Richie Owens is an award-winning producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, and veteran instrument industry designer, collector, dealer, historian, and consultant. A fifth-generation musician, Owens has worked with a variety of artists from Dolly Parton to the Georgia Satellites.
For his farewell column for Premierguitar.com – Richie tells the story of his dad’s exceptional Fender. From arrival to unsavory departure to return.
“This is my last Vintage Vault column. So, I want to finish with a story about a guitar near and dear to my heart. My father’s 1960 Fender Custom Telecaster,” he started.
The Fender Custom Telecaster was first offered at the NAMM show in 1959. Its initial full year of production was 1960. Back then, this guitar came with an ash body, maple neck, and Fender’s famed slab-rosewood fretboard, which is considered very desirable.
That fretboard was only available from 1958 to August 1962. “Sunburst was the model’s original standard finish, but other colors were also available. My dad’s came in red with white binding,” he added.
Richie’s father – Louis Owens has purchased his 1960 Custom Tele in 1962. He bought the guitar from a friend who needed cash to pay his family’s bills. Back then the price was a princely sum of $75, which is around $700 today in 2022. “The instrument had a slight burn mark on the front of the body that made it identifiable. (Tthis is what we call foreshadowing). Oddly, the last of its six Kluson tuners was plastic instead of metal, but it had a chrome coating.”
“This guitar floated around my house, mostly unused, for years until I got interested in playing electric guitar as a teen. But at that age, I wanted something more rock ‘n’ roll. So I went to a music store here in Nashville, where I saw a low-priced Les Paul. I was interested in trying. The store wanted some collateral to let me take the guitar home to try it, so I brought the Tele in for them to hold while I tried the Les Paul out for the weekend.”
Richie didn’t like that Les Paul, so he brought it back on Monday to get his Telecaster back. And then the story started. “They informed me that wasn’t the deal. It was a swap, and they had already sold my guitar. I was devastated, and being young and inexperienced I just accepted that the guitar was gone,” he added.
“I was so upset by this rip-off that I told all my friends at other music stores in town about what had happened and gave them all the serial number of the Tele.”
“Fast-forward 11-years I got a call from a friend that worked at Gruhn Guitars who said he believed he’d found my dad’s Telecaster. I went to the shop to verify the guitar, and sure enough, it was my dad’s 1960 Custom. Unfortunately, the guitar had already been sold. It made me very sad to get that close, but Gruhn’s told me they would give the buyer my information and explain what had happened in case he ever wanted to sell it.”
“About six months passed, and I got a call from the buyer. He’d found a 1952 Fender Telecaster he was interested in and wanted to sell me the 1960. He even offered it to me for $1,000 less than he paid, so he could quickly get money to buy that ’52 Tele. I immediately reached out to family members to put the money together to get the guitar back, and it was soon mine again.”
The story has a few more interesting facts, and if you would like to read more, please click here. Find out how Richie later went to work for Gibson in California as the product specialist and development manager for the Dobro guitar company. Also, read how Richie found out that his guitar is one of the first 25 ever made guitars in late 1959 and early 1960.