A Tele is a Tele is a Tele – 1970s Sears Japanese Telecaster Copy

Sometime in the early 70s, Sears began to import these Telecaster copies.  After sharing a long standing relationship with Kawai, these came from an unknown source (but give me time, I’ll figure it out!!) and the quality did take a dip.  Not that the quality of the earlier guitars was great, but in the 70s Japanese guitars were in full copy mode but mainly just in looks.This same model was also sold in Japan and often carried the Thomas or similar name.  In Japan, you could buy these from magazine advertisements!  Even then, these guitars were considered “third rate” instruments only meant for the very beginning guitarist.  But I have to say, every old Japanese Telecaster copy I’ve ever owned or played has sounded great! I mean that, for whatever reason they almost always sound killer!  Maybe the sound of these old Japanese single coils just have that classic Telecaster twang in spades? Pickups read out at 5.18k and 5.44k.Check out the “new” Sears logo!  Gone were the days of Silvertone, and now that stylized SR hologram logo was the thang!  Solid necks, plywood bodies.  Interesting in that curious way the Japanese guitars often are.Quirks and weirdness aside, these darn things have decent sustain and and real biting quality.  They bark!  I’ve owned a few real Fender Telecasters in my day, and there are some that sound dead and some that bark.  But again, almost every old Japanese Telecaster copy has that bright spanky sound.  Of course they almost always need more work than any Fender, and the frets on these are painfully small!But for the working class family that wanted to get a guitar, this was a decent choice.  Nice sunburst finish on this one!  I’ve also seen people go crazy for National branded Japanese Tele copies, but I’ve owned about 5 different Tele copies from the early to mid 70s and really there isn’t one that stands out in my opinion.  Be careful of that hype machine peeps! In a year or two many of these cheaper Tele copies would be made in Korea and Taiwan.  But brands like Tokai and Greco would soon be producing some excellent Fender copies towards the late 70s and early 80s, and of course Fender would soon be selecting one of the finest guitar manufacturers to produce their guitars in Japan!  But right here, in this small window of the early 70s, these ultra cheap Japanese copies are just the thing for me.  Dave down at Happy Guitar Repair did all the work on this one and Mike Dugan does all the playing!


14 thoughts on “A Tele is a Tele is a Tele – 1970s Sears Japanese Telecaster Copy

  1. Scott Pope says:

    I have one. It was my first guitar. Folks purchased it brand new from Sears for $56.95. I still have it. It plays great through a Vox Pathfinder with a coiled cord. The coiled cord is a must! But I have to alter your slogan for this guitar: a Tele is a Tele is a Tele…until it is cross-bred with a Jaguar! Yes – compare the pickups, bridge and whammy tail with a Jaguar. Mine has black switches. Thanks.

  2. Drew says:

    I have a Premier that looks almost identical to this except the headstock is more Strat- like, it has an ashtray style tail piece and has only one chrome covered pickup located more towards the neck. I’m pretty sure they were made at the same factory. Someone gave it to me over 20 years ago. I just dug it out of the basement and I’m in the process of getting it set up. The neck still looks straight and it just needs knobs, strap buttons and strings. It might just have a voice and character of it’s own.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This was my first electric too! I traded it a long time ago and got hold of another recently, and I still love the sound. It’s kind of beat though; does anyone know where parts can be gotten? It seems all off-size hardware.

    The guy I bought my first one from had lovingly added a Fender logo to the headstock… I wonder if its still out there somewhere. (Both mine had black switches too).

  4. Jay says:

    I have an old tele that I am sure is one the old Japanese Sears models . It does not have a name on just two holes where a badge was before.
    BLACk with some odd looking plastic pickups. Sounds great!
    How can I send you an email. Maybe you can let me know your thoughts.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have a 1 pickup version with maple neck and rosewood veneer fingerboard. Impossible to set up perfectly but has always been fun to play.

  6. Rik Bartel says:

    My Dad bought one of these from the Sears discount store, for somewhere near $30, around 1975. Black switches, and a whammy. Then he bought a Montgomery Ward amp from a garage sale to go with it. Our neighbor kid borrowed it because he could play Barracuda on it and not on his Fender Music Master, because of the whammy. My Dad just turned 81. I need to check and see if he still has the guitar under his bed.

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