About a month ago, my friend & office mate Jim asked me to resuscitate his 1985 Fender Squire Tele (you can read about the technical details of the work over here). After he got her back, he was inspired to write about this sweet little Squire for my blog. Which is no small thing. He’s a helluva writer. Enjoy!
The Travels of a Faux ’54 Esquire
by Jim Haner
There are very few things guitar geeks love more than a story about a “rare find”: the guy who picks up a vintage Gibson ES-250 or Martin D-18 in a moldy case at a flea market; the half-daft widow who lets her husband’s Synchromatic-400 go at a garage sale for 27 bucks.
This is not one of those stories. This one is better.
“Look at that neck!” Rich said when he first popped open the case. “Come to Daddy, baby. Oh, my goodness, are you … purty!”
Almost 25 years ago, in my brother’s home studio in Oxnard, California, I had the same reaction to this ‘85 Squire. There in a rack sat this dishwater-blonde — next to his spanking-new, midnight-black, Fender Custom Telecaster, with red banding and a whammy bar, and more fresh chrome than Buick ever put on a car.
“I want you to have it,” Kevin said, of the butterscotch Squire. “It’s not a big deal. It’s a Squire … But there’s just something about it.”
The sad little blonde with the curly head spoke to me immediately: “Take me home, Daddy, please take me home.”
Many years earlier, my brother and I had founded the most notorious high school band in Atlantic County, NJ. — Euphoria — blasting our way through adolescence on Teisco and Silvertone replicas, swearing we would never play cheap guitars again once we grew up. Kevin was the first to make good on the vow.
The blonde Squire was his main guitar at the start of his run through Madam Wu’s and The Whiskey and a half-dozen other L.A. venues, while he flogged his band into shape to tour the coast for two years with Lenny Kravitz (before anyone knew who Lenny Kravitz was), among others.
“I bought it at Heck Music in Ventura in 1985,” Kevin says today. “Squires in those days were of much higher quality than what you will find coming out of Mexico today. I was the first owner.”
I was the next. And we have been talking ever since about the Raiders-Bears game that long ago, lost weekend that brought me 3,000 miles to Oxnard on a mad whim. East L.A. at the height of the gang wars; the Coliseum; the apotheosis of Al Davis; a post-game brawl inside a local liquor store between 20 skinny Chicano “bangers” and 5 Chicago firefighters the size of bison (the firefighters won, and 700 gallons of spilled liquor and blood ran out the door).
In the intervening years, the Squire has been to Norfolk, New Orleans, Miami, Manhattan, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. — squalling like a sack of cats through a half-dozen bar bands, 50 or so “open-mic nights” and one memorable VFW gig during D.C. Bike Week. It survived a direct-hit by Hurricane Andrew on Oregon Avenue in Hollywood, Fla. in ’92. It once fell out the back of a pick-up truck as it pulled away from the College Park Airport.
It pre-dates my marriage and the births of both my sons, who have grown up under it hanging on the wall in 4 different houses after it’s guts blew out and it became an heirloom curio of “Dad’s Other Life.”
Single-handedly, Rich saved her.
We now know her full provenance: Born in the Fuji String Instrument Production Company in Nagano, Japan, the ’85 Squire is an almost-perfect replica of a ’54 Esquire — the guitar on the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run.
In fact, the design pre-dates the original Telecaster line.
Fender licensed Fuji to use those specs for about 18 months — then freaked out that the copies were “too perfect” and switched production to Mexico (the classic ’54 neck and headstock were quickly turned into an ugly facsimile of a canoe paddle). The Mexicans have been stamping out these copies ever since.
Today, Mexican Squires sell “new” for $750 in the “vintage” line of Fender Squires. None of them have the feminine neck or curly head of the old ’85s.
Fender never again licensed the ’54 Esquire specs — or those screaming “lipstick” pick-ups. So the too-perfect, Nagano-built beauties are now collectors’ items … well beyond priceless for all they have seen.
In the hands of a tech like Rich, a hundred bucks worth of quality parts (and fat, new brass saddles) turns a sad, broken, little blonde from Oxnard, California into a timeless classic. Truth. She waited half her life to meet him.
“Come to Daddy, baby.”
Hope you like the vid!