What is it?
The aggressive expansion of Fender's Artist Series has produced some fresh new takes on its most-classic electric guitar designs. Sometimes the artist spec is largely aesthetic, such as the triumph of that stunning Chrome Glow finish on the H.E.R signature Stratocaster.
Other times we have seen form and function meet, as on Brent Mason's Telecaster – a fully featured model that recreates the aftermarket modded vibe of Mason's do-it-all Tele.
Tash Sultana's signature Strat is another to prioritise versatility. Its HSS pickup configuration with that coil-tappable bridge 'bucker makes it a guitar for all seasons. Plus, the Transparent Cherry finish, matching headstock, gold hardware and pearloid pickguard give it a luxurious vibe.
Then we've had a raft of Fender Artist Series models that replicate iconic instruments from the past. While the likes of the Mike McCready Strat and Joe Strummer Esquire are Custom Shop efforts, made by Master Builders and priced for hedge fund managers, the Chrissie Hynde Signature Telecaster is the 2021 Artist Series model that manages to carry the weight of rock 'n' roll history behind it while being priced for the regular musician.
For many of us, it presents an affordable vintage-vibe instrument. It is based on Hynde's '65 Tele she picked it up a '65 Tele in a New York music store at the turn of the 80s.
That Tele supplied the punk power behind Hynde's rhythm playing, a self-taught style that would be ably complemented with the lush melodies of the late, great James Honeyman-Scott. It was a sound that gave The Pretenders something unique in a febrile post-punk era.
Taking the Chrissie Hynde Telecaster out of the case, that lived-in Motor City vibe of her original model is all present and correct. The guitar has been subtly aged using Fender's Road Worn lacquer, which reveals some checking on the nitrocellulose finish when you look closely.
The hardware is a dull nickel/chrome, too, suggesting a few city miles under the hood. Indeed, if you'd bought this second-hand and the ferrules on the rear of the guitar looked like this, you might give it the once over with a gentle anti-bacterial cleaner. The pickguard, too, is worn in just right. There is a lot of attention to detail here, more than what you might expect from a production line model.
Sure, it's a distinctive guitar. Few players partnered an Ice Blue Metallic finish with a chrome mirror pickguard, but only the monogrammed "C H" etching on the heel plate betrays this as a signature model. Anyone could pick this up and make it their own..
Sometimes when we think vintage we immediately conjure images of a fat, baseball bat neck profile – often a crude U in cheaper modern-day builds – but they weren't all like that. Chrissie Hynde Tele has a very slinky maple neck, which Fender describes as Mid '60s "C" profile.
Compared to the soft V profile of 50s Classic Player Baja Telecaster, it's a real slip of a thing. This allied to the 7.25" radius of its rosewood fingerboard makes it very approachable for fretting chords. Players with smaller digits would surely get along well with that setup. Similarly, the alder body feels a little lighter than ash-bodied Teles.
The pickup and control setup is simple. No fuss. You've got a pair of Vintage-Style '50s Tele single-coils controlled by a three-way blade selector plus volume and tone knobs.
Just like Hynde's original model, the bridge comprises a with a three-way blade six steel-saddle design, which should make intonation a little less painful than the three barrel saddle design found on many older Teles, and Hynde has made one change from her own instrument by adding a a set of Fender-branded locking tuners
Performance and verdict
The Telecaster's great strength lies in the simplicity of its design. Like the Les Paul Junior, it is the electric guitar at its most primal. These stripped-down instruments have a blue collar appeal. Little wonder it is so rare to see a Tele with gold hardware. It'd be like wearing a ruff and a pearl earring to go down a coal mine.
Sure, the Chrissie Hynde Telecaster is at the fancier end of the Mexican-built Teles in terms of price – and it comes with a case, strap and badge. But it's not the sort of guitar that you'd be scared to play hard, to swing it around at a gig. That nitro finish has got a head start on the ageing process but it's only going to look better as you do the hard work yourself
Just a slab of wood with some pickups, with no belly contours or other such concessions to ergonomics, the Chrissie Hynde Telecaster is nonetheless a very well-balanced instrument that feels right when you pick it up.
That neck profile is classed as a 60s affair but it would not have been out of place in the 80s. It, too, has been treated in nitro, and while it has that freshly lacquered feel you just out the box, you know it's going to wear in very nicely indeed.
• Fender Vintera Road Worn '70s Telecaster Deluxe
The Road Worn Vintera '70s Telecaster Deluxe performs a neat trick in pulling off the Custom Shop look at a very reasonable price, but beyond the aesthetic, those Wide Range humbuckers make for one supremely versatile tone machine.
• Fender Vintera 50s Telecaster Modified
As your gateway to the world of vintage (and modified vintage) Fender, these guitars are hugely valid, whatever they’re now called. They remain go-to choices for players on a budget and we’d suggest there’s enough refinement and a build quality that’ll surprise many sniffier punters.
Hynde's strength lies in her right-hand attack, in hammering out her own distinct rhythms, yet this neck invites the more adventurous players out there to let their fretting hand saunter up the 'board. The idea of a 7.25" radius fingerboard might seem anachronistic in the 21st century, but it plays well here, with no choking out as you bend the strings.
Plugged in, there's no mistaking the Telecaster voice. It's bright, sharp and powerful, but the attack isn't quite as unsparing as a maple-'boarded model. There's a smoothness in the mids, and plenty of travel on that tone control to dial in a thicker sound.
The Chrissie Hynde Telecaster is very much at home with the gain cranked up, but clean, through a tube combo, it's got all the articulate twang you would want for blues and country. And by all means, add some chorus, reverb and compression for those 80s clean tones; it does a neat job of spangly open-chords.
MusicRadar verdict: Pretenders fans will love it. No question. But with a classy build, a very cool finish and an easy playing neck, the Fender Chrissie Hynde Telecaster is a good fit for anyone looking for a vintage-inspired Tele at a reasonable price.
Cream City Music
The Trogly's Guitar Show
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple (bolt-on)
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- FRETBOARD: Rosewood, 184.1mm (7.25”) radius
- FRETS: 21, Vintage Tall
- NUT: 42mm, synthetic bone
- PICKUPS: 2x Vintage-Style ’50s Single-Coil Tele
- CONTROLS: 1 x volume and 1 x tone, 3-way blade selector switch
- HARDWARE: 6-saddle strings-through-body Tele with stainless steel saddles, deluxe cast/sealed locking tuners with vintage-style button
- FINISH: Faded Ice Blue Metallic Road Worn, Nitrocellulose Lacquer
- CONTACT: Fender (opens in new tab)