I’m a huge fan of Fender guitars in general and there’s a good reason for that. Actually, there’s all the reasons. Who ISN’T a fan of Fender guitars? Their classic designs are responsible for a ridiculous percentage of all our favorite tones on all our favorite albums- but you know all this already. Fine. So why even interject my thoughts on them? I really could just tell you that I use strats and teles on the road and in the studio all the time. No one would really need me to justify that. However, I think it’s worth mentioning particular models I like and why since they do have a gigantic product line.
I have owned a bunch of different Fenders over the years. My first guitar was an early 90’s Mexi standard strat that absolutely ruled for its incredibly meager price. That’s one of my favorite things about the Fender company. You can go into any guitar store and grab a US or Mexi standard strat for a reasonable and affordable price and it will be great. Sure, you may find you want to change some things on it but that’s part of the beauty of Leo’s design. Easily changeable parts make for an easily customizable guitar to its owner and also for easy repairs and thus a damned near infinite life-span on the cheap. I’ve changed things out on a lot of my Fenders over the years.
For THIS review, I’m concentrating on my Road Worn guitars. I own (and use constantly) a Road Worn 50’s Tele and a Road Worn Player Strat HSS.
I got my tele first a couple of years back and immediately loved it. It’s good wood with a real nitro finish and solid hardware in a fantastic price range. What more do you need? I DID do a couple mods to it right off the bat but they were easy to do. I need it to be said that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it right out of the factory- I’m just a picky fella. First off, I like black pickguards on blonde teles so that went on. Secondly, I’m a stickler for the sound of brass saddles so I just changed out the whole bridge to a US tele bridge. While I was in there, I dropped in a set of Fralin blues special pickups (and rewired it old school with a CTS switch and pots). They are my all-time favorite tele pickups and they absolutely kill in this guitar. Truth be told, years later I bought a late 90’s US ’52 reissue tele just because it came up for a great price. It was dead sexy and felt great but the road worn blew it completely out of the water. It was no contest. It wasn’t even close. The road worn was light and open and airy and had the distinct classic tele sparkle and twang (and bigger frets- a huge plus for me). I sold the ’52 shortly thereafter.
The strat I just got this past year. I decided I needed the versatility of the HSS configuration for a couple of songs in Hunter Hayes’ set. My experience with it has been much like the tele; that is to say- awesome right off the bat but I still changed a few things to be more to my liking. The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Plus humbucker that came in the bridge really kicked ass but the Texas Special neck and middle pickups weren’t quite “classic strat” enough for me. I decided to swap them out for a couple of Fralin blues specials and they definitely got me there. The next swap is kinda hazy for me. I don’t really remember why I decided to change the bridge out but I think it was just me being the tinkering, meddling idiot that I am wont to be. I ended up putting a Dimarzio 36th anniversary PAF in there on the recommendation of another gear nerd friend. I think I just did it to check it out since they’re so cheap. Either way, it really does sound great in there. Check one out if you get the chance. Also- I should note that even though it’s a combination of humbuckers and single-coils, I wired the whole guitar up in the standard strat wiring with 500k pots. It makes the humbucker sound right and doesn’t seem to screw up the neck and middle pickups either. I was scared I’d have to do some real craziness to make the different pickups see different value pots but I found it sounded great without that hassle. Bully for me.
So yeah. Fender Road Worns. They rule.