Titans of the Tele

This appeared in Guitar Player Magazine - May 1998


Stuart holds a special place in country music: He's both a bona fide country star and a player's player. Few, if any, of his chart-topping "new country" contemporaries can claim the rich history that is Stuart's past. In his teens and twenties, he apprenticed under country greats Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, and Lester Flatt.

Stuart's style is equal parts Nashville and Bakersfield, with a liberal dose of Mississippi blues thrown in to spice up the recipe. Influenced by Clarence White's B bender work with the Byrds, Stuart had a Parsons/White Stringbender installed in his Telecaster in 1977. "After I got that guitar," says Stuart, "I'd play along with the Byrds' records, and I'd get the licks right, but my guitar just didn't sound the same as Clarence's no matter what I did. Then, in 1980, I bought Clarence's original guitar from his widow, and found that it had just a little bit longer pull than any other bender I've ever tried. That little fraction of an inch seems to create an overtone or something, and it makes all the difference in the world. Clarence used to call this guitar Frankenstein because of the way it was put together. The front pickup came out of a Strat, and the one in the rear is a Tele pickup that was rewound by Red Rhodes for a fatter sound. It really was an experimental ax."

Hot Tracks. "Hillbilly Rock," Hillbilly Rock [MCA], "Now That's Country," This One's Gonna Hurt You [MCA].

By Adam Levy

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