“This is probably damn near better than having my guitar, having him playing my guitar”: Fender unveils the Raphael Saadiq Telecaster – watch the Grammy-winning R&B maestro demo it with Eric Gales

Fender Raphael Saadiq Telecaster
(Image credit: Fender)

Fender has teamed up with the R&B songwriter/producer Raphael Saadiq for a signature Telecaster – and Saadiq has reached out to his good friend and blues guitar genius Eric Gales to help him demo it.

The Raphael Saadiq Telecaster is a limited edition, California-built doozy that comes straight out of the Big F’s Corona facility with a hot Dark Red Metallic finish, a black painted headstock, and a single-ply acrylic pickguard custom tooled with red and dark yellow pattern that matches what Saadiq was wearing on the cover to his 2002 debut album, Instant Vintage. 

Other signature aesthetic details can be found on the back of the guitar, where the neck plate has been engraved.

It looks like nothing else in the Fender catalogue, but Saadiq’s Tele’s custom appointments go way beyond the look. When you think of Saadiq’s discography, his work as a songwriter, composer, and producer, this could lend itself to all different styles, from R&B to blues, and the spec betrays a taste for the old-school, and for comfort when fretting chords.

Saadiq’s Telecaster has an ash body, with single-ply black binding on top. Its bolt-on maple neck has a 1959 C profile, with a satin urethane finish so it doesn’t gum up, and a slab rosewood fingerboard inlaid with clay dots, with clay dot side markers. The fingerboard has a 9.5” radius, 21 vintage tall frets. The scale length is regulation 25.5”. 

This looks fun to play. Saadiq, who has worked with Tupac Shakur, Mary J Blige, Elton John, Erykah Badu, winning Grammys in the process, looks pleased as punch in the demo video, in which he described his new model as a vehicle for songwriting, and for those whose playing style has a bit of flash – the likes of which Mr Gales is on hand to supply.

“It is huge for me, because I’m a songwriter, and I love to write on guitar, so now that I have my own signature guitar I feel like there’s a lot of magic for me to start making on this guitar,” says Saadiq. “I am really excited to see other people write on this guitar. I’m glad to have [Eric] here to play this guitar. This is probably damn near better than having my guitar, having him playing my guitar.”

The Raphael Saadiq Telecaster has a Pure Vintage three-saddle Tele bridge with threaded steel barrel saddles, and a pair of Tele single-coil pickups that Fender custom-wound for Saadiq. 

“I really wanted this full sound, that has a lot of depth, a lot of bite,” says Saadiq, and they sure sound sweet in the demo video.

Shipping now, in a hard-shell guitar case with “Red Poodle” interior, the Raphael Saadiq Telecaster is priced £2,499 / $2,399. See Fender for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.