There is a certain breed of electric guitar aficionado that goes all Bogart in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre at the mere mention of gold foil electric guitar pickups, so just imagine their reaction they see this – a Fender limited edition run that riffs on the catalogue electrics of yore to augment the Telecaster, Jazzmaster and Jazz Bass with their own Gold Foil mini-humbuckers.
The collection is made in Mexico, comprises two finish options per model, and is full of surprises. Yes, the Fender Gold Foil pickups pull focus, outbreaks of gold fever at the local guitar store, but just check this out – both the Jazzmaster and Telecaster have solid mahogany bodies, ebony fingerboards come as standard, and to top it all off there are matching painted headstocks to complete a classy vintage look.
Hardware choices are also verge on the bespoke. The Telecaster is sporting a modified ‘Cut-off’ bridge with three brass barrel saddles, the Jazzmaster equipped with a Bigsby B50 vibrato, while the Jazz Bass has a 4-saddle bridge with threaded saddles and vintage-style “lollipop” tuners.
The prospect of a mahogany-bodied Telecaster suggests, well, a fairly hefty electric that you might want to dig out a thick guitar strap for, but it also promises more warmth and depth than you might associate with the Tele, and it is sure to bring out the best in the harmonically rich mids of those Gold Foils. And the Jazzmaster? Well, it’s got a trio of those suckers houses in that big offset lump of ‘hog.
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Generic gold foils were most commonly found on cheapo catalogue guitars, the sort of thing you might pick out at a US department store in the early 1960s, guitars from Harmony and Teisco.
These electrics would help give garage rock its unruly signature skronk, and with many of them being resurrected by alt-rock and indie players looking for a retro sound that’s a little bit off-road, a lesser heard tone that sits somewhere outside the typical tone menu of single-coil and humbucker.
It’s sort of tone that pairs nicely with an old tube amp with a fuzz pedal in front of it, and some gold foils can be remarkably dynamic, responding to your picking or how you set your guitar's controls.
Each of the models in the series has a ‘60s C profile neck, finished in satin urethane and topped with a 9.5” fingerboard.
All the bodies are finished in gloss. Both the Jazzmaster and Jazz Bass have bound fingerboards, the Tele’s is unbound. The Jazz Bass has a solid alder body, 20 frets, a 34” scale, ships in 2-Color Sunburst and Sonic Blue, the former with a three-ply parchment guard, the latter with four-ply tortoiseshell. Two very handsome bass guitars, vintage with a Custom Shop minimalist vibe. It has a single Gold Foil pickup, with controls for volume and tone.
The Telecaster ships in White Blonde and Candy Apple Burst, and has Gold Foils at the neck and bridge positions, a three-way pickup selector, volume and tone mounted on the chrome control plate.
Finish options for the Jazzmaster comprise Candy Apple Burst and – appropriately –Firemist Gold. The fingerboards have pearloid block inlays. Fender has gone all out with the Jazzmaster’s complement of pickups with a trio of Gold Foils controlled by master volume and tone controls and three on/off slider switches for selecting the pickups. All three pickups in unison should be quite the sound.
While both Tele and Jazzmaster have the same dimensions – the traditional 25.5” scale, 42mm nut width – there may be some subtle differences in feel, with the Tele fitted with 21 medium jumbo frets, the Jazzmaster with 21 narrow tall frets.
Sadly, there is no Stratocaster option, which feels like a missed opportunity for Fender to put its name to a Coodercaster-esque instrument that's priced for those of mortal finances. But maybe those Ry Cooder slide guitar tones could be teased out of the Tele. Or heck, the Jazzmaster. Why not.
The Fender Limited Edition Gold Foil Series is available now. The Jazzmaster is priced £1,439, the Telecaster £1,219, and the Jazz Bass £1,299. See Fender for more details.