Players have been modding electric guitars since, well … since there were electric guitars. But the Telecaster neck-humbucker conversion was one of the first mods to become relatively commonplace. It’s hard to pinpoint who did it first. Keith Richards’ humbucker’d Telecasters, which were converted by Ted Newman Jones in 1972, may be the most famous.
But Stones chum and soul belter extraordinaire Terry Reid rocked a butterscotch Telecaster with a PAF at Glastonbury the previous summer. And Steve Marriott switched his Telecaster’s neck pickup out for a Bill Lawrence-designed True Sound pickup when he was still with the Small Faces a few years earlier. Clearly a lot of players were looking for a little extra oomph from their otherwise perfect Fullerton slabs. And by ’72, even Fender themselves would be stuffing Telecasters with humbuckers in the guise of the Deluxe and Custom.