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Teles, Strats, & Pauls O My!...Southern Style

For non guitar players, that’s the way we 6-stringers often refer to the iconic invention of Leo Fender & Les Paul.The 
The Telecaster, Stratoscaster and Les Paul--3 different guitar styles which have fueled the music industry and every musical genre you can imagine. It could take months to definitely survey all the categories and sub-categories where these great electric guitars were used.

Tonight...a shortcut. At least as long as one hour will allow. And so we enter southern soul/blues/alt country.

Nashville session players, The Allman Brothers, Rank & File and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends--with Eric Clapton will be heard this Saturday night. If you love modern country and wonder what that poppy sounding guitar is--chances are its a tele. Two pickups--one on a slant near the bridge--the other often a lipstick tube pickup (pup) near the neck of the guitar. Strats are most often categorized by 3 pups--also single coil--as opposed to the 2 humbuckers defining the pup configuration on Gibson Les Pauls. Single coil pups are characterized by a thin wiry sound while humbucker pups have a thicker bluesier sound--think BB King, Jimmy Page, early Joe Walsh, etc. Jumping back again, Brad Paisley is a tele master. Just as Clapton is to the Strat. In the early days EC used a number of Gibsons. When he toured with Delaney & Bonnie an older Strat was used.

Friends have often asked me what I prefer. I do answer honestly when I state “whatever I’m playing at the time.” Fenders and Gibson style guitars each have a specific purpose soundwise. They are separate tools. You wouldn’t eat soup with a fork, just like you wouldn’t eat steak with a spoon. Their delights are in their differences sonically.

When you hear the Allmans live at the Fillmore East this weekend, you’ll experience what I did as a kid of 16. Their bluesy-based southern rock and roll was perfectly suited to the Les Pauls that Duane Allman and Dicky Betts played. The live tracks recreate what I heard during one of the closing Fillmore concerts.

It no doubt took many by surprise to see Clapton using a strat after so many Gibsons with Cream and Blind Faith. But it suited that amalgam of hybrid Muscle Shoals, Alabama sound perfectly--as did the “Friends” on that tour... a gallery of superstars including Dave Mason, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge and others.

Rank & File is the least well known... but not for lack of talent. I only saw them on TV one time. That was enough to propel another album sale--and no regrets there. As a telecaster band they leaned towards the heavier side of what those great instruments are capable of--but always melodic and driving with a great Americana feel. If you’ve never heard them you’re in for a treat.

I should also mention nothing is written in stone with any instrument. After all, Jimmy Page did use a tele to cut Led Zep I.

Its June... the nights are warm... and the music soulfully southern and western this late Saturday night. Join me. The Electric Croude airs at midnight EDT on WCVE Public Radio while simul streaming at ideastations.org/radio. You can also follow me on Facebook at Geo Maida for the latest in music news and video clips. 

PS... here’s you’re primer for learning more about pups: Single Coil | Humbucker

Images: Martin Taylor (Fender Stratocaster), Alberto Carrasco Casado (Gibson Les Paul), Gufnu (Fender Telecaster)