At their best, Tele pickups deliver unparalleled twang – versatile and fat. Conversely, poor T-style pickups are flat and screechy or thin and brittle. Understanding these variables and knowing the bar is high for Tele users, California pickup/pedal maker David Allen set about making the Fat ’59 Tele set.
For those into the science of magnets and wire, Allen used three Alnico magnets in each unit, the neck having an output of 7.2k with 43-gauge wire and the bridge sporting 7.6k of output. For the average player, that means they achieve seriously fat tones without breaking a sweat. Adjectives like “beefy,” “warm,” “organic,” and “articulate” came to mind as we tested a Tele fitted with a set.
The neck pickup was chunky and funky, but not dull or bassy. The nuances and sonic girth of each note were obvious. The bridge position offered that spank and twang without that screechy high-end that can be distracting (unless your name is Albert Collins or Robbie Robertson). There were lots of other cool T-tones, too, from Danny Gatton to Jim Messina to Roy Buchanan.
Take note; plugging your plank into a good tube combo will make these pickups really shine. With the right amp, they’re rounder and fuller, delivering that authentic twang so many players crave. You can even use the neck pickup with the Tone knob dialed down to get some sweet jazz flavors.
Rock to blues, jazz to country, alternative to shoegazer, the Fat ’59 set brings sparkle to whichever gig you drag your Telecaster. It’s an impressive set.
This article originally appeared in VG November 2016 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.