I’m sorry, boss. I won’t ever do that again. I just thought it’d be funny.’ And Elvis is like, ‘No. You’re playing that every night.’ …He never played another show with Elvis that wasn’t with that guitar. And so that’s cool. Before that, it’s sort of like Joan Baez threw up on it.”
How did your relationship with that guitar begin?
“I bought that guitar in ’95. I’d always wanted one, but they had already gone up a lot. They’d already escalated because of James Burton. They’d gone from this awful stepchild guitar to, ‘Oh, that’s collectible.’ Sometime around college, I got enough money from a publishing/production thing with EMI, and I went and bought it. Found one at a guitar show in Dallas and bought that guitar, and that’s the only one I have. Everybody thinks I must have several of those, but I only have one. I have several remakes that I carry with me, but the only Fender paisley Tele that I have is that one. You know, I got a guitar builder to build ‘em in different colors now. It’s such a cool thing now to have a paisley finish.
“Everybody always said to me, ‘You need a paisley Tele.’ If my name was Sunburst, I’d have to play those or whatever.”