His favorite and most famous guitar is Micawber, a 1953 Fender Telecaster he picked up in1971 while working on Exile on Main St. Inexplicably named after a character in Charles Dickens’ novel, David Copperfield, Micawber is blonde with a black pickguard and a whole lot of battle scars. It has been set up for only five strings in an open G tuning (GDGBD), with the lowest string, and its saddle, removed. The neck pickup has been replaced by a Gibson PAF humbucker, and the bridge pickup has been replaced with a Fender lap steel pickup that has also been altered for five strings. Micawber appears in every show on songs like Brown Sugar and Honky Tonk Women.
Keith has a couple of other Telecasters set up for five-string, open G tuning. These work as backups or get swapped out, with capos in different positions, for specific songs. A 1954 Tele named Malcolm, or Number Two, also has a Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck position and a natural finish just as beautifully aged as Micawber. A third Tele, Sonny, is a ‘66 with a sunburst finish and a neck position PAF with the cover removed to reveal the coils. Whenever the Stones play Tumblin’ Dice or You Can’t Always Get What You Want on stage, Keith grabs Sonny to do the job.
image credit: The Keith Shrine
Keith owns several “newer” Telecasters. He bought a new Tele Custom in 1975 for the American tour and relied on it as his primary stage and studio guitar for the next decade. It is black with a black pickguard and a maple neck. It came standard with a humbucker in the neck position. He used a standard tuning for years until, finally, converting it to his favorite five-string open G tuning for stage performances of Jumping Jack Flash.
In addition to his collection of Telecasters, he regularly plays the 1958 Mary Kaye Signature Stratocaster given to him by fellow Rolling Stone Ron Wood during the 1982 tour. It has a transparent blonde finish with gold hardware. This one stays in standard tuning and appears on songs like Miss You and Under My Thumb.