Although mostly associated with the Stratocaster, David Gilmour has always been a big fan of Telecasters. His very first Fender guitar was a Telecaster and over the years, David has recorded and performed numerous songs with this classic guitar.
Early 60s 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 1960s 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 1950s 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
Pink Floyd premiered You Gotta Be Crazy on their British Winter Tour in November 1974. The was of course later reworked and released as Dogs on Animals in 1977. David performed the song in 1974 using a 59 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 was also used to record Dogs and possibly also Sheep, although he might have used the 55 Esquire for the latter. David would also use the 59 Custom on 1977 live performances of Dogs. Now the humbucker was replaced by a Stratocaster pickup (David Gilmour, Guitar Player January 2009).
The 1959 Custom 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 on the internet or when stage lights colour the instruments.
Details in the wood reveal that it’s indeed the same guitar (see pictures above). 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.
The 59 Custom was displayed at both the 2004 Interstellar Exhibition in Paris, France and the 2017 Pink Floyd – Their Mortal Remains in London, UK.
David Gilmour’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, December 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 replaced in favour for the 59 Custom on the following tour. The guitar was later used 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).
David again featured the 55 Esquire on Blue Light on his second solo album, About Face (1984). The guitar was also featured on the promo clip for the song.
The guitar was kept in storage during Pink Floyd’s late 80s and early 90s tours. David didn’t want to take the chance of bringing such a cherished item on the road and opted for a couple of new 52 reissue Teles instead (see below). It was only occasianally used on a couple of guest appearances in the late 90s, including Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run album and live performances.
The Workmate was once again featured on David’s 2015 album, Rattle That Lock. Notably the recording of the title track and on several songs during the following 2015-16 tour, including Rattle That Lock and a powerful version of Run Like Hell.
The 55 Esquire was displayed at both the 2004 Interstellar Exhibition in Paris, France and the 2017 Pink Floyd – Their Mortal Remains in London, UK.
1952 reissue Telecaster
For the 1987-90 and 1994 world tours David would use a stock 52 Fender Telecaster, with a butterscotch body and maple neck. The guitar was used for Run Like Hell on both tours, with a drop D tuning. A second, identical guitar, was also used for Astronomy Dominé in 1994, with a standard tuning.
One of the 52 reissues was reportedly brought on as a spare on the summer leg of the 2006 On an Island tour but it was never used.
Custom Shop Telecaster
David used a blonde 1950s Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, with a maple neck on the 2006 On an Island tour. According to Phil Taylor, the guitar was ordered from Fender via telephone during a soundcheck in Oakland, USA 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 and later 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 of the guitars that was used for the sessions, 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.