~ Guitars I have known... and owned ~
Bill Hillman Guitar No. 20
Fender Telecaster J5
No. MSN621194

I purchased this beaut in the summer of 2005. The Tele J5 signature model -- co-designed by guitar whiz John 5 -- was a "gotta have" instrument that I needed to round out my arsenal of Teles. The hot pickups, special features and very unusual headstock design piqued my interest as soon as I came across it in the new Fender catalogue. The price of the Fender Custom Shop model with Bigsby was prohibitive, however. 

My solution was to order the much more affordable Mexican-made model sans Bigsby and to install a designed-for-Tele Bigsby I had bought earlier on e-Bay. Unfortunately, this Bigsby kit was designed for the standard Tele pup layout, but with the help of friend Jim Ghidoni we did some drastic metal cutting in his hot rod custom shop and adapted stock Tele Bigsby plate to fit over the J-5 bridge pickups. While at it we installed my patented B-bender rod to the headstock. 

This is indeed a custom model - I've done modifications to this very expensive instrument that would make most guitar aficionados shudder : ) But it's a hot guitar and is fun to play and sees regular service at our weekly Cantina jam sessions.


This unusual Telecaster guitar was co-designed by talented shred-meister John 5 himself. Its aggressive Fender Enforcer™ humbucking pickup at the bridge position and Custom Shop Twisted Tele™pickup at the neck will melt even the heaviest metals. Other features include a three-way pickup selector switch, chrome hardware and a radically distinctive headstock design.

Click for larger imageModel Number:  013-9000-(306) 
Series:  Artist Series 
Colors:  (306) Black, (Polyester Finish) 
Body:  Ash 
Neck  Maple, ‘60s “C” Shape, (Polyurethane Finish) 
Fingerboard:  Rosewood, 12” Radius (305 mm) 
No. of Frets:  22 Medium Jumbo Frets 
Pickups:  1 Custom Shop “Twisted” Tele® Single-Coil (Neck), 
                             1 Enforcer™ Humbucking Pickup (Bridge) 
Controls:  Volume (Neck Pickup), Volume (Bridge Pickup) 
Pickup Switching:  3-Position Toggle:
                      Position 1. Bridge Pickup 
                      Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups 
                      Position 3. Neck Pickup 
Bridge:  American Tele 6-Saddle Humbucker Bridge with Chromed Brass Saddles 
Machine Heads:  Fender®/Schaller® Deluxe Staggered Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines 
Hardware:  Chrome 
Pickguard:  1-Ply Chrome 
Scale Length:  25.5” (648 mm) 
Width at Nut:  1.6875” (43 mm) 
Introduced:  7/2004 

Unique Features:
Matching Black Painted Headstock, 
Bound Top, 
Toggle Switch Mounted on Upper Bout, 
Chromed Brass Pickguard, 
Chrome Switch Tip, 
3-Over/3-Under Modified Tele XII Headstock Shape,
No Jack Flat Spot on Body Perimeter,
Dot Position Inlays 
Strings  Fender Super 250L, Nickel Plated Steel, (.009 to .042), p/n 073-0250-003 
Case Accessories:  Deluxe Gig Bag 

015-5000- J5 Bigsby® Telecaster, rosewood………………US$3,634.99
015-5000- J5 Telecaster, rosewood………………….......…US$3,295.99
013-9000- J5 Telecaster, rosewood (w/gig bag)….…………US$1,041.99  

Copyright © 12.03.2005 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. All rights reserved

Click for Tele J5 Service Manual
Adapted from

1949: Leo Fender's ideas for a solid-body electric Spanish guitar gradually take shape. The instrument will be loud without being prone to feedback, with the piercing tone characteristic of Fender steel guitars and a detachable neck for easy construction, adjustment and repair. It will be easy to tune precisely, easy to hold, easy to play and affordable to working musicians. He builds a prototype over the summer, followed by an improved second prototype in the fall.
1950: Promotion begins in spring for Fender's new solid-body electric Spanish guitar, a single-pickup instrument that Fender sales chief Don Randall names the Esquire. In fall, truss rods are added to the necks, and a two-pickup version goes into production; Randall names this model the Broadcaster.
1951: Single-pickup Esquire guitars with reinforced necks go into full production in January. In February, Randall renames the dual-pickup Broadcaster model the Telecaster.
1952: The controls of the Telecaster (two knobs and a three-way switch) are reconfigured in such a way that there is no setting in which both pickups are on simultaneously; an arrangement that last until 1967.
1954: The color of the Telecasters´s pickguard is changed from black to white. One of the great early Telecaster albums, 2 Guitars Country Style, by Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant is released. Luther Perkins meets and starts playing guitar with Johnny Cash.
1955: The Telecaster's pickup selector switch tip is changed from the original round type to the "top hat" type.
1956: Moviegoers see the Telecaster (in its single-pickup Esquire form) on the big screen when it appears in seminal rock ´n´ roll film The Girl Can´t Help It during numbers by Little Richard and Gene Vincent.   Johnny Burnette and the Rock ´n Roll Trio record their first album in a Nashville studio. On a rock ´n´ roll version of 1951 jump blues song "The Train Kept-A-Rollin´," guitarist Paul Burlison uses his Telecaster to play one of the first recorded instances-if not the first recorded instance-of a contemporary fuzz guitar sound.
1957: Dale Hawkins scores what is probably the first Telecaster-fueled U.S. Top 40 hit with "Susie Q," a song built on a catchy guitar lick by his band´s young guitarist, James Burton.
1958: The previously blonde-finish-only Telecaster becomes available in custom color finishes for an additional 5 percent cost. Fender changes its two-color sunburst finish to a three-color sunburst. James Burton joins Ricky Nelson's band. Muddy Waters tours England in October, shocking audiences who were expecting folksy acoustic sounds by blasting out loud, stinging blues on his Telecaster.
1959: The first significant variation of the Telecaster, the Custom Telecaster, is introduced, with a bound body and rosewood fingerboard. Bakersfield Sound pioneer Buck Owens charts his first singles with "Second Fiddle" and "Under Your Spell Again."
1962: Booker T. and the M.G.s release Green Onions, featuring the impeccable Telecaster work of Steve Cropper.
1963: "Act Naturally" becomes the first number-one hit for Buck Owens and the Buckaroos; it also marks fiddle player Don Rich´s first appearance on lead guitar (Owens´s Telecaster).
1964: In the U.K., the Yardbirds play "Louise" and "I Wish You Would" on Granada Television's Go Tell it on the Mountain in July, with relatively new guitarist Eric Clapton, 19, tearing up both songs on a red Telecaster.
1965: In order to save money, Who guitarist Peter Townshend takes to playing and then smashing sturdier, less-expensive Telecaster guitars (as opposed to more delicate and more expensive Rickenbacker guitars) for the group's destructive set-closing number, "My Generation." He continues this practice into 1966. Jeff Beck replaces Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds; his main guitar is a 1954 Esquire.
1966: The Telecaster becomes a vital part of the Merle Haggard sound.
1967: The Telecaster is used on albums by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and many blues artists. Gene Parsons and Clarence White (the Byrds, Nashville West) invent the Pasons/White String Pull, later known as the B-Bender, and equip White´s ´56 Telecaster with it (Fender released its own B-Bender-equipped Telecaster 33 years later). The Telecaster´s controls are reconfigured so that the three-way switch delivers neck pickup/both pickups/bridge pickup operation.
1968: Fender acoustic guitars chief Roger Rossmeisl develops a new hollow-body version of the Telecaster called the Telecaster Thinline, which features an f hole and an elongated pearloid pickguard. The "Paisley Red" and "Blue Flower" Telecaster models are introduced. The Tele is used on albums by Led Zeppelin, Albert Lee, Roy Buchanan and many others. George Harrison plays a custom rosewood Telecaster atop the London headquarters of the Beatles' company, Apple, during the famous Jan. 20, 1969, rooftop concert that would be the group's final live performance. James Burton joins Elvis Presley's band. Albert Lee records tracks for his first solo album, Black Claw and Country Fever. In October, guitarist Jimmy Page uses a Telecaster to record most of the guitar parts on Led Zeppelin´s eponymous debut album.
1971: The single-coil pickups on the Telecaster Thinline are replaced with humbucking pickups.  Keith Richards acquires what will become one of his favorite guitars, a butterscotch 1953 Telecaster he nicknames "Micawber" after a character in Dickens´ David Copperfield. On quintessential Led Zeppelin epic "Stairway to Heaven," Jimmy Page plays a memorable solo on his ´59 Telecaster. PBS airs hour-long documentary film Introducing Roy Buchanan, about Roy Buchanan, which earns the guitarist a record deal (with Polydor) and an invitation to join the Rolling Stones (which he declines). Buchanan´s main guitar is a ´53 Telecaster he nicknamed "Nancy." His debut album, Buch and the Snakestretchers, is released this year.
1972: Fender introduces the Telecaster Custom, which has a humbucking neck pickup and single-coil bridge pickup. Bruce Springsteen´s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., is recorded.
1973: Telecaster Deluxe is introduced, with two humbucking pickups, a Stratocaster-style headstock and a choice of hard-tail or tremolo bridge. 
1974: Steve Howe uses his 1955 Telecaster for most of what many consider Yes´s most musically progressive album, Relayer.
1975: Bruce Springsteen´s breakthrough album, Born to Run, is released; the famous album cover photo is of Springsteen holding his modified Fender Esquire. American Music, the first album by Washington, D.C., guitarist Danny Gatton, is released. 
1976: In London, Joe Strummer leaves his old band, the 101'ers, and accepts an invitation to join a new band, the Clash, which makes its live debut in July in Sheffield, England, opening for the Sex Pistols. His main guitar for the duration of the band's legendary career is a battered 1966 Telecaster. 
1977: Andy Summers joins the Police and subsequently uses his battered 1961 Telecaster on all of the group´s chart-topping hit singles and albums.
1978: The Pretenders form in Hereford, England; leader Chrissie Hynde remains a devoted Telecaster player throughout the band's career.
1982: Newly created Fender Japan plans the first Vintage series reissue instruments, including a 1952 Telecaster model.
1983: The short-lived Elite Telecaster is introduced.
1984: Fender Japan introduces more Vintage series reissue models, including a 1962 Custom Telecaster, and 1972 Telecaster Custom and Telecaster Thinline models.
1985: The American Standard Telecaster is introduced by the new post-CBS Fender.
1988: The Fender Custom Shop produces the 40th Anniversary Telecaster model.
1990: The first artist signature Telecaster models are introduced, bearing the names of Albert Collins, Danny Gatton and James Burton.
1992: The Jerry Donahue Telecaster is introduced.
1993: The Clarence White Telecaster is introduced.
1995: The Waylon Jennings Telecaster is introduced. The Fender Custom Shop produces its first beat-up or "relic-ed" replica guitars; these soon include a ´50s-era Nocaster model. "Britpop" is in full swing in the U.K.; the movement´s top guitarists, Graham Coxon (Blur) and Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), are avowed Telecaster devotees.

1997: Merle Haggard and Will Ray Telecaster models are introduced.
1999: The Deluxe Nashville Power Telecaster is introduced. Brad Paisley´s debut album, Who Needs Pictures, is released.
2004: John 5 Telecaster with 3by3 tuning keys on a unique "shovel" head.
2006: The Highway One Telecaster introduced.
2007: The Vintage Hot Rod ´52 Tele, Blackout Telecaster, Deluxe Nashville Tele, G.E. Smith Telecaster, Jim Root Telecaster, John 5 Triple Tele Deluxe, Joe Strummer Telecaster and Fender Custom Shop Andy Summers Tribute Telecaster are introduced.
2008: The Jim Adkins JA-90 Telecaster Thinline and newly redesigned American Standard series Telecaster are introduced. James Burton is inducted into the Fender Hall of Fame and is present at the ceremony.
2009: The Road Worn ´50s Telecaster is introduced.
2010: The American Special Telecaster,Acoustasonic Telecaster and Blacktop Telecaster HH are introduced.
2011: The Road Worn Player Telecaster is introduced.
Fender John 5 Telecaster Review
There's a twin singlecoil, Bigsby vibrato toting option of the Custom Shop J5 available too, but Fender has played it safe by sticking with the rocker-friendly humbucker version for their Mexican axe.

Before we start pointing out the cool little details that set this guitar apart from the rest of the Telecaster crowd, let's take a look at the basics.


Okay, body first. Underneath that glorious black paint, with its white body binding on the top edge, is a generous slab of ash. Now, if we've taught you anything about Telecasters, it's that ash is the Tele lover's wood of choice. The other Fender wood of choice, alder, does a good job but most connoisseurs of all things Telecaster agree that ash is, without a doubt, the tonal business.

The neck is classic Fender. Fashioned from hardwearing maple and topped with a good-looking rosewood fingerboard it has a vintage feel thanks to its '60s-style 'C' profile. String bending is aided by some well-finished medium jumbo frets – 22 of the blighters. And just so you know where you are on the fingerboard, Fender has fitted large cream-coloured plastic position markers designed to simulate vintage clay dots.

The neck is joined to the body with four screws, with the usual chrome neck plate to protect the body. All pretty straightforward, but John 5 specified some cheeky little details on his Custom Shop signature guitars and we're pleased to see them on our Mexican J5.

The most obvious deviation from the Fender Tele blueprint is that oversized headstock. Originally spotted on Fender's rare XII 12-string Tele, it adds a touch of visual flair to this six-string axe. The simple silver Fender and Telecaster logos look pretty, too. There's actually a practical reason for Mr 5's choice of headstock. There's a lot of space between the guitar's top nut and the machineheads, which allows John the freedom to nail some extreme behind the nut string bends. This is a technique used by Tele players - most famously Jerry Donahue of The Hellecasters - to simulate a pedal steel guitar. Remember, John 5 is a country guitarist as well as a shredder.

Before we move onto the body, we were pleased to find a set of Fender/Schaller Deluxe staggered machineheads fitted to the headstock. The machinehead shafts (the part the strings wrap around) are varied in height. The further away from the top nut they are, the lower they get. This gives the required string angle to stop the strings popping out of the top nut. Plus, it means that Fender haven't had to fit string trees - or retainers - which can cause tuning problems.

While the body is the classic Telecaster shape, there are a few cosmetic details that make it a bit special. If you're a true Tele nerd you'll notice that the body doesn't have the flattened body contour at the input plate, where your leads goes in. Luckily, the other special features are dead easy to spot. All that chrome should be a giveaway. Like Johnny's Custom Shop doozies, this guitar has a veritable Hall of Mirrors of shiny bits. The scratchplate is a sleek slice of chrome-plated brass that matches the control plate and six-saddle bridge.

The control plate, with its pair of heavily knurled volume knobs looks a little bit naked. That's because the switch that would normally soak up the rest of the space there has been moved to the upper bout of the guitar.

Mr 5 has chosen a Gibson-style three-way toggle switch instead of Fender's usual three-way blade item. We think it looks pretty damn cool, but God only knows what the Tele purists will make of it.

But this guitar is not designed for the purists. The J5 is a modern rock guitar in a classic jacket. With all that cosmetic stuff covered, all that's left are the bits that actually provide the noise.

Fender has loaded the J5 with an Enforcer humbucker at the bridge and a Custom Shop Twisted Tele singlecoil at the neck. Yummy! These are the pickups that Johnny 5 has nestling in his Custom Shop axes. Each of the pickups has an independent volume control. There's no tone control, folks.


This axe is heavy. We're talking about a really solid bit of kit here. Telecasters can vary hugely in weight, but we have to say that this J5 is about the heftiest example we've ever entrusted our shoulders to, and we reckon it plays a huge part in the fantastic sustain of the J5. It also makes this guitar feel like a proper rock axe, not unlike the buzz you get throwing a Les Paul around a bit. So, if you've always fancied a Telecaster but prefer the feel of a heavier axe, the J5 could be the boy for you.

The neck is an absolute peach to play. The 'C' profile will not disgruntle any guitar player, no matter what style of music you inflict on your audience. The J5 comes fitted with a set of Fender Super 250L, nickel plated steel strings (.009 to .042 gauge).

They feel just right for lead work. We would probably fit a set of .010s for a bit more 'fight,' but the J5 plays great straight out of the box so you might want to stick with the original setup.

The headstock design makes it really easy to do some crazy bends. It'll take a bit of practice to do it like John 5, though. The pickups offer a cracking range of rock and country tones. The bridge-mounted Enforcer is a useful mix of brutishness and refinement.

Try to imagine Conan the Barbarian with delightful table manners. Treat this pickup to some filth and the Enforcer will scorch the hair off anything within a ten-mile radius. Okay, we're exaggerating a bit, but this guitar could hold its own against any respectable rock axe.

The Twisted Tele neck pickup has slightly more edge than you'd expect from a regular Tele but it's essentially a more vintage sound than that of its bridge-hogging counterpoint. Both pickups clean up really well. Like we said, the Enforcer can sound refined when you back off the beef.

Combine both units and you can get some cool tones when you play about with the twin volume controls. You don't even miss not having a tone control onboard. It's hard to imagine that even the Custom Shop model sounds better than our J5.

At a penny shy of 700 sheets this J5 is no budget guitar. It's a total bargain, however, when you compare it to the Custom Shop edition.

Fender have really done the business and come up with a modern rock guitar that incorporates some classic 'retro' elements like that '60s neck profile.

No doubt some players will be put off by the unusual headstock design but if you're a Tele fan then you should at least give the J5 a go.

Country players will love the string bending potential at the top nut. Rockers, metal heads and the great unwashed should try it, too. It's chunky, funky and comes complete with a built-in mirror. You even get a padded gig bag. What more could any guitarist want?


Robin Hillman  ~ Bill and Sue-On ~ Jim Andrey ~ Kenn Jarvin
2011: Celebrating 50 Years On Stage ~ Hometown Arena Dance in Strathclair Arena


One Body CCR Band Rehearsal 
J-5 ~  Mo ~ Dana ~ John ~ Heather
Hillman Studio

On the Big Top Stage at the German Festival 2005
with Sue-On (drums) ~ Robin Hillman (bass) 
Kevin Pahl (keys)

The Cantina Jam Band
Ken Storie ~ Bill ~ Ken Daniels
Cantina Jam Band: I | II | III

Brandon Tribute Band: "The Beetles" ~ New Year's Eve ~ Double Decker British Pub
Mo Karrouze (drums) | Kevin Pahl (keys) | John Schellenberg (bass) | Bill Hillman (J-5) | Jon Chiupka (guitar)

2010 Hilites

2011: On Stage with Hillman Express

2011: Hillman Duo


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