“One of the best guitars in a long time”: Joe Bonamassa acquires a super-rare 1950s Fender Tele with a Bigsby pickup

It features a Paul Bigsby pickup installed by Fender, a real rarity for Teles of this era.

Joe Bonamassa

Image: Scott Dudelson / Getty

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Joe Bonamassa has been able to get his hands on one of the rarest guitars around – a Fender Telecaster from the 1950s, with a one-off pickup modification that is, in his own words, a “true unicorn.”

The term ‘Blackguard’ is inspired by the black pickguards you’ll see on early Telecasters and similar guitars from Fender, including the Nocasters and Broadcasters made between 1950 and 1954, so they’re among the vintage models with the highest demand.

Bonamassa has a few already, posting a photo of them on Instagram towards the end of last month, but what’s one more, right?

And, arguably, the new arrival could be his most impressive axe yet. It has a rather large Paul Bigsby pickup at the neck, rather than the usual Tele single coil. And, though it’s not too out of the ordinary to see a less-than ordinary pickup on a Tele thanks to mods or after-market alterations (especially thanks to Keith Richards), it’s rare to see it on a guitar directly from Fender.

Bonamassa says on Instagram about his new Fender guitar, “One of the coolest guitars in Charlie [Daughtry, well-known guitar collector] and I’s side tranche of our shared slightly modified collection aka The Turds. 1954 Telecaster with a Fender-installed Paul Bigsby pickup… One of the best guitars to turn up from the original owner’s family in a long time.”

It’s rare to come across Bigsby pickups on the vintage market, and they can be expensive as a result.

Daughtry has shared the same images as Bonamassa of the guitar, and as the latter is currently touring Europe, it’s likely that he’s the one taking care of it for the time being. He said, “Coolest Blackguard ever?” writes Daughtry. “Gotta love the OG Bigsby pickup in the neck position installed at the Fender factory! Pictures of the original owner playing it with the OG Bigsby pickup an added bonus!”

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