Nacho nails it


Anyone who’s read my eclectic blog knows my love and reverence for Leo Fender and his creations. Here’s the story of a gentleman who shares that and uses it to make the world a better place.

Tragic but true:
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, there were few who had much interest in older instruments. You could buy ‘em cheap, because they were just old guitars.

Here’s a photo of our old Boy Howdy Band, taken in Naples, Florida, in June, 1972. From left to right are my still-best friend, John Klingler, drummer Mike Collins, and me on bass. My bass back then was a used Gibson EB-3. The guitar John’s holding is a 1952 Fender Telecaster.

John, Mike, Jim Boy Howdy Band, 1972

Old Teles and their predecessors — made by Leo Fender’s small company from 1950 to 1954 — are now reverently called “Blackguards,” because of the single-ply black pickguards Leo fitted them with. These early Fender guitars — the Esquire, Broadcaster, one with no model name now called a “NoCaster,” and the Telecaster — all looked much alike, sharing the neck headstock, body shape, pickguards, and control layout.

Today, John’s Telecaster, if in nice condition, would be worth $50,000 or more. John bought it in Tampa for $250 in 1972 and proceeded to sand it to bare wood, stain it, route a hole for an old humbucking pickup in the neck position, and fit it with a pickguard he made.

I watched him do it and neither of us gave it much thought. John was handy and was just customizing an old guitar.

After playing the modified Tele for a few months, John sold it to someone for $250 and bought a beautiful Gibson Firebird. But this little anecdote just proves that old Telecasters were not, at that time,  recognized as being particularly valuable . . . except by a few unusually perceptive people.


Meet Nacho Baños:
Let’s meet someone who was not only perceptive, but went on to “write the book” on old Teles and related Fender guitars. He’s regarded as the world’s foremost expert on Leo Fender’s guitars, and, happily, is generous enough to share that info with anyone.

Nacho Baños

Nacho Baños, a native of Spain, was in the U.S. working on his MBA in the early 1990s. He fell in love with the Telecaster, especially the original Teles. He scrimped and saved to buy them when he could, and over the years began to amass an incredible amount of info. He took photos of Teles and their component parts, and talked with others who shared his enthusiasm. Nacho is an absolute gentleman with a engaging personality, and soon gained a worldwide reputation for his knowledge and the kindness with which he shared it. The attached ToneQuest Report magazine has his bio and an interview, and I urge you to read it. They call Nacho The King of the Telecasters, and he is, of course, that and more:



The book:
Eventually, Nacho decided to write a book, and THE BLACKGUARD — Telecaster Style Guitars from 1950- 1954, was published in 2004 or so and is considered the bible of Telecaster lore. At over 400 pages, the 12” x 12” book, with its slipcover, weighs over 10 pounds and has over 2,000 highly detailed color photos of 50 early Esquires, Broadcasters, NoCasters and Telecasters. The amount of info in this volume is stunning.

Blackguard Book And Sleeve

Nacho self-published 5,500 of these books, and, knowing print production like I do, I suspect that he sold them at about half of what they cost him to print. Proceeds from the book went — I told you Nacho was an absolute gentleman — to establish a foundation building homes and a school for the poor in India and providing clean water in Africa.

I treasure my copy (#3196), not only for the images and information in it, but for the gracious inscription Nacho penned in my copy. The book is out-of-print  — if you see one for sale, buy it — but this website has many photos and gives you an idea of Nachos’ love and knowledge:
The Blackguard Book

Blackguard 2

Blackguard 1

Blackguard 3

Nacho nails the Blackguard:
With the help of some famed guitar-slingers and old-world craftsmen, Nacho has somehow arranged to make a few reproductions of some early Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. They are jawdroppingly accurate, and — best of all — they are sold at about a tenth of what a vintage guitar costs. As lovers of fine old paintings revere every crack in the varnish on an old masterpiece, so do those of us who love the old Fenders.

Nacho and Billy Gibbons

Two gents who know their Teles! Nacho and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

Using the best components money can buy, and guided by years of examining — and owning and playing — hundreds of the old Fenders, Nacho has nailed the look, feel, and tone of these old classics. Uncanny. He also recreates Statocasters from the days of Buddy Holly.

Here’s the website to learn more and see some photos of these guitars:

Nacho’s Guitars

Nachocaster 2

Nachocaster 1

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 12.41.08 AM

Labors of love from a man whose love for Leo Fender’s creations have shaped his life and brought joy to so many other guitar lovers. And, along the way, homes for families, and a school for their kids, and clean water for whose who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

Leo would be proud.

The Ry Cooder/Steve Vai Crossroads Guitar Duel


A wonderful 1986 Walter Hill film, Crossroads explores the relationship between a Julliard-trained college boy who loves the blues (Lightnin’ Boy, played by Ralph Macchio) and Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca, who shared a birthday with yours truly).

The plot is that Willie, like his friend and mentor, the blues legend Robert Johnson, sold his soul to the Devil– at a crossroads, of course– in order to be the best harp player in the world. Lightnin’ Boy will try to save Willie’s soul (and his own) by winning a haircutting guitar duel with the Devil’s guitar player, Jack Butler, played by the astonishing Steve Vai.

Here’s the duel, which is actually played by Steve Vai with Ry Cooder playing Macchio’s part, or at least the bottleneck portion of it. I’ve heard so many conflicting stories about who played exactly what in this sequence that I don’t believe anyone except Cooder and Vai and maybe the film/sound editor knows for sure!

Macchio’s hands are obviously sped up in the Peganini’s Caprice #24 section but he does a rather nice job of mimicking the actual hand positions. He was coached by Arlen Roth, who has a ton of great instructional materials available on many aspects of the guitar. The harp playing in this clip is by blues great Sonny Terry, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Tampa one night in 1972.


Macchio’s “playing” a ’70s maple-necked Telecaster (either an American Standard or a Japanese Squier; no skunk-stripe on the back of the neck) in this, while Vai “plays” a red variant of his trademark Jackson whammy-barred specials. Most folks say Vai played his portion of the actual duel on his heavily customized “Green Meanie” Charvel guitar in the studio.

This is, to my knowledge, the ultimate guitar-playing scene in any flick. Some ’60s albums used to be labeled, “Play it LOUD;” I recommend “Play this video FULL-SCREEN!”


You Gonna Lose That Good Thing, Baby– Oh, YEAH!


I found this on YouTube today and can’t stop playing it. It’s from the early-1960s and had Barbara Lynn and her band live playing You’ll Lose a Good Thing:


Please notice that’s she’s playing, not a Telecaster, but a Fender Esquire– no neck pickup– lefthanded. Many folks don’t realize that Leo Fender’s original design for what became the Tele was what was later called the Esquire, as it was a bridge-pickup-only guitar.

If you think that band behind Ms Lynn is totally locked in a perfect groove, you’re correct! And what a band that is. On piano is Mr. Johnnie Johnson who played behind Chuck Berry on all his sides, and many believe he actually at least co-wrote many of the songs Berry took credit for. He was just a stunning piano player. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 after Keith Richards waged a campaign for years for his inclusion.

On bass is Mr. Billy Cox, who was Jimi Hendrix’s first and last bass player. He’s played with everybody at one time or another and is still going strong. He was in both the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies. He met Jimi when they were in the Army together and encouraged his guitar playing. That bass he’s playing appears to be a Fender Precision fitted with a Jazz Bass neck.

On the maple-glo Rickenbacker guitar is none other than Mr. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who was a guitar legend. Originally a drummer, he got his first break as a very young man filling in for an ailing T-Bone Walker on guitar and never looked back. He’s in the Blues Hall of Fame and may be better known in Europe than he is here in the States. Guitar-slingers study Gatemouth Brown and take careful notes.

As for Ms. Lynn, she’s living in Beaumont, Texas, and still plays out regularly. I refuse to give her precise age, but she’s two days shy of being ten years older than yours truly.

Notice her left hand; she’s using a thumb pick and her strumming is almost all upswings. Also, that Esquire has a rosewood fretboard and she kept the bridge cover on it. Cool guitar– and a pink strap! Oh, YEAH!!! Ms Lynn plays a white Strat nowadays but I hope she still has that Esquire in a closet somewhere.

That’s MISTER Blue To You . . .

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Anyone taking on the task of covering the 1959 Fleetwoods hit, Mr. Blue, has a big job on their hands.

The original version has a lead vocal by The Fleetwoods’ Gary Troxel, who originally auditioned for Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis, the founding members of the group, as a trumpet player, and Gary is one of the smoothest singers of that era.

Here he and (I believe) Gretchen, joined by an unidentified background vocalist, do a live version of the song on the TV show Midnight Special 15 years after their single came out:


Still has his chops, eh? I’ve seen recent videos of him in the current incarnation of The Fleetwoods, and he still has the seemingly easy delivery he had as a teenager.

This great and evocative song is a bear to sing, especially if you’re playing an instrument at the same time. I’ve always ditched the spoken intro, which I consider a tad too hokey; Pat Boone’s cover from 1962 or so also ditched it. Interestingly, The Fleetwoods, who were from Washington state, I believe, always recorded their vocals accappella, and their LA producer would drop in the instruments later. Glen Campbell on guitar and Leon Russell on keyboards worked on their records, so they didn’t lack for talent!

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we now have a lovely cover of this tune by a young fellow named Steven Oakland:


I have no info on Steven other than I envy him not only his vocal talents but the maple-necked sunburst Tele on the wall behind him in this video. He chose to use a Boss harmony pedal instead of background vocalists but otherwise he nails a very difficult project with elan. Why he hides his face behind his microphone and pop filter is a mystery.