by Alan Schulman
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of those guitar enthusiasts familiar with the guitars of Fender Japan (Fujigen), or MIJ/CIJ as they are commonly known in Fender circles, we’re not just talking imitation—we’re talking major collector’s vibe.
Ask anyone familiar with the MIJ Strats, Teles and other vintage replicas made in the early 90’s by Fender Japan and they’ll tell you – these axes not only look great—their playability rivals that of their American counterparts. A touch heavier, yet, true to spec, these axes command great respect among players and collectors who appreciate attention to detail and that vintage Fender vibe.
Clearly one of the most flamboyant of the MIJ Teles is the 1994 “50th Anniversary” Custom Tele (Model TLG-70P & TLG-94P) that was made in 1994 and 1995. Generously adorned with mother of pearl binding, pickguard, fret dots and more gold hardware than a Saudi imported Cadillac, this model has been referred to in collectors’ circles as the “Vegas Tele,” the “Nashville Custom Tele,” and, my personal favorite, the “Saudi Tele.”
According to an early 90’s catalog, Fender Japan had a special team during that era called “Custom Edition Team” (which no longer exists). An imitation of Fender USA’s original Corona Custom Shop, the team consisted of only highly skilled builders and finishers, used only select materials, took custom orders, and produced these “50th Anniversary” Custom Teles in just two finishes—Black and vintage White.
The same model used by U2 guitarist The Edge on “Sunday Bloody Sunday” during U2’s “Elevation” and “Vertigo” tours, this over-the-top Tele features a comfortable “C Shape” neck and weighs in at between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds.
The TLG94 features a basswood body and maple neck with a 25.5” scale rosewood fretboard (21 frets) and white dot inlays. The electronics consist of two original Fender Telecaster single coil pickups, controlled by a 3-way switch with master volume and master tone controls. The neck is adorned with vintage style Fender gold tuners complete with safety posts and a “Custom Edition” decal on the back—once again, reminiscent of the early Corona, California Custom Shop decals.
The fact is, you may never desire a Tele this flashy in your collection, but one can’t help but wonder if, when Elvis reappears, he won’t be sporting one of these bad boys around his white jump suit when he busts out the 21st century version of “Hound Dog.”
Alan Schulman, the Eclectic Collector, is a jazz guitarist and collector who resides in Harlem, NYC. He has appeared with such noted jazz artists as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Anita Baker, and Michael Feinstein. He is proud to be the owner and picker of an MIJ “Saudi Tele.”