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Guitar of the Day: Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster

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Richie Kotzen’s playing style is part shred, part blues, and all rock, with a healthy dose of attitude and style. First rising to prominence on Shrapnel Records, his stints as guitarist with Poison and Mr. Big earned him a mainstream following, especially in Japan. Fender released the first Richie Kotzen Telecaster in Japan only, with much success. This current version is made in Japan and available worldwide. This guitar really fits his dynamic, expressive, fleet-fingered playing style and still retains all of the snap and twang of a Tele.

The Richie Kotzen Tele has a stock Tele appearance, but appearances can be deceiving. A gorgeous, laminated flame-maple top sits on an ash body and has a top contour cut and a rear belly cut for total comfort. The maple neck has jumbo frets, a 12″ radius and a “C” shape for lightning-fast runs, solid chording, and super string bending. The maple fretboard definitely adds the pop in the string attack. By his own admission, Kotzen plays this guitar off-the-rack, with only the addition of a Drop-D mechanism on the back of the headstock and an onboard tuner stealthily located under the volume knob (!) with a mute switch added on the control plate.

Far from stock Tele electronics, Dimarzio provides the pickups in the form of a Twang King in the neck position and a Chopper T in the bridge. The Twang King is a single-coil that encompasses all of the best Broadcaster and Tele elements, and then some. Enough output for a distorted lead tone, but cleans up nicely with a roll of the volume knob. Throaty and punchy with a pop. The Chopper has been Kotzen’s pickup of choice since ’94 and as a bladed humbucker it gives more power to the mids and lows for more crunch. It’s not a super-loud pickup but has ample gain to push the amp to extremes while retaining percussive clarity. It also cleans up well to accommodate Kotzen’s wide-ranging dynamic attack and playing style. There is a master volume control and a 3-way pickup selector switch but where a tone control normally is located, the Richie Kotzen Telecaster has a two-way, series/parallel switch that adds even more mids and volume to the combined pickup setting.

The addition of gold hardware against the brown sunburst body with cream binding really sets off the look of the Richie Kotzen Telecaster. Whether you’re a fan of Kotzen’s work with his current power trio, Winery Dogs, his pop-rock success, or his instrumental recordings, or maybe you just want a Tele with a huge dynamic range that really rocks, The Richie Kotzen Telecaster will take you there and beyond!

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