Although David is mostly associated with the Stratocaster, he has always been a big fan of Telecasters. His very first “Floyd” guitar was a Telecaster and over the years, David has recorded and performed numerous songs with this classic guitar.
Early 60’s blonde Telecaster
One of the first pictures of David using a Telecaster is a shot from spring 1967 with the band Bullitt (later to reunite on David’s first solo album in 1978). David is seen with a blonde early 1960’s Fender with an ash body, white pickguard and rosewood neck.
David told Guitarist in July 1995 how he got the guitar “(…) my parents gave me a Telecaster for my 21st birthday, which was when I was living and working in France.” This is the same guitar David brought with him when joining Pink Floyd in January 1968 and continued to use throughout the spring until an airline company lost the guitar on the band’s tour in the US in July.
On David’s first TV appearance with Pink Floyd on the Bouton Rouge show (French TV), February 20. 1968, a second Telecaster, identical to the main guitar, is seen leaning up against David’s amp. This was Syd’s guitar that David borrowed for a while until Syd claimed it back during the Saucerful of Secrets recording sessions later that spring.
The back of the Ummagumma album cover features a Fender Telecaster that appears to be a late 1950’s model with a natural brown body and maple neck. Like several of David’s Teles, the “lipstick” cover was taken off the neck pickup. The guitar is later seen in Paris, France, September 12. 1970 and in Lyon, France, June 12. 1971. David bought this after his white Telecaster got lost during the band’s visit to the US in July 1968 and luckily it was the only instrument that didn’t get stolen in May 1970.
1959 Custom Telecaster
When Pink Floyd headed out on their British Winter Tour in November 1974, they premiered a new song, “You Gotta Be Crazy”, which of course later was released as “Dogs” on Animals in 1977. David performed the song using a 1959 Fender Custom Telecaster with a three colour brown sunburst alder body with binding, a white 3-ply pickguard and a D-shaped neck with rosewood fingerboard. At this point the guitar featured a Gibson PAF neck humbucker pickup, making it look and sound like the Deluxe Telecasters introduced in the early 70’s. It is not known whether David installed the pickup himself or if it was done by a previous owner.
The Telecaster featured on Animals, notably Dogs, but it’s also reported that most of Sheep was recorded with it too. David also used the guitar for Dogs on the following Animals 1977 tour. Now the humbucker was replaced by a Stratocaster pickup (David Gilmour, Guitar Player January 2009).
The 1959 Custom was seen displayed at the Interstellar Exhibition in Paris, France in 2004 and it also made a brief cameo at the rehearsals for the Albert Hall shows in May 2006 at Bray Studios, London, May 18-19. In a Q&A with Phil Taylor on David’s web site (Dec 2007), Phil states the following regarding the event: “I took it to rehearsals to see how it compared to the recently acquired Tele [blonde 1950’s Custom Shop as described below – Bjorn] that we had got in the USA, with a view to David using it or carrying it as a spare. The brownburst Tele had a problem with the bridge pickup not working – a replacement pickup was quickly put in, but it did not sound as good. I took a 52V Tele as a spare on the next leg of the tour instead.”
There’s been a lot of confusion whether this is two different guitars or simply the same guitar with different neck pickups. Some pictures suggests that the one used in 1974-‘75 has a brown tobacco sunburst body and the one used in 1977 has a cherry sunburst body. But pictures tend to lie, especially when they’re badly compressed or when stage lights colour the instruments. Details in the wood reveal that it’s indeed the same guitar. The sunburst is most likely a yellow to brown and black. The paint technique used by Fender up to around 1964 consisted of staining the yellow colour into the alder wood, making it slightly darker and much more transparent than guitars made after 1964. This may also be the reason why the guitar appear to have a red tint.
David’s 1955 Esquire originally belonged to Seymour Duncan who gave/sold it to David around 1975-76. It already had its worn exterior, which led David to name it “The Workmate” after the Black and Decker work bench (Phil Taylor Q&A, davidgilmour.com, Dec 2007). An Esquire differs from the Telecasters in that they don’t have the neck pickup, but Gilmour’s guitar has a custom fitted neck pickup, made and installed by Seymour Duncan (who then worked at Fender). The guitar feature a maple D-shaped neck with the familiar silver “spaghetti” peghead logo with black trim and an ash body with a three colour sunburst. The finish is rare as Fender only made a very small batch of these in 1955 and didn’t really “officially” introduce the finish until 1959.
The guitar is first seen during rehearsals in January ‘77 at the Olympia Exhibition Hall, London, UK. However it was not used on the following Animals tour. The guitar made it’s “debut” on a couple of tracks on David’s first solo album in 1978, most notably “No Way” (also featured on the live promo clip of the song).
The guitar was again used on several tracks on The Wall, including Young Lust and Run Like Hell. David also brought the guitar with him on tour and used it while performing Run Like Hell (with the low E string tuned down to D, which was also done on the studio version).
In 1984, David used it on “Blue Light” for his second solo album About Face. The guitar was also featured on the promo clip for the song.
The ’55 Esquire has always been one of Gilmour’s most cherished and valuable pieces in his huge collection and it was rarely seen used after the About Face era. David did however use it on Paul McCartney’s rock n roll album, Run Devil Run in 1999 and on the concert at the legendary Cavern Club (released on DVD). The guitar was last seen at the Interstellar Exhibition in Paris, France 2004.
1952 reissue Telecaster
Pink Floyd once again toured the world 1987-90 and David used a new 1952 Fender Telecaster reissue for Run Like Hell. A second guitar was also brought on for the Division Bell tour in 1994, for Astronomy Dominé (as Run Like Hell needed a special tuning of the low E down to D). The guitar was also brought on as a spare on the summer outdoor tour in 2006 but never used.
Custom Shop Telecaster
David used a blonde Custom Shop 1950’s Telecaster with a maple neck on his latest tour in 2006. According to Phil Taylor, the guitar was ordered from Fender via telephone during a soundcheck in Oakland because David decided on playing Arnold Layne.
The guitar was used on the remainder of the tour, including the Royal Albert Hall shows, for Arnold Layne and Fat Old Sun. The guitar was also used for Astronomy Domine at Abbey Road studios later that year. The guitar was given to David’s son Charlie for christmas in 2006.
Fender Custom Baritone Telecaster
David recorded a large portion of the guitars heard on Pink Floyd’s 2014 release, The Endless River, in his home studio Medina (Hove, UK) in 2013 and 2014. Among several guitars, is a new baritone Telecaster. According to Phil Taylor, in an interview with Guitarist Magazine (February 2015), the guitar was custom made by Fender on commission from Taylor. It’s based on a Custom model, with the body binding. The fact that its 27-inch scale means that you can put lighter strings on it. It’s also fitted with a Fender Bigsby tremolo system, with a Vibramate String Spoiler and the electronics are Callaham Cryo. Pickup maker Ron Ellis also provided custom wound baritone pickups.