He hasn’t burnt out, and he ain’t going to fade away. It’s a conundrum, but after four decades of heroin, hedonism and honky tonk women, Keith Richards is still giving rock guitarists a bad name. The Stones axman laughs in the face of medical science, flicks the middle finger at the Grim Reaper and takes moral values outside for a kicking. You wouldn’t want to live next door to him, but you’d have to be a clergyman not to applaud his rock and roll credentials. And when Keef straps on his Telecaster, musical etiquette goes out of the window, along with his low E string and the television.
As reckless as the larger-than-life Richards may be, the English guitarist takes his gear seriously. He’s been closely associated with the Fender Telecaster and Twin Reverb amps since the Sixties. And though it’s likely you’re never going to recreate Keith Richards’ guitar collection—estimated to include 80 models—it is possible for you to nail his signature sound. The most efficient way is to head straight for the crux of Keef’s setup—the Telecaster. It won’t cover all the bases, but the natural twang of this model will give you a general Stones vibe.
While the standard Tele is a strictly single-coil electric, Richards’ blonde Telecaster actually has a humbucker in the neck position to give him more tonal diversity. For this reason, it’s worth investigating Fender’s Classic Series, which includes a ’72 Tele Custom for $984.99. A Classic Series 50s Telecaster will sting you slightly less at $956.99, while the Squier Standard Fat Telecaster, at $332.99, is the clear choice for budget-conscious rockers.