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Bruce Springsteen on his iconic $180 'Born to Run' Fender Tele/Esquire: "It's been in every club, theater, arena and stadium across America"

Bruce Springsteen has given guitar fans some rare insight into his beloved "mutt" Fender Esquire/Telecaster, which has been his number one guitar since he bought it five decades ago.

During a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert promoting Renegades - co-authored with Barrack Obama - Springsteen took the opportunity to talk about the treasured Tele that famously graces the cover of his masterpiece album, Born To Run.

"I've played this guitar for 50 years. I bought it when I was 22 years-old for $185 on Highway 34, I think, in Belmar, New Jersey from a great guitar man named Phil Petillo, and I've had it ever since.

It's kind of a Mutt, it's made-up of two different guitars. But this guitar has been in every club, theater, arena and stadium across America, and most of the world. So it's been around a bit."

Colbert asks, "It's not the only guitar you play in-concert though, right? What does it feel like when you go from another guitar to this one?" To which Springsteen answered, "Well, this feels like my arm. If I have this guitar, it's like I don't have anything on. This became an extension of my body. Anything else I pick up, it's a guitar…But i don't play it much on stage these days because I sort of put it out to pasture, it's done so much good work for me.

As noted, Springsteen's "mutt" is made from an Esquire neck and a swamp ash Telecaster body, which had reportedly undergone many modifications prior to Springsteen purchasing the instrument.

According to Fender, the guitar was previously owned by a record company, and was reportedly loaded with four pickups, designed to be plugged direct into a studio desk in order to enable session guitarists to earn four times their fee by performing four different-sounding guitar tracks on a song. 

This modification meant that the guitar had been heavily routed to accommodate the additional magnets, making the guitar incredibly light. Petillo reverted the guitar to a dual-single coil design with a six-saddle bridge, and also installed his trademark, triangular Petillo Precision frets in the neck.   

The guitar was Springsteen's go-to instrument for nearly every performance throughout his career until, as he said, it was retired from the road in the mid-2000s. However, the guitar has made multiple appearances on The Boss' album covers. Aside from Born To Run, it graced the sleeve of his live compilation, Live: 1975-1085, as well as 2021's Wrecking Ball.