That One Guitar - Spike Fullerton


Your Name: Spike Fullerton

City: Atlanta

Instrument: 1953 (ca) Fender Telecaster - “Ol’ Yeller” 

"There are many like it, but this one is mine"

I’ve owned this guitar for 30 years, and it is just the greatest thing known to man.  Jagged trebly bits of angular Monkish tones flow freely from her, but with practice and a proper tweed amp, she can be tamed to generate the powerful woody thwack required to get from from Bakersfield to Nashville, and Memphis in between.  Words cannot express how much joy it has brought me these many years.

I got her in 1984 when I was 23, pulling over at some guitar store for no good reason, and not being any kind of collector at the time.  Saw her on the wall -  body routed, poorly refinished, beveled, and apparently dragged behind a truck for a few miles. The kicker was that it had been in a fire that warped the neck a bit, in addition to significant play wear. It doesn’t intonate properly to this day, and I just had to learn how to play around it.  The clerk was kind enough to carefully show me the bits that were original, and explain the minor (to me) hardware changes it had gone through. When I came back a week later to get a post break-in setup, the same fellow sheepishly told me that his phone had not stopped ringing since I left with many well known DC players trying to purchase after I’d left - apparently he’d put it on the floor about ten minutes prior to my first visit.

I am reminded of a scene in the first Harry Potter film where “the wand chooses the wizard”. I am no wizard, but I had no overwhelming interest in country or rockabilly at the time, and really was just another rank amateur with some cash in his pocket.  It took me years to figure out the inner soul of this instrument - but the places this thing has taken me - the thousands of hours sitting around the house trying to emulate the masters of this model - soul (Steve Cropper), country-jazz (Jimmy Bryant, Phil Baugh), western swing (Eldon Shamblin), and dozens of bywaters of the American musical experience I may never have chosen to study otherwise.

I had the good fortune to get signatures on her from Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore, and Paul Burlison - and turn down a few from other far more notable folks, because well, because this space reserved for pickers.  I felt like I had to live up to her every time I opened the case, because of the “whoooah” reaction she always inspires.  I don’t know that I ever got there, but I am a better player for having this one guitar, this instrument of joy that has celebrated my triumphs and eased my sadness for three decades now.  She is retired these days for the most part, and rests in the company of many other pedigreed pieces, but I take her out every once in a while - if only to remind me and her of who’s boss around this piece.

Band name: Ghost riders Car ClubJulea And Her Dear Johns