No guitarist has sold more butterscotch Telecasters than Keith Richards, yet there has never been a Fender bearing his name. There is no shortage of Ron Wood signature models by Duesenberg, Gibson and ESP, but the true British rock pirate has never been there yet.
There has never been a Fender Keith Richards signature, but this Tele is as close as it gets. This is an instrument built in 2014 by the Custom Shop for the Rolling Stones’ own monkey man, who immediately took it out for the 14 On Fire Tour. Even without being aware of that story, any guitar geek worth his salt can tell that this Tele is a replica of Micawber, the famous 1954 model who has been with Richards on every album starting with Exile On Main Street in 1972.
Like Micawber, this Tele has a neck humbucker with a black pickup ring on a partly cut off black pickguard. Like Micawber, it has a five-saddle bridge to accommodate Richards’ famous five-string open G tuning, without a low E string. A few details are missing to make it a perfect replica, like the Sperzel tuners, the white Strat pickup switch tip or the missing dot on the seventeenth fret.
Those imperfections would probably have been corrected had the model become a real project. But the incorruptible Richards decided to send the guitar back to the Custom Shop after the tour, accompanied by two cigarette butts that are still in the case. The certificate clearly indicates “KR Prototype”, which makes it a truly historic guitar documenting the signature model that never was. At the end of the day, it is a butterscotch Tele that was played on stage by Keith Richards, do you really need to know more?