One of the best performing, and most under-appreciated guitars I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning and playing was Fender’s semi-hollowbodied ’69 Telecaster Thinline reissue.
Originally conceived and sold as a lighter-weight alternative to Fender’s standard Tele, the Thinline is actually much more than just an easier-on-the-arms Telecaster — it’s a beast all its own.
The Good: While the Thinline’s semi-hollowbody design is in fact quite a bit lighter than a solid body, the real benefit is in its warmer tone, slightly higher propensity for feedback (not considered a plus by everyone, but for my style it was perfect,) and of course its unique f-hole styling.
Did I say warmer tone?
That’s right, I played a ’69 Tele Thinline on stage for about two years, and one of the things that made this instrument so endearing was the fact that it produces all the twangy goodness you expect from a Tele, but with a warmer, more rounded tone.
In fact, with the pickup switch set in the neck position, and a fair amount of overdrive applied, you can achieve an almost humbucker-like growl — something I’ve never come close to with a solid-bodied Telecaster.
On top of that, the dual vintage-styled single-coil pickups are surprisingly quiet in the buzz department, and the chambered mahogany body sports a gorgeous, thick, high-gloss finish… did I mention it’s thick! Seriously, the finish kind of puts Gibson to shame.
Another stand-out feature is the ’69 Thinline’s U-shaped maple neck, which, at a typical Tele scale-length of 25.5-inches makes for a tight, punchy feel beneath the fingers (absolutely glorious for rhythm work,) and a rock-solid base for string bending. Trust me, I pull strings like they’re going out of style.
Other nice touches include a fat, swirling 4-ply pearloid pickguard, top-hat pickup-switch, and Fender’s vintage styled three-saddle strings-through-body bridge.
The Bad: My only real complaint with the ’69 Telecaster Thinline is its Fender/Schaller tuning machines, which in my opinion could be a bit more solid (I was known to pull them out of tune quite quickly.)
Then again, in the less than $700 price range this seems like a very minor gripe for the overall quality of this instrument, and heck, you can probably afford to put some nicer tuners on there if need be.
In fact, unlike some of the much more expensive Gibsons I’ve owned, I never had any problem with the Tele’s hardware tarnishing (in spite of the fact that I sweat badly under stage lights,) or its finish getting overly scratched — I guess that’s just one of the benefits of a Fender.
The Specs: Semi-hollow ash or mahogany body, maple neck U-shaped neck, 25.5“ scale length, maple fretboard with 21 frets, a pair of vintage-styled alnico magnet single-coil pickups, master volume & tone controls, 3-way pickup switching, f-hole, chrome hardware, pearloid pickguard, and vintage F-style tuners.
The Final Word: This one’s a no brainer… I can whole-heartedly recommend Fender’s ’69 Telecaster Thinline — it’s both a bargain at this price range, and also a solid performing, but uniquely styled Tele.
The Thinline offers not just a lighter-weight design, but also a warmer tone, great sustain, and a highly playable and comfortable neck. It’s got all the benefits of a standard Telecaster, but with a few extra bells & whistle thrown in for good measure.
And at this price point how can you go wrong?