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Top 5 Guitarists Who Play the Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

The Fender Telecaster and the Most Famous Guitarists Who Play It

The Fender Telecaster and the Most Famous Guitarists Who Play It

The Fender Telecaster: The Revolutionary Electric Guitar!

The Fender Telecaster debuted in March of 1950, and the world of music has never looked back. This was the very first solid-body electric guitar to be produced in any sort of memorable numbers, and the sound of the thing—and the simple-but-effective utility of it—ensured that solid-body electric guitars would be the future. And so it was.

Quite naturally, the Fender Telecaster was a hit of an instrument that drew in many an aficionado and many a great guitarist made it their instrument of choice. There was precious little to be improved upon, if anything—from the time it became available, there were only more options, and no tremendous steps up the ladder in terms of technology. The Fender Telecaster is just as viable and useful an instrument today as it was the first day of production.

Besides all of that, the Fender Telecaster has a unique and special sound that needs no effects but does well with those too. It's very twangy, and essentially, it is the perfect electric guitar for country music and country rock.

Top 5 Guitarists Who Play the Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar

Don Rich and Buck Owens!

Don Rich and Buck Owens!

1. Buck Owens, Don Rich, and the Bakersfield Sound

Now before the Fender Telecaster was used for anything else, it was used for electrified country music, and nowhere was this style more prevalent than in Bakersfield, California. The mid-1950s saw the country music of Nashville taking a nosedive in the stylistic sense, and the reaction to that from California was what became known as The Bakersfield sound, and to this day the same stylistic elements that comprised the style are still being heard both far and wide.

Perhaps the man who was most responsible for the Bakersfield Sound was Buck Owens, and his Band, The Buckaroos. The single greatest element of the Bakersfield sound was the picked leads of a guitarist using a Fender Telecaster, and originally it was Buck Owens that did the guitar playing while Don Rich played fiddle, but Buck taught Don his style so that he could concentrate more on singing. It wasn't long before Don Rich was ready, and he then became the single most noteworthy person to represent that sound, and bring it to the masses. Soon afterwards, such diverse acts as Merle Haggard, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Grateful Dead would be following in the wake of Don Rich's lead Telecaster twang!

Pete Anderson Played The Fire Out Of His Telecaster With Dwight Yoakam

Pete Anderson Played The Fire Out Of His Telecaster With Dwight Yoakam

2. Pete Anderson

Now I've not met Mr. Pete Anderson, but strangely enough, I've talked to him on the telephone before. If I told you that story, then I'd not be able to explain it so well without digressing quite a lot from the point of this web page, and the point of this segment of this webpage is entirely that Pete Anderson is one hell of a MONSTER guitarist, and that without him, Dwight Yoakam wouldn't have ever sounded half so good on record as he has, does, or did.

I'm told that Dwight and Pete ain't exactly peas and carrots anymore—but all the great albums that Dwight Yoakam made in the past twenty years or so, they all were greater than they'd have been without Mr. Pete Anderson and his Fender Telecaster guitar playing, and sound.

Some musical styles never seem to die, and the Bakersfield Sound appears to be one of those. It's not died, it's just continued on in new and exciting formats, and nobody but nobody has done more awesome music in the style known as the Bakersfield Sound than has Dwight Yoakam, and Pete Anderson is the guitarist that made that all happen.

Clarence White Blew Minds With His B Bender Telecaster!

Clarence White Blew Minds With His B Bender Telecaster!

3. Clarence White

Clarence White was one of the finest guitarists to ever play, but most folks don't know who he is because he died at a mere twenty-nine years of age and spent the first half of his career playing with the Kentucky Colonels, a bluegrass band. Clarence did make quite a leap forward so far as recognition is concerned, he became the guitar guru for Roger McGuinn and the Byrds.

Besides being the master of the D 28 and D 18 acoustic guitar in the flatpicking style, Clarence White was also the master of the extended jam country blues Fender Telecaster as featured in the latterday incarnation of the Byrds.

Then there was the invention of the Gene Parsons and Clarence White B Bender, a mechanical thing attached to the nut of the guitar with some pulleys and levers, which allowed Clarence to bend strings in one direction (sharp or flat) whilst simultaneously bending adjacent strings the other direction (sharp or flat)—which basically caused head scratched bald, and apoplectic fits amongst guitarist trying to figure out whether or not he'd sold his soul to the devil or if they were just dumb. Quite a nice show, Clarence!!!

Keith Richards Has Nearly Always Played Telecaster Guitars!

Keith Richards Has Nearly Always Played Telecaster Guitars!

4. Keith Richards (the Poster Boy for the Fender Telecaster)

There is probably nobody on Earth who has done more with the Fender Telecaster than has Keith Richards. Keith, of course, is one of the glimmer twins, the second-most-known face of the Rolling Stones.

What more needs said here? You all know exactly who Keith Richards is, and who the Rolling Stones are. One thing you might not know about Keith and his guitar style is that Keith Richards is a master of alternate tunings, and is rumored to viciously guard the secrets of just how he keeps his Fender Telecaster guitars tuned! While Keith has always been the consummate supporting musician who's forever allowed Mick Jagger to take the fore of stage presence, he's also a man who's brought his own unique and tough-to-match electric rhythm guitar style like no other.

Jimmy Page and His Fender Telecaster Equipped With the Gene Parsons/Clarence White B Bender

Jimmy Page and His Fender Telecaster Equipped With the Gene Parsons/Clarence White B Bender

5. Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin

Now James Patrick Page, most often known as "Jimmy Page," has most often been associated with either his Les Paul, or the Gibson double neck SG that he only used to perform "Stairway to Heaven" and "The Rain Song" with, but facts are that he played one of his Fender Telecaster guitars a ton more often than he did that novelty double-neck you've seen so many photos of him with.

Jimmy Page never once recorded playing that big red Gibson double neck. He nearly always either used one of his Telecasters, or one of his Les Paul guitars. Especially early on in Led Zeppelin did page play the Telecaster, and especially was that instrument dominant on Led Zeppelin I. He also used the Fender Telecaster very often on the last album recorded by Led Zeppelin, and that was In Through The Out Door. When Page played with the Yardbirds—replacing Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton—he played the Fender Telecaster exclusively.

Waylon Jennings Always Played A Telecaster

Waylon Jennings Always Played A Telecaster

The Fender Telecaster's Enduring Popularity

So the Fender Telecaster was the very first solid-body electric guitar to go production and be successful. Is there any wonder so many persons adopted it as the very symbol of their own personalized style of guitar playing?

Not if you ask me, there isn't. The Fender Telecaster is just as viable an instrument today as it was in 1955. For all intents and practical purposes, the Fender Telecaster is just a guitar that happens to be meant entirely for plugged-in play. The solid-body electric guitar is virtually worthless so far as making music without amplification, you know—but with amplification, the Fender Telecaster is every bit the fine guitar on the market as it ever was, and it really wasn't something anyone could ever truly improve upon. The only thing with other and newer solid-body electric guitars is the considerations concerning personal preference in regards to sound, playability, and whether or not you want a "whammy bar."

The Gibson Les Paul is very similar to the Fender Telecaster in that it was second, and provides the exact same function and utility, but offered a different feel, look, and tonality. The Les Paul has nothing to be improved upon within it either, and never shall it.

Of course, there are far too many guitarists to have played or currently play the Telecaster to ever mention here—a comprehensive list would be so exhaustive as to never be finished. If your favourite Fender Telecaster six-string slayer isn't present in this article, then feel free to leave a comment concerning your perceived omission, chances are I feel about as much pleasure in hearing THAT guitarist, as some of the ones mentioned here.

Besides the Fender Telecaster, this particular piece of web page journalism features primarily the adherents and practitioners of The Bakersfield Sound, and believe me, that is something that is stylistically dependent upon the Fender Telecaster, and might have never come about without Leo Fender's first solid-body guitar.

Questions & Answers

Question: Terry Kath of Chicago played a telecaster Hendrix said Terry was a better player than him?

Answer: Jimi Hendrix was a humble guy. Hendrix was a great guitarist, but he was no 'greatest of all time,' or anything. Since his early death there have always been folks who do think he was 'greatest of all time,' but I don't think those persons know a whole lot about guitar playing. Terry Kath was fantastic, and a fantastic singer besides. I believe Jimi Hendrix also once said Rory Gallagher was better than him as well. I believe Kath was deciding he preferred the Strat over the Tele before his early passing.

My personal opinion on great guitarists like Kath, Hendrix, Gallagher, and others in the blues-rock style, or any other genre is - you get to a certain level, and who's best is only a matter of opinion. There are far too many genres of guitar playing for any person to be 'the greatest guitarist of all time.' But since we're kind of on that subject, when he was alive, many people believed Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia was the single most advanced guitarist in the world.

Question: Major mistake! Why does this list of top 5 guitarists who play the Fender Telecaster have no mention of Roy Buchanan?

Answer: It's not a mistake at all. I have intentions to write at length about both Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton. Roy and Danny are both icons of the Fender Telecaster, but neither of them were well-known persons at all during their lifetimes or afterward. Roy and Danny were the types of musicians that typically, only other musicians know about. They deserve more respect than I could possibly give to them, but they were never famous.

Question: Why isn't James Burton in this mix, probably the most notable Telecaster player ever?

Answer: You can't make any kind of top 5 articles without leaving out a ton of people who could have been there. I don't think it is possible for there to have been any specific "most notable Telecaster player ever," but were I to really go for that as a designation, then due to the huge amount of exposure over so many years, I'd have to say Keith Richards was the most notable Telecaster player ever. Not because he was the best, he certainly wouldn't be that in my mind, but because he played so many years with a band which was always such a big deal.

Of course, Elvis was always a big deal, and James Burton played for Elvis, but Elvis has bee gone for a long long time now, and we've not seen a lot of James since then.

Question: I only discovered Danny Gatton last week but I was wondering why he wasn't part of the top 5 glad to know you are going to write about him also did you. Consider Brad Paisly?

Answer: I'd have to check the date of this article, but it's old insofar as me being a writer goes. I'm not ashamed of this article. I super love everyone mentioned. I will say, however, were I to write this article today, it would likely be much much longer, and I'd have probably made it entirely about virtuoso players, leaving all other factors out of it.

Here's the deal: Any time anyone writes an article about 'Top 5' of anything, the thing is absolutely certain to leave out a lot of persons, or things which were every bit as good, and even possibly better (depending upon the measure of what is or is not better within confines of parameters, like fame, virtuosity, etc)

Keith Richards, for instance, is fantastic, super famous. He's even pretty hard to dislike, even if you don't like classic rock, everyone seems to appreciate how he's a pretty good guy and has been a huge influence in music. But is Keith even in the same league as Danny Gatton in terms of skill? Of course not.

I'm not sure I even really knew about Danny Gatton until much more recent years. Oh I'd read about him from my gigantic stack of guitar magazines dating back to the early 80s, but I don't truly recall having heard him play until I had a computer and the internet, and saw videos on Youtube.

So what I did was just try to promote the Telecaster from different angles. I figured Page should be in there because he was using a Tele for some stuff which was at least very close to early heavy metal. I also figured it would be cool to name someone who maybe others didn't know much about, and I had always especially loved the early Dwight Yoakam albums, and so I used Pete Anderson instead of Brad Paisley

I'd imagine my love of Dwight Yoakam also influenced including Buck Owens and Don Rich. I knew most people would remember Buck Owens, but maybe had forgotten Buddy Rich.

Question: Have you, the writer of this article, ever seen the 'Dregs' Steve Morse play guitar? Steve is amazing and the Telecaster he hybridized was he used almost exclusively the first.

Answer: I had Dixie Dregs cassette tapes in the late 80s and early 90s when I was taking guitar lessons. My guitar teacher made them for me. My teacher had a Tele. I never got to see the Dregs play, but I saw Steve Morse on accident. In other words, I had no idea I would be seeing him.

"Cat Food" is my favorite Dixie Dregs number.

I went to a concert where there was Lynryd Skynrd and Deep Purple. I knew neither band had original lineups at all, but when Deep Purple was playing, I was just amazed. I had no idea who that guy was, as I was way back in the back at the amphitheater. So I moved to the front, and I recognized Steve Morse, as I knew what he looked like. He wasn't playing his modified Tele creation with Deep Purple. He was playing his Ernie Ball Music Man guitar.

© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 13, 2020:

@Dean - some folks are just far far more dedicated and talented to a sport or art, business, religion, or whatever it may be.

Yeah what the instrument was becomes not very relevant when there is someone who can shock bigtime players with how freaking good he is.

Seems as though the persons who are the most talented are sometimes also the most troubled. Well, Gary outlived a lot of his peers.

Dean on July 12, 2020:

Gary Moore is my best tele player. I watched a YouTube video of him playing "Red House" with a telecaster once and it was mind blowing, best tele player I have ever seen. It's

unfortunate he is no longer with us. R.I.P.

Paul on November 29, 2019:

John5 is my number 1 tele player

Dan on August 27, 2019:

When I saw terry Kath on October 31, 1977, which was a couple of months before he died in Jan 1978, he was still playing his specially modified and stickered telecaster

Wayne on July 30, 2019:

Chuck Prophet has been tearing up his Telecaster for 40 years.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 12, 2019:

Too many great ones to list in a 'top 5' article, Gib. And it wouldn't matter who I put into my top 5 (this article is many years old) - it's always going to leave out at least a dozen who were as deserving to be on the list.

Gib on February 12, 2019:

Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins are iconic tele players.

Ken on December 05, 2018:

You need to look up a cat named Richie Kotzen. He’s the best tele player around

Ed Plaia on January 01, 2018:

uh...Roy Buchannon

Mikel Cassara on September 09, 2016:

Jimmy Page should be number one. Also, I own a Les Paul with a ebony body and gold plated gear. I also own a fender telecaster. I love the Telecaster for rythm and bluesey stuff. Plus its alot lighter. Furthermore, the pick attak on classical scales on the Les Paul is much more advanced. Sadly, the Gibson has some bass tones I dont really care for on chords and rythm guitar. So simply, I love playing my Telecaster for rythm and etc. But for lead guitar and soloing, the Gibson sounds better. Both are American made guitars as well. If I had to choose one I would go with my Gibson. Somethings, I just cant translate to the Telecaster. Oh yeah non of these guys on this list can play like Jimmy Page. Page learned alot from Clapton. Also, Page was a drummer before the Yardbirds. Just understanding how good he got on guitar is at such a fast rate is truly the key.

Yorke on July 11, 2016:

Jonny Greenwood? No? Ok.

Sean M. on June 03, 2016:

Mike Bloomfield had such an amazing tele tone on Butterfield Blues bands self titled album! That B bender from Clarence on Chestnut Mare is also quite timeless. Robbie Robertsons tele work with Dylan and the Band is also some of my favorite. There are really just too many to mention, but the article is great and more light should be shown on the tele and its long list of preferred players.

Mr geo on May 31, 2016:

James Burton, absolute telecaster master, auto play them all. See Roy Orbison "Black and White Night"

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 31, 2016:

Yeah, hard to have everyone's fave in a 'top five' thing :/

Hilly on January 31, 2016:

You forgot my fav Keith Urban. Cheers.

R garrison on January 16, 2016:

Brent Mason,Redd Volkert

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 06, 2016:

Adam, I never ever ever forget Jeff Beck. He didn't use a tele that often though.

Aiden, Brad is a great one. He has a signature series tele, I think, and I'm going to write about that.

John, I can't do a page with everyone on it -page would be too long, and would load too slowly!

Aiden on September 12, 2015:

You guys forgot Brad Paisley!

Adam Mackenzie on October 23, 2014:

I'm a Jimmy Page fan but how did you forget Jeff Beck??

John Montagna on September 10, 2014:

Andy Summers. Chrissie Hynde. Albert Collins. Mike Stern. Prince. George Harrison (during "Let It Be" sessions). Cornell Dupree. Danny Gatton.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 15, 2014:

Oldwest, thanks for that. Yes, I like him very much!

oldwest on February 15, 2014:

Don't forget Terry Kath of Chicago. One of the most underappreciated guitarists of the 70s.

Mickey von K. on November 02, 2013:

Great article! So glad to see Don and Buck on the list. I am a big fan and a Tele player myself. All the other choices were excellent. Too bad we lost Don Rich so young...

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on September 21, 2013:

SideShowBob1 - please do feel free, Bob, to write your own articles better than mine. You are also free to have your own tastes and opinions, but when you show up to complain only, you're just a dipshit.

Boscoe. on June 02, 2013:

Great read....I like all these guys and even got hank with Pete Anderson and record for a week.It was amazing.I would have a hard time not including Steve Cropper.

k on June 01, 2013:

wow. no mention of james burton.. really??

SideShowBob1 on May 31, 2013:

OMG...a list of Canoe Paddle pickers that doesn't include Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan and James Burton is a worthless list. Shame on you...and including Jimmy Page..?? You'd be hard pressed to find someone who ripped off and plagiarized more old black bluesmen than Page. He never had an original riff in his life and I despise him for that.

afoolsparadise on May 31, 2013:

Jeff Beck with the Yardbirds...

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 27, 2013:

Tim - Thanks! I agree, but what I know about webpages can't list them all, if the page is too long, nobody will read it! Cheers!

Tim on February 25, 2013:

Nice article, but I think Steve Cropper needs mentioned. He had a tremendous impact on Stax and on music in general.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 19, 2012:

tonymead60 - Thanks very much, Sir! I think Albert Lee wore out some Teles as well...these top five list things are forever flawed!

...can't think of everything.

I'll bet you do love that PRS! Those are the best new electric guitars in ages!

Tony Mead from Yorkshire on April 17, 2012:

Hi Wes,

nice hub bro, I suppose the tele, is the poor relative of the strat in a way. The strat always gets the glory, and very few mention tele's.

One of my favourite players for this guitar was the English band Status Quo, who beat the hell out of their tele's. It has a more raw sound than other Fenders I think great for The Boss and such like guitarists.

Never played one myself, always happy with Gibsons, well until I bought the PRS and I must say that's my baby these days.

cheers, good luck. voted you up.


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 03, 2012:

Howdy Haywire!!! Don't worry, I'll eventually wind up with webpages to venerate a ton more of my favourite musicians.

I do think, however, that people are sort of drawn to "top five," or "top ten" style articles.

HaywireGuitars from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-USA on April 03, 2012:

Hey Wesman!

Please don't forget about my old friends Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton. They weren't too bad either.

alastar packer on March 20, 2012:

Awesome WT, thanks. Check it out on the 'morrow!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 20, 2012:

Oh Yeah!!!!

I know that one for sure!!!!

There was a great tribute album of stars covering GP songs - that is another one I no longer have, but I'll give you a link to one of my fave songs from it here.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 20, 2012:

WT if you haven't seen it already go to You-Tube for 'Christine's Tune' with Gram and the Burrito's, some psychedelic country music bro!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 20, 2012:


We've all got our own culture, and all we can do is try to celebrate what we've found that is positive or enjoyable, and disregard the rest!

Also....being totally broke, I tend to focus on what I know - for ease of production!!!

Disseminating ideas across the world wide web is bound to be exactly what is needed for the furthering of the cause of "the brotherhood of man."

Holy shit I just went left field!!!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on March 20, 2012:

I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing of these singers and guitar players. Of course it could be that I am from a different side of the mean Very interesting.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 20, 2012:


...and I recognize the song that the book title came from too! "Return Of The Grievous Angel."

Gram Parsons had such great talent!!! I'm afraid my Flying Burrito Brothers disc is scratched to hell, and I can't rip it to my computer.

I guess I'll have to download a torrent! Someday I'll get around to reading that book too!

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 20, 2012:

Hey WT, really learned about Clarence White from the Gram Parsons bio 'Twenty Thousand Roads' -excellent read btw.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 20, 2012:

Thanks very much Alastar Packer !!!

I'm very pleased every time someone recognizes the name "Clarence White."

It's sad that few know much about him any more. He'll always be, of course, THE MAN in Bluegrass guitar.

I think I should add a picture of Bruce, "The Boss" Springsteen in here, as he has always been pictured with a Telecaster.

Hendrix definitely has got enough press, but of course he always played the Stratocaster.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 20, 2012:

Hey Froggy!!!!!!!!!!!!! I did some Googling, and DID find that Clapton had played a Telecaster, that isn't surprising - he's played every other guitar at one time or another, but of course Eric was and is mostly associated with the Fender Stratocaster.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 19, 2012:

This was really cool reading WT. Didn't know the early history of the strat. Clarence White was a guitar players guitar player, tragic he got hit by a car. The Byrds were the fave group as a little boy. Started this hub thinking Mr Hendrix would show up but he's got enough press as it is lol.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 19, 2012:

I grew up listening to Zep and The Who thanks to my brothers. I didn't become a fan of country 15 years ago. So I guess I'm a "know it all" in most genres:)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 19, 2012:

Thanks very much timmathisen!!!!!!!!!

If you needed a reason to blast some Zeppelin today, then I'm very happy to provide one for you!!!!!!!!

timmathisen on March 19, 2012:

Great hub! The Tele is a fine instrument, with a distinct sound. Sounds like a good enough reason to listen to LZI today.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 18, 2012:

Thank you very much, Michael!!!

I'd like to have one myself!!! I think that because I tend to mostly play a country/folk kind of style, that one would suite me perfectly!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 18, 2012:

Thanks Very Much, Sunshine!!! - I'd have picked you more for a Dwight Yoakam fan, and Pete Anderson!!!

I'm pretty fond of Mr. Page too!

Michael J Rapp from United States on March 18, 2012:

Very cool, Wesman! The Fender Telecaster is a classic guitar used by a lot of great players over the years. I've always wanted to own one, but never got around to it yet.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 18, 2012:

Rock on Wesman!!! Awesome list of fine guitar players! My personal favorite is Jimmy Page from this list. Awesomeness!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on March 18, 2012:

Thanks Heavy Reviewer!!!!!!!!!

I'd read that Page's "black beauty" Les Paul was stolen on his first LZ tour of the US, and that he was using that after recording LZ one....but it was recorded with the Tele.

Of course Joe Walsh gave Jimmy Page the Les Paul that we always recognize him with.

TheHeavyReview on March 18, 2012:

Jimmy Page rules! Great hub, as always. The telecaster isn't my favorite body style, but it's a classic for sure. It's interesting that Jimmy played mostly the telecaster on LZ1... one of their best albums.