Jeff's 1983 Fender Telecaster

03.03.2011: Notice :: View Hi-Res photos of Jeff's 1983 Fender Telecaster!

Buckley once said of his Telecaster,

"To me, it means Led Zeppelin I, Elvis, country. Without them there'd be no James Brown, no Prince, so it's kinda a perfect guitar."

2020.02.24: It has been many years since I first spoke with Janine Nichols, the owner of Jeff's "Hallelujah Telecaster," as it is now known. I had fun researching and building my own replica, but I sold it not long after because I realized it wasn't me. When Janine auctioned off the guitar back in 2012, all of us replica creators finally got to see hi-res photos of it to confirm details. The research I did back then proved to provide the difinitive answer as to what year and model Telecaster Jeff had played. As for the guitar, it found a home with an astute collector. Let's hope it makes its way into a museum in the future.

There are a lot of Mojo stories surrounding the Blonde Fender Telecaster that Jeff used during his career. According to Fender Europe, who for some reason removed their page on Jeff, Buckley's main guitar was a stock early 90s Telecaster. There are many others that think it was a '59 or a re-issue of some sort. After quite a bit of research I had concluded that it was neither of these models, but still had no proof of what year it really was. Being a guitarist myself, I wanted to know exactly what type of Telecaster Jeff had used and couldn't find any consistent information anywhere on the web or in books. The game was afoot!

It is said that Jeff's NYC apartment had been broken into and that his guitar was stolen. Janine Nichols, the original owner of the Telecaster, had loaned it to Jeff a short time after the Tim Buckley Tribute concert was held at St. Ann's Church on Friday, April 26, 1991. The Telecaster was returned to Janine by Jeff's mother at a memorial ceremony held for Jeff at St. Ann's Church on August 1st, 1997. During the ceremony the Telecaster sat on stage next to an urn filled with Jeff's ashes.

It took quite a while, but I finally managed to contact Janine regarding the Telecaster. She kindly supplied me with the serial # and some other bits of info which confirmed the details I had unearthed during my research.

1983 U.S.A. Fender Telecaster Top Loader
Serial #: E 316334

  • Blonde/Vintage White Finish
  • Top Loader Bridge
  • (2) Butterfly String Trees
  • Mod: Chrome Pickguard
  • Mod: Seymour Duncan Rail Pickup - Bridge Position

The Telecaster images surrounding this page are of my 1983 Fender American Telecaster Top Loader before I modified it. It is identical to Jeff's and the serial number denotes that it was produced in the same series/era as well. If you check out the Gallery you will find the same guitar complete with a factory fender chrome pickguard. This is as close as you can possibly get to a replica of Jeff's Telecaster.

I often get questions regarding the pickguard and the fact that the one on display has eight screw holes and the guitar Jeff played only showed five. It was Janine Nichols who chose to put the chrome guard on the guitar, not Jeff as many seem to believe. Janine had made this modification before Jeff had ever seen the guitar. It is assumed that the pickguard on Jeff's guitar was either for an older model Tele with 5 screw holes, or an after-market accessory. This would explain the eight vs. five hole anomaly. You can read this in Janine's quote below.

Many enthusiasts see the early 80's Fender American Top Loaders as amazing instruments and among some of the best Telecasters ever built. The Top Loaders were only made for a limited time; one year only to be exact. With the addition of a Fender factory chrome pickguard it becomes a perfect replica of the Telecaster Jeff Buckley played.

Fender Factory Chrome Telecaster Pickguard

Here is an excerpt from the e-mail I received from Janine Nichols in 2004 regarding Jeff's Telecaster:

"i had replaced the original white plastic pick guard with a chrome one, in honor of chrissie hynde. it never lined up right and neither jeff nor i ever fixed it. jeff had the neck worked on at some point. i gave the original case to a musician newly arrived on these shores and kept the road case that jeff had made."

"at some point i suggested to jeff that perhaps he should keep the guitar since he'd gotten so attached to it and buy me a gibson robert johnson model acoustic instead. he then bought a gibson for himself and kept the tele until he had something custom-made, the guitar he got in the weeks before he died."

And a quote from his mother...

Jeff's mother, Mary Guibert said of her son's Tele", "It was like brand new when Janine lent it to him. She says the action was really stiff and she hadn't gotten comfortable with it. But I gave it back to her after the memorial service and she said it practically plays itself now. Every time he got a guitar he would have it fixed and tooled " he was very particular about the action. The voice, he didn't care if it was pretty or exact. But the guitar had to be right on. It was virtuosity for Jeff. He was all about precision."

Be sure to check out the Gallery for more detailed images of other 1983 Telecasters as well as other pics of Jeff's Telecaster and parts and accessories for these guitars.

Thanks once again to Janine Nichols for providing me with this information. She was my last and only hope of confirming the authentic details of Jeff's Telecaster.

1983 Fender Telecaster